At the beginning of the 2010 season, there were very few people in this world who could have predicted that the Giants would beat the Rangers in the World Series.
But it happened.
Now we have the opportunity to look back with the most glorious of hindsight and laugh at all the predictions we made.
There's no more what-ifs to think about, and no regrets on any decisions, because every trigger Brian Sabean pulled, every double-switch Bruce Bochy made, and every sign that Buster Posey threw down brought us to where we are right now.
World Series Champions.
Anyways, it's time to look back on all the ridiculous ideas I had rattling around my head on March 1, 2010.
And there were some crazy ones.
Again, for those not familiar with the term, SWOT stands for Strengths,Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
Let's take a gander.
Pablo Sandoval had a monster year in his first full season in the majors. He led the Giants in almost every offensive category, hitting .330 with 25 HRs and 90 RBI.
And guess what? He couldn't even see right.
Then this happened:
Batting average: minus 60 points
On-Base Percentage: minus 60 points
Slugging: minus 150 points
OPS: minus 200 points.
Since when does getting glasses make things more complicated?
Luckily, the Giants performed so much better as a team offensively that they didn't need the Panda to make the kind of splash he did last year.
It seemed like up and down the lineup, there were 15 homers and 60 RBIs, and that kind of consistency 1-7 in the order is rare and hard to come by.
When you've got a year like that, sometimes you don't need one of your biggest strengths to win.
|Moreover, this team is NOT going to have any problems with players missing games because of its depth. DeRosa can play multiple positions. Super utility player Juan Uribe can step in at any infield position. Pablo Sandoval can play both corners. Travis Ishikawa can still play a great first base.|
This is one that I got right. Sort of.
Mark DeRosa caught Floppy Tendon Syndrome and only played 26 games in 2010.
Juan Uribe didn't really play anywhere except shortstop (26 at 3B, 24 at 2B).
Pablo Sandoval only played 11 games at first base.
And Travis Ishikawa was a late-inning pinch-hitter/defensive replacement.
Instead, the most versatile and valuable person on this team was Aubrey Huff.
That's right, Aubrey Huff, the discarded DH who couldn't play the field.
Not only did Huff play the field, he played three positions exceptionally well. He ended up playing 100 games at first base and 63 in the outfield.
Not only did Huff play first base 100 times, but he had a fielding percentage of .996, and made fewer errors (3) than Albert Pujols (13), Todd Helton (8) AND Adrian Gonzalez (8).
Not only did Huff play outfield 63 times, he didn't make one error.
That was huge on a team that needed every ounce of offensive production it could get, even if it meant moving a few people around to get it.
Honestly, the only person on the 2010 team who looked tired at all was Buster Posey after he exuded awesomeness for three months.
And he still contributed come playoff time.
Compared to all other major league teams, they had the second-lowest ERA (3.55), the second-lowest WHIP (1.28), far and away the most complete games (11), shutouts (18), and strikeouts (1302), also giving up the least amount of earned runs (571)...
When it comes to September, your pitching staff should be surging, not petering out, and the Giants have the strong starters and durable relievers to maintain that consistency throughout the year.
Boy, did they ever.
As the saying goes, when it comes down to it, good pitching beats good hitting.
Seven times out of 10.
So when the Giants, clearly with the best staff in the playoffs, headed to Arlington needing two wins in the next five games, and with the best hitting team in their way, I liked their chances.
This year, the Giants lead the league in ERA (3.36), hits allowed (1279), strikeouts (1331), batting average against (.236), K/9 (8.20) and BB/9 (7.88).
More simply, they had the best staff in baseball, all year long.
There weren't any Cy Young candidates, but top to bottom, from Tim Lincecum through Madison Bumgarner, they could dominate. And when one pitcher wasn't dominating, another one was.
Yes, Barry Zito didn't make the playoff roster. But he did start the season 5-0 when Tim Lincecum wasn't displaying his ace stuff.
Yes, Jonathan Sanchez didn't exactly dominate in the playoffs, but the sheer willpower of the beards in the Giants bullpen (Jeremy Affeldt) wouldn't let anything slip away.
Yes, there was no true setup man, but Sergio Romo, Guillermo Mota and Santiago Casilla all took their turns bridging the gap to Brian Wilson in the ninth.
