SF Giants: Is the 2012 Championship Team Better Than the 2010 Team?
The San Francisco Giants had not won a world championship since they moved west, in 1958. Their last World Series title was back in New York, in 1954.
The 2010 Giants' team changed all of that and sent the city of San Francisco into a jubilant frenzy. Giants fans rejoiced, as the long wait was over. It was pure bliss, but also relief at the same time. For me, my most important "sports-fan bucket list" item had finally been fulfilled.
The 2010 team, was characterized as a band of misfits and outcasts that somehow came together for a glorious run to the World Series victory. The Giants' victory in five games over the Texas Rangers set off a wild celebration as tears of joy flowed as readily as the champagne.
In 2012, the Giants entered the season believing they could contend, but a rash of obstacles was thrown into their path. Closer Brian Wilson pitched in only two games in April and was lost for the season with his second Tommy John surgery.
Freddy Sanchez, who was expected to be the starter at second base never got healthy and did not play a single game.
Then there were the two DL stints that Pablo Sandoval endured. First was the hand surgery, which kept him out for several weeks. Then, after he returned, he promptly injured his hamstring which landed him on the DL again.
All-Star MVP Melky Cabrera, who was batting .346, was suspended for using PED's.
Melky then made matters worse by not addressing the team before leaving and making up a fictitious story about a bogus website and fake product. He was found to be lying and the Giants had to fight through more distractions.
To cap this off was the ineffectiveness of two-time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum. He struggled with his velocity and command all season and finished the year with a 10-15 record and 5.18 ERA. Lincecum lost more games than any pitcher in the league.
The Giants also steeled themselves against some huge trades the Los Angeles Dodgers pulled off, which were specifically designed to help them win the NL West.
At midseason, the Dodgers acquired Hanley Ramirez, Brandon League, Shane Victorino, Randy Choate, Adrian Gonzalez, Nick Punto and Josh Beckett. Meanwhile, the Giants brought in Hunter Pence to add punch to their lineup.
GM Brian Sabean also traded minor league prospect Charlie Culberson to the Rockies for Marco Scutaro, in a deal that was designed to help the Giants weather the injury to Sandoval. Little did anyone know how vital a role Scutaro would play in the Giants' success.
The Giants did win the NL West, but promptly fell behind the Cincinnati Reds two games to none. Faced with the daunting task of winning three straight elimination games on the road, the Giants did just that.
They also trailed the St. Louis Cardinals three games to one in the NLCS, again facing three elimination games. Somehow, the Giants staved off elimination each time to advance to the World Series.
In all, the Giants came out victorious in six straight elimination games, a feat that hadn't been accomplished in baseball since the 1985 Kansas City Royals.
The Giants went on to surprise the baseball world by sweeping the Detroit Tigers, a team that most so-called experts picked to destroy the Giants. The Giants won their second world championship in three years.
Any one of the obstacles the 2012 Giants team faced could have easily been the blow that knocked them out. However, each hurdle placed in their path only seemed to bring this team closer together and give them more resolve. The one word that best describes this years' team is resilience.
Both of the Giants' championship teams featured outstanding pitching.
Even though seven of the eight players on the field we different, most of the pitching staff remained the same. The pitching carried the Giants to the promised land in both seasons and the offense did just enough to seal the deal.
Which of these two teams was better?
For the answer, let's take a detailed, position-by-position look at both teams.
Catcher: Buster Posey vs. Buster Posey
Bengie Molina opened the 2010 season as the Giants' starting catcher. A young Buster Posey was called-up to the Majors and the Giants made the tough decision to trade Molina in late May.
As it turned out, that was the best decision they could make as Posey invigorated the Giants and his performance led the 2010 team to the playoffs and their first world championship in San Francisco.
In 2010, Posey had 406 at-bats, hitting .305 with 18 home runs and 67 RBI. His OPS was an outstanding .862. Posey was also excellent behind the plate, as he handled the Giants' pitching staff with great maturity and threw out opposing base runners trying to steal, with regularity.
Posey won the NL Rookie of the Year award for his play in 2010.
As good as Posey was in 2010, he was even better in 2012. He led the league in batting, with a .336 average. Posey also added a career-high 24 home runs and 103 RBI. He also deftly handled the Giants pitching staff over the course of the year and in the postseason.
