It may be easy to reminisce about Pablo Sandoval’s three home runs in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series or Marco Scutaro’s game-winning single in Game 4. The Giants have become accustomed to playing October baseball after winning two championships in the last four seasons.
Giants fans who are craving that third ring to add to their collection should not be discouraged by last year’s 76-86 record. Even though San Francisco struggled last season, there is reason to think its World Series window is still open.
The Giants have developed a pattern of winning a championship one season and then underperforming the next. If history does in fact repeat itself, can we expect the Giants to make the World Series in 2014, 2016, 2018 and so forth? Okay, maybe that is a bit excessive, but the point is they should be World Series contenders for the next three to five years.
The name of the game for the Giants is pitching. Playing at the friendly confines of AT&T Park, the Giants rely on their pitching staff to lead the way and win ballgames. Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner have all been dominant in their World Series runs and all three will return again this season.
Bumgarner had a career year in 2013 as he went 13-9 and turned in a 2.77 ERA, earning him his first All-Star appearance. Although Bumgarner is just entering his fourth full season in the Majors, he has a 2-0 record in World Series games with two shutouts. The young lefty is signed through 2017 and if he can continue his consistency, he will be in the Cy Young conversation for years to come.
Cain has been the horse of the Giants rotation and is the longest tenured player on the club despite being just 29 years old. In 2012 he signed a six-year, $127.5 million deal so he is not going anywhere anytime soon. Cain has a lifetime ERA of 2.10 in the playoffs and won both his starts in elimination games in 2012.
As long as Cain can keep his postseason success rolling, the Giants will be a tough team to beat.
Lincecum went 4-1 in the 2010 playoffs, including an eight-inning gem to clinch a World Series title. Lincecum's second time around in the postseason was a bit of a different story.
After a season where he had a career-high 15 losses and a 5.18 ERA, Lincecum became a weapon out of the bullpen in the 2012 playoffs. As bad as Lincecum was throughout the season, he registered 17.2 innings and a 2.55 ERA in the postseason. The Giants saw how dangerous Timmy can be as a reliever and if he struggles as a starter, off to the bullpen he goes.
The Giants' success on the mound does not just end with their starting pitching.
After being acquired during the 2010 season, Javier Lopez has become one of the best lefty specialists in the game. Lopez owns lefties, holding them to a .170 average since 2011.
Lopez became a free agent this offseason but the Giants kept him in San Francisco with a three-year, $13 million deal. The sidearmer has helped solidify the back end of the bullpen and set the table for closer Sergio Romo.
Since Brian Wilson went down in April 2012, Romo has racked up 52 saves, including 38 during 2013. Romo does not throw hard for a closer but is not afraid to challenge hitters, as Miguel Cabrera knows all too well.
Romo is signed through 2014 and it would be a big surprise if he and the Giants do not reach an extension.
San Francisco has proved that having a strong rotation and bullpen is how to win October baseball. This method has produced two world championships, and the Giants should stick with that philosophy.
The Giants' World Series window will remain open as long as their pitching can continue to perform as well as it did from 2010 through 2012. Young pitching and playoff experience sure seem like a good recipe for the future.