San Francisco Giants: Why Crazy Playoff Push Leads To a World Series Win
It took until the last day of the season, but the Giants won the NL West. Their reward? A first round match-up against the Atlanta Braves.
The Braves will have a massive emotional investment in the postseason with Bobby Cox retiring at the year's end, and it gets no easier if they win. With a dynamic Reds offense and an uber-talented Phillies team waiting next round, a World Series victory seems a distant hope.
But this San Francisco team is special. Their combination of pitching and defense make them a dangerous threat. Can the Giants win it all? Read on for 10 reasons they will be holding the trophy come November.
10. Entering Hot
The Giants enter the playoffs with loads of momentum. San Fran's win over San Diego on the last day of the season clinched a playoff berth, while providing an invaluable emotional lift. Combine that with the fact that SF has won seven of its last 10 games, and you have the impetus to win.
Oh, as for the recent results of other NL playoff teams? Atlanta and Cincinnati are both 5-5, while Philly comes in at 6-4.
9. Pinch Hitting
For me, the most memorable moment in any athletic competition was Kirk Gibson's home run. Watching him limp around the bases after torching Dennis Eckersley for a round tripper, it transcended sports.
Moreover, it is a perfect example of the pinch hitters significance. With so many close games, the ability to insert a productive hitter late in the game is crucial. Luckily for the Giants, their .261 pinch hitting average was good for second in the NL.
8. Mediocre Competition
Let's be honest, the National League is less talented than the American League, and each of the NL playoff teams have obvious flaws.
The Braves' lineup is as non-threatening as Clay Aiken. The Reds pitching staff lacks a real ace (I mean come on, Bronson Arroyo is starting Game 2 for them). As for the Phillies? Well, let's just remember what happens to Brad Lidge every October.
The Giants may not be the most talented team, but they are very well-rounded. And that's one thing that no other NL team can boast.
7. Home Field Advantage
During the regular season, San Fran managed a 3-4 record against the Braves, so why should you be bullish when picking the Giants? Their 49-32 home record for starters.
Playing the wild card Braves, the Giants will have home field advantage this series, and should the Reds defeat the Phillies, San Francisco would once again get to host the series from the friendly confines of AT&T Ballpark.
With a home winning percentage of more than 60 percent, it's just another reason to like the Giants this October.
6. Buster Posey
Those unfamiliar with the man known simply as Buster, it's time to get acquainted. After spending two months in the minors, Buster Posey finally got his call-up in late May and the results were remarkable.
In 108 games, Gerald "Buster" Posey hit .305 with 18 homers and 67 RBI. Along with his tremendous performance at the plate, Posey did a phenomenal job managing the pitching staff. Splitting time between catcher and first, Posey displayed soft hands and good footwork while calling a great game from behind the plate.
He may only be a rookie, but Posey plays with the poise and savvy of a 10-year veteran. Even in his first season, BP has proved himself to be one of the game's elite catchers, and should anchor the middle of this Giants lineup for years to come.
The Giants started the season with very little depth and many questions around the diamond. Their outfield was mostly unproven journeymen or inexperienced young players. With the emergence of Andres Torres and the additions of Jose Guillen, Pat Burrell, and Mike Fontenot, those question marks were turned into exclamation marks.
Perhaps the addition of proven starters to the bench explains the Giants exceptionally high pinch hitting average (.261 pinch hit average versus .257 season batting average). Moreover, players like Guillen and Burrell will make for more than serviceable DH's should the Giants make the series.
With depth at every position, and many starters capable of playing multiple positions (re: Posey, Sandoval, Huff, Sanchez) the Giants will be well prepared for whatever situation may arise.
We all know about the Giants starting pitching. They're deep and dominant. But what about the bullpen? Those familiar with the team will tell you they're just as talented.
Red Sox castoffs Ramon Ramirez and Javier Lopez have both flourished with their new clubs as they finished with ERA's of 0.67 and 1.42 respectively. Add in Sergio Romo (2.18 ERA) and Santiago Casilla (1.95) and you have arguably the best bullpen in all of baseball.
But when Brian Wilson comes in, it's lights out. The 28-year-old flamethrower touted a 1.81 ERA, and successfully closed out 48 of 53 save opportunities. With this strikeout demon pitching the ninth, San Francisco has got to like its chances in any close ballgame.
We've all heard the old adage, pitching and defense win championships. If that's the case, San Fran looks to have this title locked up.
San Fran committed the fourth fewest errors in all of baseball, and feature multiple Gold Glove caliber players. Whether it be Freddy Sanchez, Aaron Rowand, Andres Torres, Edgar Renteria or Buster Posey, these boys can handle their glove.
In fact, the Giants defense is to terrific, that they managed to lead all of baseball in put outs, while ranking dead last in assists. Their pitching doesn't allow hitters to put many balls in play, but when they do, their defense makes quick work.
2. Starting Rotation
It says a lot when Tim Lincecum has the fourth best ERA on your staff. The former Cy Young Winner finished behind rookie Madison Bumgarner (3.00 ERA), Jonathan Sanchez (3.07) and Matt Cain (3.14). Add in Barry Zito (4.15), and it's easy to see how San Fran allowed the fewest runs in baseball.
While Matt Cain has been one of the more underrated players around baseball the past few years, it is the improvement of Sanchez and the addition of Bumgarner that have brought the Giants rotation to the top level. Sanchez always had filthy stuff, but often had problems with location. His new-found ability to locate resulted in his ERA dropping over a full point, while tallying the first 200 strike out season of his career.
And Bumgarner? Following a dominant minor-league career, Bumgarner took a mid-season call-up, and turned it into a spot in the rotation. The 21-year-old lefty doesn't have overpowering stuff, but by coupling terrific location with a running fastball that sits in the low 90's and a unique thee-quarters delivery Bumgarner has been able to baffle hitters.
In order for SF to win the World Series, the starting pitching will need to continue their dominant ways.
1. Tim Lincecum
To say Lincecum's season was a roller coaster ride of highs and lows only begins to describe his topsy-turvy year. Despite a 3.43 ERA, Lincecum was a disappointment this season.
Ranking fourth amongst fellow starters in ERA, Timmy didn't look like the same Cy Young caliber pitcher as he had in the past. His velocity dropped, and the 26-year-old righty began tinkering with his mechanics. The results were entirely disconcerting.
Lincecum went 0-5 with a 7.80 ERA in the month of August, as San Fran's grasp on the NL West began to slip. Luckily, Lincecum went back to his old form, stopped trying to overthrow his fastball, and began tossing that beautiful change-up for strikes.
The result was a dominant September complete with 5-1 record and 1.94 ERA and sub one WHIP. Will Linecum continue his overpowering performance? Or will he revert to the player who got rocked in August? The playoff hopes of the Giants hinge on this youngster's right arm.