Posey became a team leader and the face of the franchise. He handled his stature on the team with undeniable professionalism and leadership. In addition to being the Comeback Player of the Year and NL Henry Aaron award winner, Posey is likely to be the NL MVP for the 2012 season.
In comparison of the two seasons, the solid advantage goes to the 2012 version of Buster Posey.
First Base: Aubrey Huff vs. Brandon Belt
Prior to the 2010 season, Giants GM Brian Sabean pursued Adam LaRoche and Nick Johnson, to take over the first base job in San Francisco.
Both players opted to go elsewhere and Sabean ended up signing Aubrey Huff at the bargain price of $3.5 million. Huff had a poor year in 2009 and at the age of 33, many wondered if he had anything left.
As it turned out, this was a tremendous acquisition, as Huff was a team leader in almost every offensive category. Huff hit .290 with 26 home runs, 86 RBI and scored 100 runs. Huff had an excellent OBP of .385 and OPS of .891.
In ten prior seasons before coming to San Francisco, Huff had never played on a team that played .500 ball, let alone made the playoffs. He embraced this opportunity and was a leader both on and off the field. Huff also showed his humorous side as he used the red rally thong as a motivating prop for his teammates.
Huff went on to sign a two-year $22 million deal, which was a reward for his stellar play and leadership in 2010. As we now know, that contract was a big mistake, but no one can deny the impact Huff had on the Giants' 2010 world championship team.
The Giants used several players at first base in 2012, before finally settling in on Brandon Belt. He was the starter ealry in the season, but his ineffectiveness forced manager Bruce Bochy to try other options.
At one time or another, in addition to Belt, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brett Pill and Huff all played first base for the 2012 Giants. Belt was the superior defensive player, but his maddening inconsistency hurt the Giants' offense.
For the season, in 411 at-bats, Belt hit .275 with seven home runs and 56 RBI. Belt did have a fine OBP of .360, as he knows the strike zone and drew a lot of walks.
However, this penchant for looking for walks also resulted in Belt not being aggressive enough and ultimately striking out 106 times, a rate of one strike out per every 3.88 at-bats.
Belt's lack of power was also an issue for the Giants as he went through long periods where he did not hit the ball with authority. On many occasions, Belt looked like a slap hitter, just trying to flip the ball to the opposite field. The Giants need more production from Belt at first base.
The postseason numbers also favored the 2010 Huff over the 2012 Belt. In 2010 Huff hit .268 with one home run and eight RBI, in 56 at-bats.
Belt hit only .184 with one home run and three RBI in 49 at-bats, in 2012. The most glaring issue was Belt struck out 19 times in those at bats, including seven strike outs in 13 at-bats in the World Series.
The edge goes to Huff and the 2010 team at first base.
Second Base: Freddy Sanchez vs. Ryan Theriot and Marco Scutaro
Freddy Sanchez battled through some early season injuries in 2010 to post a solid season. He played 111 regular season games and had 431 at bats. Sanchez hit .292 with seven home runs, 47 RBI and 55 runs scored.
Sanchez and Mike Fontenot combined to play a solid second base for the Giants in 2010. Defensively, there was not a huge advantage between this pair and the 2010 combination of Ryan Theriot and Marco Scutaro.
Sanchez was able to play in all 15 of the Giants' postseason games in 2010. In his eight prior seasons, Sanchez had never been to the playoffs, prior to 2010. He hit .254, with three RBI and four runs scored in the postseason.
Sanchez' two out, two strike single in the ninth inning against the Braves in Game 3 of the NLDS, helped propel the Giants on in the playoffs.
Emmanuel Burriss started the season at second base for the 2012 Giants, but it quickly became clear he was not the answer. After opening the season on the DL, Theriot moved into the starting lineup ahead of Burriss. He hit a decent .270 on the year.
Theriot was very influential in the development of shortstop Brandon Crawford. He provided a calming veteran presence and this helped to relax Crawford and let him just play his game.
GM Brian Sabean acquired veteran utility infielder Marco Scutaro from the Rockies at the trade deadline. Scutaro was to fill in at third base until Pablo Sandoval could return from his hamstring injury.
