5 Lessons the Mets Can Learn from the Giants' 2012 World Series Championship
With the Giants winning the 2012 World Series by sweeping the Tigers in four games, they have now won two of the last three championships in convincing fashion. With the majority of their core players all returning next season, they will be aiming to repeat in 2013.
It will not be an easy road for the Giants though, with the Dodgers expected to give them a run for their money. The Nationals, Reds, Braves and Cardinals will all be trying to redeem themselves as well. Even teams like the Mets, Phillies, Brewers, Pirates and Diamondbacks could all have an effect on next year's playoff picture.
The Mets, for one, already have some of the pieces that it would take to win a championship. They have a solid starting rotation and an established infield that is led by David Wright. However, upgrades at catcher, in the outfield and the bullpen will all be necessary for the Mets to take the next step and really become legitimate contenders.
Here are five lessons the Mets can learn from watching the Giants win the 2012 World Series.
1. Pitching Ultimately Wins Championships
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The Giants this year won 94 games and the NL West division title by eight games. Their biggest ingredient towards their success was their starting pitching.
All five of the Giants' starting pitchers were healthy throughout the entire season and they all had at least 10 wins each. Matt Cain led the way with a 16-5 record and a 2.79 ERA. Madison Bumgarner had a 16-11 record and a 3.37 ERA. Ryan Vogelsong went 14-9 with a 3.37 ERA and Barry Zito redeemed himself with a 15-8 record and a 4.15 ERA. Former two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum was surprisingly the weak link of the rotation, but still had a 10-15 record, despite a 5.18 ERA.
Despite Lincecum's struggles, the Giants had arguably the best overall rotation all season. While Cain was a dominant ace, Bumgarner and Vogelsong both had very solid seasons. Zito surprised everyone with by far his best season on the Giants since signing a seven-year contract in 2007.
In the postseason, Cain was 2-2 with a 3.70 ERA. Bumgarner was 1-2 with a 7.68 ERA, but to his credit, he pitched seven shutout innings in Game 2 of the World Series after pitching very poorly in the NLDS and NLCS. Vogelsong was a perfect 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA in his first postseason, Zito went 2-0 with a 2.78 ERA and Lincecum was 1-1 with a 2.27 ERA out of the bullpen.
Most importantly, even though Lincecum and Vogelsong in particular struggled at certain points in the season, they and the rest of the pitching staff really stepped up and pitched well in the postseason. They pitched well at the perfect time and that ultimately resulted in a championship.
Similarly, the Mets already have a solid starting rotation that can carry them to the postseason and beyond. NL Cy Young Award favorite R.A. Dickey won 20 games this year and will be the ace going forward. Jon Niese had a breakout season with 13 wins and a 3.40 ERA, while Matt Harvey was very solid after being called up in late July. Dillon Gee pitched relatively well until a blood clot in his shoulder ended his season in July.
The only concern in the starting rotation going forward for the Mets is Johan Santana, and whether he can both stay healthy and pitch effectively. Thankfully, the Mets will also have Zack Wheeler waiting in the wings who should get called up for good sometime midseason.
2. A Solid Bullpen Is Critical as Well
Despite losing their closer Brian Wilson early in the season, the Giants' bullpen was still one of the best bullpens in all of baseball. Their closer-by-committee theory was not particularly popular, but based on certain matchups, it certainly worked.
Sergio Romo had a spectacular year with a 4-2 record and just a 1.79 ERA. He also had 14 saves as a part-time closer. He was the closer though throughout the postseason and got one win and four saves with a 0.69 ERA.
Santiago Casilla had 25 saves and a 2.84 ERA during the regular season and a 0.90 ERA in the postseason. Left-handed specialists Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez had a 2.70 ERA and a 2.50 ERA, respectively in the regular season. Both did not allow a single run in the entire postseason.
This all goes to show how solid the Giants' bullpen was even without Wilson around.
The Mets, though, did not have such a good bullpen this past season. Frank Francisco struggled as the new closer, while former Giant Ramon Ramirez completely underachieved. Tim Byrdak was a solid left-handed specialist before getting injured, while Jon Rauch was inconsistent at times. The only reliable reliever for the most part was Bobby Parnell, but in order for a team to contend, the entire bullpen needs to be solid and consistent throughout the season.
Hopefully, the Mets can get more production out of their bullpen in 2013 in order to move closer towards becoming a postseason contender.
3. The Lineup Does Not Have to Be Full of Sluggers to Win
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Despite having NL MVP favorite Buster Posey, and two other All-Stars in Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence in their lineup, the Giants' lineup overall this year was not particularly full of power.
The Giants combined for just 103 home runs all season. Posey, Sandoval and Melky Cabrera combined for nearly half of the team's home runs. Posey, in fact, was the Giants' only hitter with over 15 home runs and 70 RBI, which shows the lack of offense that the rest of the lineup really had.
Sandoval, of course, spent some time on the disabled list with a wrist injury, while Cabrera got suspended in August for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.
