The San Francisco Giants are World Series champions, winning their second title in three years by focusing on three of the most simple yet fundamental parts of the game: pitching, defense and timely hitting.
It seems silly to overcomplicate what happened in the Giants' four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers. San Francisco was the better team because it pitched better and played better defense, and when the time came for a key hit to plate another run, someone on the Giants roster always seemed to come through.
At times, baseball can get really complicated. There's a stat to measure everything that happens in the game and undoubtedly another stat that disproves or validates the first, maybe even both at the same time. A player may have good numbers to one analyst and bad to another, depending on which numbers each analyst believes more strongly in using.
Still, with all the microanalyzing of the sport, baseball can almost always be simply broken down into pitching, defense and timely hitting, three facets of the game that propelled the Giants to another championship.
Matt Cain gave up three runs on two home runs in Game 4, pitching seven quality innings in the series-clinching game. He was by far the worst starting pitcher in the Giants rotation during the World Series. If it weren't for poor George Kontos, who gave up two meaningless runs in mop-up duty during Game 1, no Giants pitcher would have finished the World Series with an ERA over 4.00.
Cain, Barry Zito, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong combined to pitch 25.1 innings in the World Series, surrendering a measly four runs while allowing just 28 Tigers to reach base.
Yet as good as the starting pitching was, the relievers—outside of poor Kontos—were even better.
Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Jose Mijares, Tim Lincecum and Sergio Romo pitched 11.1 innings over four games and did not surrender a hit, let alone a run, to the powerful yet suddenly ice-cold Tigers lineup.
Finishing with three saves in the four-game sweep, Romo did not allow a base-runner the entire World Series, facing just nine hitters. None were more notable than Miguel Cabrera, who struck out looking to end Game 4.
The most feared hitter on the planet stepped into the batter's box as the tying run in a World Series-clinching situation, and Romo—moved into the closer role by manager Bruce Bochy halfway through the season—calmly battled, throwing five straight sliders until he caught the slugger looking on an 89-mph fastball that will be replayed in San Francisco for many years to come.
The pitching was amazing. Still, it says something about the Giants' World Series title that we've come this far and haven't mentioned Pablo Sandoval, who was named World Series MVP following the series sweep.
Sandoval hit .500 during the series, buoyed by his historic 4-for-4, three-home run performance in Game 1. He did not have an RBI or a run scored after Game 1, but he played nearly as big a role in the Giants' next three wins with his glove as he did with his bat in the first.
The entire Giants team played superb defense in the World Series, led by Sandoval at third and Brandon Crawford at shortstop. Crawford committed the only error of the World Series for the Giants, a lone blemish in his 22 total chances while making spectacular play after spectacular play to keep the Tigers off the basepaths for much of the four-game set.
Crawford and Marco Scutaro—who was the Giants' best player throughout the playoffs—locked down the middle of the infield, making the San Francisco pitchers look that much better in the process. While Prince Fielder can be blamed by Detroit fans for hitting into multiple double plays that crushed potential rallies, those outs don't happen without the stellar defense around the horn for the Giants.
Let's not forget Brandon Belt, who struggled at the plate but played Gold Glove-caliber first base throughout the entire playoffs. While he had just one hit in the World Series, Belt still managed to contribute, plating the first run of Game 4 with an RBI triple in the second inning. More importantly, however, Belt made a number of great plays in the field, which proved just as important to secure the title as anything at the plate.
If it seemed silly to get as far down into this story without talking about Sandoval, how should it feel to just bring up Buster Posey's name now? Posey is the heart and soul of the Giants team, and while he didn't have the greatest World Series at the plate, he sure came up with a timely hit in Game 4, smacking a two-run home run in the top of the sixth inning to give the Giants a 3-2 lead.
Posey's offense was actually the least important part of his game during the World Series. He put a fantastic tag on Fielder at the plate in Game 2, completely changing the path of that game—and maybe the series—by helping to secure the Giants shutout. Throughout the series, Posey handled the Giants pitching staff with near perfection, a contribution just as important, but not often as celebrated, as any other.
It was a true team effort for the Giants up and down the roster. Much was made of midseason acquisition Hunter Pence trying to fire up the team before each game, but it was Pence's bat that came to life during the World Series, scoring three runs and driving in another against the Tigers.
If nothing else, the championship-winning run was a true illustration of how the Giants managed to win another World Series. Ryan Theriot led off the 10th inning with a bloop single and was bunted over by Crawford, and after Angel Pagan—who played great defense this series in center field despite scuffling at the plate—struck out, Scutaro singled home the eventual winning run.
Small sample sizes being what they are, the Giants, as a team, were at their best in key situations at the plate.
San Francisco hit just .242 during the series, an average that jumped to .292 with two outs and .333 with runners in scoring position.
Of the 16 runs scored by the Giants in the World Series, seven came with two outs. Conversely, the San Francisco pitching and defense held the Tigers to a .103 batting average with two outs and .167 with runners in scoring position.
Pitching, defense and timely hitting. That may be oversimplifying the sport, but for the Giants, those three simple facets of a complicated game have proven to be a recipe for success and the road map for another World Series championship parade.
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