The Scutaro trade, which seemed like a nice addition at the time, was the key to the Giants' stretch drive to the NL West crown and their now famous postseason run. When Sandoval returned, Scutaro was playing so well, manager Bruce Bochy moved him in front of Theriot at second base.
In 61 games with the Giants, Scutaro had 243 at-bats and hit an amazing .362, with three home runs, 44 RBI and 40 runs scored. As a Giant, Scutaro had an OPS of .859, which was incredible given his total of three homers.
Scutaro carried his success right into the postseason, as he was named the NLCS MVP, when he hit .500 and drove in four runs and scored six against the Cardinals. His OPS was off the charts at 1.140.
In the World Series, Scutaro also came through on the grandest stage. In the tenth inning of Game 4, Scutaro lined a single to center field to score Theriot for the winning run.
A big edge goes to the 2012 Giants at second base.
Shortstop: Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria vs. Brandon Crawford
The shortstop comparison is extremely hard. In 2010, you had Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria splitting most of the time. In 2012, Brandon Crawford played the majority of the time, and was spelled periodically by Joaquin Arias.
The combination of Crawford and Arias are far better than Uribe and Renteria defensively. They are far more athletic and have much more range than the aging Renteria and overweight Uribe.
Uribe had a tremendous season in 2010, as he hit 24 home runs and drove in 85 runs. Although his batting average was only .240, he came up with several big hits for the Giants.
GM Brian Sabean signed Renteria to a two-year, $18 million dollar contract in 2009. Renteria struggled through injuries throughout the course of 2010 and had an emotional meeting with his teammates as the Giants were about to make their stretch run.
Renteria, in a tearful display of raw emotion pleaded with his teammates to get the Giants into the playoffs and promised them that he would deliver for them. In the 2010 postseason, Renteria did just that.
After playing in only 72 regular season games, Renteria was at his best in the World Series. He hit .412, with two home runs, six RBI and six runs scored. His blast off Cliff Lee in the series clinching game off of Cliff Lee will always be remembered as one of the greatest hits in San Francisco Giants' history.
Renteria was named World Series MVP. That one home run to beat the Rangers and help give San Francisco their first world championship immediately paid off the $18 million that Renteria earned for basically two seasons of low productivity.
The 2012 version of the Giants saw Crawford struggle both offensively and defensively in the first half of the year. Then, as Crawford settled in, his defense improved immensely. By the end of the season and into the postseason, Crawford was arguably the best defensive shortstop in the National League.
Manager Bruce Bochy is to be credited for sticking with the young shortstop. Crawford is now a legitimate candidate for a Gold Glove, this coming season.
Offensively, Crawford also improved as the season progressed. Although his batting average was only .248, he did knock in 45 runs and came through in the clutch several times.
In the postseason, again Crawford's average was low, at only .217. He made the most of his hits and had seven RBI, including five against the Cardinals in the NLCS.
Arias was very solid, both offensively and defensively. For the year, he hit .270 with five home runs and 34 RBI. Arias played all over the infield and sometimes platooned with Crawford against tough left-handed pitching. Arias hit .303 against lefties and was a valuable utility player for the Giants.
The shortstop comparison is very tight, although I am giving a slight edge to the 2010 tandem of Uribe and Renteria. Uribe's power numbers and the Renteria home run to win the final game of the World Series tipped the balance to them.
Third Base: Pablo Sandoval and Juan Uribe vs. Sandoval, Scutaro and Arias
2012 was a year of redemption for Pablo Sandoval. He came through for the Giants when they needed his bat to wake up in the postseason.
In 2010, Sandoval was fat and out of shape. His play deteriorated at the plate and defensively. After two prior seasons at .330 or above, Sandoval hit only .268, in 2010. Sandoval's bat speed also slowed, as his weight ballooned. He hit only 13 home runs, with 63 RBI, in 563 at-bats.
The weight also affected Sandoval in the field. His defense got so bad that manager Bruce Bochy benched him for much of the postseason. In the World Series, Sandoval only started one game and that was as a DH.
In 2012, Sandoval was having another mediocre year. Hand surgery cost him roughly six weeks and then a hamstring injury caused a second DL stint. The time off also affected Sandoval's conditioning, as he put on more weight to an already hefty frame.
Due to the hand injury and also the excess weight, Sandoval lost his power. He hit .283, but only had 12 home runs and 63 RBI, in 396 at-bats.