Angel Pagan was a solid leadoff hitter with a .288 average, 38 doubles and 29 stolen bases. Other than that, the Giants' other hitters did not have particularly good seasons. Brandon Belt has yet to develop significant power, while Brandon Crawford, Ryan Theriot and Gregor Blanco are all not the best hitters out there. Yet, they all found ways to contribute towards the Giants' postseason success when it really mattered.
That in essence is how the Giants were able to score enough runs to win throughout the postseason. The pitching was dominant for the most part like it has been for years, but with Posey leading the way, the Giants were able to score enough runs to win three consecutive games against the Reds in the NLDS, and then three consecutive wins against the Cardinals in the NLCS to get to the World Series.
In the World Series, it was Sandoval who put the team on his back and set the tone for the entire series by crushing three home runs in Game 1. Not to be forgotten, second baseman Marco Scutaro played a huge role by batting .500 in the NLCS and keeping up his hitting in the World Series. The trade that brought him to the Giants was one of the best trades in recent years for the Giants.
Like the Giants, the Mets' lineup in recent years has not contained a particularly large amount of power. David Wright and Scott Hairston both got to at least 20 home runs each, while Ike Davis hit 32 himself. The rest of the Mets' lineup did not contribute that much power, though. Regardless, by seeing how well the Giants just did in the postseason, it shows that any team can still win without scoring so many runs and hitting a lot of home runs.
Offensively, all a winning team needs to do is get hits and drive in runs when there are runners on base. Home runs are always nice, but as long as a team makes the most of each situation, they will usually be in good shape to win. With that in mind, if the Mets are more patient at the plate, get on base more and drive in more runs, they will very likely win more games.
4. Good Bench Depth Always Helps
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Yet another reason the Giants were successful this year was because they had solid bench depth that contributed when they really needed to.
Gregor Blanco was not always a starting outfielder, but when he played, he made one spectacular catch after another to save runs and prevent base hits. He also had some timely hits during the postseason.
Joaquin Arias was a bench player throughout the regular season but came out of nowhere to bat .500 and score three runs in the NLDS against the Reds. He had some clutch hits in that series and was a huge reason the Giants got to the NLCS and beyond.
Hector Sanchez was one of the better backup catchers in the league, despite backing up Buster Posey. Emmanuel Burriss and Brett Pill were both solid role players in the regular season, and Xavier Nady provided even more depth despite not playing much in the postseason.
The Mets' bench this year was pretty good overall as well. Mike Baxter, Justin Turner and Jordany Valdespin were all successful pinch-hitters, while Ronny Cedeno provided good defense in the middle infield as an occasional defensive replacement.
The roles of bench players are not always known. Nonetheless, a big difference between winning and losing teams is that bench players on winning teams find ways to contribute positively towards a team's success. On the other hand, bench players on losing teams become more or less irrelevant towards their team's success.
5. Overcoming Adversity and Making Good Trades Can Make a Huge Difference
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Dealing with the loss of Brian Wilson was not easy at all for the Giants in April. Losing Melky Cabrera due to his suspension in August was an even bigger challenge the Giants had to face. Yet, when the chips were down, the Giants kept battling and ultimately emerged victorious as the World Series champions.
The Giants' rotation being healthy throughout the season helped a lot, and their bullpen depth beyond Wilson kept the entire pitching staff in good condition. But weeks before the Cabrera suspension, the Giants made two key trades that bolstered their lineup and team chemistry in big ways.
First, they acquired Marco Scutaro from the Rockies a few days before the trade deadline to become the new second baseman. This proved to be a great move as Scutaro batted .362 down the stretch and batted .500 in the NLCS as he became the 2012 NLCS MVP.
Four days later, the Giants pulled off an even bigger trade by acquiring Hunter Pence from the Phillies in exchange for Nate Schierholtz and two prospects. Pence batted just .219 after the trade, but made the most of his hits with seven home runs and 45 RBI down the stretch.
More importantly though, Pence became the new clubhouse leader and his pre-game speeches and pep talks motivated his teammates to always play better than the previous day. They fed off his energy and it ultimately had a big effect on the Giants winning the World Series.
Furthermore, the Giants did not expect Tim Lincecum to struggle as much as he did in the early part of the regular season. He had been the team's ace since 2008 and simply did not look like himself. Nonetheless, he pitched much better in the second half and pitched even better out of the bullpen in the postseason.
The Giants certainly overcame a few major obstacles and made two significant trades that made their lineup a lot better going forward. It shows that no matter what may get in the way, nothing can definitively prevent a team from winning a championship. The 2012 Giants are living proof of this.
In recent years, the Mets have had to overcome injuries, off-field troubles and quite a few poor personnel decisions that did not help the team get any better. This past year, the Mets got off to a great start and looked like Wild Card favorites, but had such a bad second half that they fell out of postseason contention by August.
The Mets will now have to find a way to prevent yet another second half collapse from occurring. Second-half collapses have plagued the Mets since 2007, and at some point the trend will have to get reversed. Various injuries, poor signings and trades, and sometimes even bad luck will always be a part of baseball. The Mets, though, will need to find at least one way to prevent themselves from falling apart down the stretch and continue to play well for an entire season.