Sandoval got hot at the right time, as his postseason heroics were exactly what the Giants' offense needed. He started driving the ball with authority, as he hit .364 in the postseason, with six home runs, six doubles, 15 RBI and nine runs scored.
Sandoval was named the World Series MVP, as he batted .500 and got the Giants off on the right foot with three home runs in Game 1 of the World Series. Sandoval's two homers off of Justin Verlander was a statement to the Tigers that the Giants were here to play and were not afraid of the great Verlander.
Sandoval later launched his third home run of the game off reliever Al Alburquerque. His three home runs in a single World Series game has been achieved by only Reggie Jackson, Albert Pujols and Babe Ruth, (twice). That's pretty good company to be in.
I have already reviewed the performances of Uribe, Scutaro and Arias, but the real decision at third base comes down to Sandoval. Based on his heroics in the postseason, the 2012 version of the Panda was better than the 2010 flavor. The 2012 team gets the edge at third base.
Left Field: Pat Burrell and Cody Ross vs. Melky Cabrera and Gregor Blanco
The Giants signed Pat Burrell off the scrap heap in the middle of the 2010 season. After being waived by Tampa Bay, Burrell was sitting at home when he got the call from Giants' GM Brian Sabean.
Burrell joined the Giants and played 96 games for them, primarily as a left fielder and pinch hitter. He added some much needed power to the lineup. As a Giant, Burrell finished the year hitting .266, with 18 home runs and 51 RBI, in 289 at-bats. Burrell also had an excellent OBP of .364 and OPS of .872.
In addition to Burrell, Andres Torres and Cody Ross saw meaningful time in left field. Torres was mainly a center fielder, so I will discuss him on the next page.
Although Ross made his postseason mark playing right field, he was primarily a left fielder during the regular season. I will consider him a left fielder for the purposes of this comparison.
Ross was signed by San Francisco in August, after they claimed him off waivers. There was speculation that the main reason San Francisco claimed him was to keep him away from the San Diego Padres, who were leading the division at the time.
As it turned out, picking up Ross turned into a key factor in the Giants world championship run. During the regular season in 73 at-bats, Ross hit .288 with three home runs and seven RBI. Ross is a notorious streak-hitter and came alive in the postseason.
Ross was named the MVP of the NLCS as he hit .350 with three home runs and five RBI. His blasts against Roy Halliday gave the Giants the impetus they needed to defeat the Phillies and win the NL pennant.
The 2012 ballclub featured Melky Cabrera in left field. He was playing extremely well, until he was busted for using PED's and suspended for 50 games. Prior to Cabrera's suspension, he was hitting .346 with 11 home runs, 60 RBI and 84 runs scored.
Cabrera was primarily replaced by Gregor Blanco. He was a streaky offensive player, hitting only .244, with five home runs and 34 RBI. Blanco did utilize his speed to steal 26 bases and score 56 runs.
Blanco is an outstanding defensive player, as he showed by making an unbelievable catch to preserve Matt Cain's perfect game. Blanco's defensive excellence was invaluable to the Giants in the postseason. He made several great plays and really stepped up against the Tigers in the World Series.
Because of Ross' heroics, I will give a very slight edge to the 2010 team in left field.
Center Field: Aaron Rowand and Andres Torres vs. Angel Pagan
Aaron Rowand opened the 2010 season as the starting center fielder for the Giants. He was in his third year with the Giants, after signing a five-year $60 million contract, prior to the 2008 season.
Rowand came to San Francisco with gaudy numbers, posted when he played in a hitters yard, Citizens Bank Park, in Philadelphia. He also benefited from hitting in the Phillies' powerful lineup. Rowand was a tough, hard-nosed player, but he never came close to duplicating his numbers from Philadelphia.
Giants' managing partner at the time, Peter McGowan, was the impetus behind the Rowand contract, similar to the Barry Zito deal. I believe one of the main reasons McGowan was removed from his role by the Giants' ownership group was these two awful deals that he orchestrated.
In 2010, Rowand hit only .230, with 11 home runs and 34 RBI, in 331 at-bats. he would ultimately be cut in August of 2011 and the Giants paid him $13.6 million in 2012, even though he wasn't on the team.
Andres Torres started slowly for the Giants in 2010, but gradually got more playing time, as Rowand faltered. Torres hit in the leadoff spot and his production helped to jump-start the Giants' offense.
In 2010, Torres had 507 at-bats and hit .268 with 16 home runs, 63 RBI and 84 runs scored. His OBP was .343 and he finished the year with an OPS of .823. Torres was also a threat on the bases, with 26 steals. This was a career-year for Torres and he became a fan favorite in San Francisco.
Angel Pagan was the Giants' center fielder in 2012. He had an excellent year and became a fan favorite with his hustle and infectious attitude. In 605 at-bats, Pagan hit .288, with eight home runs, 56 RBI, 95 runs scored and 29 stolen bases.
Pagan also set a Giants' all-time record with 15 triples, most of which came at the spacious AT&T Park, the Giants' home. Pagan's OBP was .338 and he had an OPS of .778.
As great as Pagan played in 2012, Torres played equally well in 2010. In fact, their numbers are similar, but Torres accomplished it with roughly 100 fewer at-bats. Although the memories of Pagan's stellar season are fresh in everyone's mind, I must give this an even vote, because Torres was just as good.
Right Field: Nate Schierholtz, Jose Guillen and Cody Ross vs. Hunter Pence
The 2010 Giants used Nate Schierholtz, Cody Ross and Jose Guillen in right field. I discussed Ross in a prior slide, so let me start with Schierholtz.
Schierholtz is an excellent defensive outfielder, but can be very streaky offensively. In 227 at-bats, Schierholtz hit .242 with three home runs and 17 RBI.
Jose Guillen joined the Giants in August and started several games in right field. His lack of production and a neck injury led Giants' manager Bruce Bochy to leave him off the postseason roster. Guillen batted .266 with three home runs and 15 RBI, in 128 at-bats.
The 2012 Giants featured Schierholtz in right field along with Gregor Blanco. Schierholtz played in 77 games for the Giants and had 175 at-bats. He hit .251 with five home runs and 16 RBI. He was traded, along with two minor league players to the Phillies for Hunter Pence.
Once the Giants acquired Pence, Blanco moved to left field, after the suspension of Melky Cabrera. Pence played in 59 games for the Giants and had 219 at-bats, hitting .219, with seven home runs and 45 RBI. His season-long RBI total was 104.
Pence also became an emotional leader in the postseason. He delivered several rousing, motivational speeches which fired up his teammates. Many Giants' players credit Pence for helping them with the focus and drive to come back against the Reds and the Cardinals.
I give the 2012 Giants a slight edge in right field.
The 2010 starting rotation consisted of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Jonathan Sanchez and Barry Zito. This was an outstanding group.
Lincecum went 16-10, with an ERA of 3.43 and 1.272 WHIP. He led the league in strike outs with 231, in 212.1 innings of work.
Cain led the Giants in 2010, with 223.1 innings pitched during the regular season. He was outstanding with a record of 13-11, an ERA of 3.14 and WHIP of 1.084. Cain also pitched 21.1 innings in the postseason and did not give up an earned run.
Bumgarner joined the Giants in the summer and started 18 games. He had a record of 7-6, with an ERA of 3.00 and WHIP of 1.306. A highlight of the season for Bumgarner was his start in the 2010 World Series. He threw eight shutout innings, allowing only three hits in eight innings.
Sanchez was arguably the best Giants' pitcher in August and September. He went 13-9 with a 3.07 ERA and 1.231 WHIP. He seemed to run out of gas in the postseason, however.
Zito struggled in 2010, as he went 9-14, with an ERA of 4.15 and WHIP of 1.344. He was left off the Giants' postseason roster. Interestingly, the 2012 version of Zito had the exact same ERA and his WHIP was higher, at 1.389. However, given more run support, Zito was 15-8.
Zito won two huge games for the Giants in the postseason. With the Giants trailing 3 games to one against the Cardinals, Zito won game five in St. Louis, which sent the series back to San Francisco, where the Giants completed their remarkable comeback.
On the flip side, Tim Lincecum had his worst year as a professional, in 2012. He went 10-15 with an ERA of 5.18 and WHIP of 1.468. His 15 losses led the league.
Lincecum was dropped to the bullpen in the postseason and responded brilliantly. He threw 13 innings in relief, allowed only three hits and one run, for an ERA of 0.69. He struck out 17 opposing hitters as a reliever.
Cain became the ace of the staff, as he won a career high of 16 games, against only five losses. His ERA was a stellar 2.79, with a WHIP of 1.040. He did seem to become a bit arm weary late in the season and into the playoffs, but he continued to battle and win games for the Giants.
Cain also became the first pitcher in Giants' history to throw a Perfect Game. He retired all 27 batters he faced, as he beat the Houston Astros, 10-0, in June.
Bumgarner tied Cain in victories with a career-high 16. He also had an ERA of 3.37 and WHIP of 1.114. He did struggle down the stretch with his mechanics and seemed to tire.
After allowing ten runs in eight postseason innings, Giants' manager Bruce Bochy had Bumgarner skip a start to work on his mechanics and also rest his tired arm. This got him back on track, as he pitched Game 2 of the World Series. Against a powerful Detroit lineup, Bumgarner threw seven shutout innings, allowing only two hits.
Ryan Vogelsong had an outstanding year in 2012. He went 14-9 with a 3.37 ERA and 1.228 WHIP. Like Cain and Bumgarner, Vogelsong struggled over his last few starts of the regular season.
Then, somehow, it seemed like Vogelsong got a second wind in the postseason. He threw 24.2 innings, allowed only three earned runs, for an ERA of 1.09 and WHIP of 1.054. Vogelsong won three games, against no defeats.
Both starting rotations were outstanding, but I must give a very slight edge to the 2012 team.
The Giants had outstanding bullpens in both 2010 and 2012. This is a trademark of manager Bruce Bochy's teams.
The 2010 Giants featured closer Brian Wilson who led the league with 48 saves. He also earned six more saves in the postseason, throwing 11.2 shutout innings.
In 2010, the Giants also had Sergio Romo as the primary set-up man from the right side. Romo had an EWRA of 2.18 and his WHIP of 0.968 was outstanding.
Santiago Casilla also pitched very well. He finished the year with a 1.95 ERA and 1.193 WHIP.
The Giants acquired Javier Lopez who contributed mightily down the stretch and into the postseason for the Giants. He was extremely tough on left handed hitters. Ramon Ramirez was also acquired at the trade deadline and contributed to the Giants' success.
Jeremy Affeldt had a down year in 2010, as his ERA ballooned to 4.14 and his WHIP of 1.600 was way too high. He did come through with a great outing in the clinching game of the NLCS against the Phillies, however.
The 2012 Giants lost closer Brian Wilson after only two outings. He underwent his second Tommy John surgery and was lost for the year. He is hoping for a successful return in 2013.
Casilla handled the bulk of the save opportunities for the next three months, as he notched 25 saves. He then struggled with a blister and was hit hard. His confidence was shaken and the Giants went to a closer-by-committee approach.
Ultimately, it was Romo who emerged as the Giants' primary closer. He saved 14 games during the regular season and four more in the playoffs. In the postseason, Romo threw 10.2 innings and allowed only four hits and one run.
Lopez had a role much like he did in 2010. His job was as a lefty relief specialist and he was often called upon to get the oppositions' toughest left handed hitter out.
Affeldt had a much better season in 2012. In 67 outings, he compiled an ERA of 2.70 and WHIP of 1.263. He was also very good in the postseason, as he did not allow a run in 10.1 innings.
This is an extremely close call, but I give a very slight edge to the 2012 team.
The San Francisco Giants Have Won Two World Championships in Three Years
Each of the San Francisco Giants' world championship teams had their own unique character. It was the band of misfits and outcasts against the gritty cockroaches that would never die. Through it all, however, there was excellent pitching, which carried both teams.
So, which team is the best, the 2010 Giants or the 2012 Giants?
I do give a very slight edge to the 2012 team, but you know what, I really don't care. Both of these championship teams captured the heart of every Giants' fan. It's like saying which of your children you love more.
There is no doubt in my mind. I love both of these teams equally. They both gave us everything they had and allowed us to share in such amazing excitement and sheer joy.
I give my heartiest congratulations to the Giants. They have built an organization and team that has won two world championships in three years and they have the personnel to contend for more in the coming seasons.
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