And that, my friends, is how you build a pitching staff. And why pitching can carry you as far as you want to go.
|In fact, the only sub-30 starters on the team heading into the season are Pablo Sandoval and Nate Schierholtz. Aaron Rowand is 33, Bengie Molina is almost 36, and Edgar Renteria is almost 35. New additions Aubrey Huff (33) and Mark DeRosa (35) aren't getting any younger either.|
Opening Day starting lineup (with ages):
1. Rowand - CF (33)
2. Renteria - SS (35)
3. Sandoval - 3B (23)
4. Huff - 1B (33)
5. DeRosa - LF (35)
6. Molina - C (36)
7. Bowker - RF (27)
8. Uribe - 2B (31)
9. Lincecum - P (26)
World Series starting lineup (with ages):
1. Torres - RF (32)
2. Sanchez - 2B (32)
3. Posey - C (24)
4. Ross - LF (30)
5. Uribe - 3B (31)
6. Huff - 1B (33)
7. Burrell - DH (34)
8. Renteria - SS (35)
9. Rowand - CF (33)
The Giants got younger at a lot of positions, and would you trade Pat Burrell's production for John Bowker?
Would you leave Edgar Renteria off the playoff roster?
Did Aubrey Huff seem old at all this year?
Is Andres Torres really 32 already?
DeRosa quickly faded from the picture, and the switch from Bengie Molina to Buster Posey gave this team an injection of youth potion that revitalized everyone.
Lincecum (26), Cain (26), Sanchez (27) and Madison Bumgarner (21) are all still young pups.
And there are plenty of young players coming up (Brandon Belt, anyone?) that make a youthful team in San Francisco an inevitable reality.
|There are no legitimate threats to steal bases on this team. Edgar Renteria and Nate Schierholtz MAY be able to beat out a bunt here and there, but aside from backup outfielders (Velez, Andres Torres), the Giants are not fast in the slightest.|
Andres Torres led the Giants in stolen bases (26) and triples (8), two of the most indicative signs of speed in baseball. He also got robbed of a Gold Glove.
Guess who was second in steals and triples (in a Giants uniform)?
Again, what? He's old? He's a DH? He's off the scrap heap?
But yes, Aubrey Huff went seven for seven in steals in the regular season. And Aubrey Huff hit five triples (and an inside-the-park homer to boot). And in my opinion, Huff was also robbed of a Gold Glove.
Taking Bengie Molina out of the equation unclogged the bases exponentially for the G-men.
Adding Torres made it even better.
Bruce Bochy's ingenius substitutions also made this team better on both sides of the ball, because of the speed of guys like Nate Schierholtz and Cody Ross.
And with players like Manny Burriss and Darren Ford on the team in September, this team was a lot faster than when they started the season.
Unlike the past (ahem, 2003), the Giants had speed on the bench and on the field.
It paid off.
San Francisco got their fair share of injury news before 2010 even started. Freddy Sanchez required surgery—twice. Renteria had surgery as well. Ishikawa fell down the stairs and tore some ligaments. DeRosa is coming off wrist surgery. Burriss was only as fast as his broken foot let him be last year...
If they can stay healthy, the Giants have potential to improve on last year, which is what everyone wants. With their depth and versatility, injuries will affect them less than in years past. However, owners don't spend millions of dollars for people sit on the DL so head trainer Dave Groeschner had better stay busy.
If Freddy Sanchez doesn't get injured, Juan Uribe doesn't start the season in the starting lineup.
If Edgar Renteria doesn't go on the DL three times, Juan Uribe doesn't play in the middle of the season.
If Mark DeRosa doesn't get injured, that means possibly no Andres Torres, Cody Ross or Pat Burrell.
Obviously, these are all big ifs, but think about it.
Freddy Sanchez was quickly losing any sort of popularity he had built up by starting this season on the DL, but everyone forgot about that as soon as he was on every defensive highlight against Atlanta and Philadelphia and then ripped three doubles off of Cliff Lee.
Edgar Renteria played the entire playoffs with a torn left bicep, but he had enough in his arm to hit the biggest home runs of his Giants career, as well as show off some 1997-era Edgar defense in the World Series.
Mark DeRosa didn't come back for the playoffs, but the outfielders that the Giants used to replace him (Burrell, Torres, Ross) came up huge again and again down the stretch.
Here's a scary thought:
If Todd Wellemeyer doesn't get hurt, the Giants trade Brandon Belt for a middle-of-the-rotation starter and he doesn't have a game-winning home run for the Giants in the 2014 World Series against the Kansas City Royals.
And Madison Bumgarner doesn't get a chance to show how dominant he can be before he is legally allowed to drink. (VERY dominant.)
On that note, the Giants are extremely fortunate that their entire rotation stayed healthy. Their top four starters all made 33 starts, and Bumgarner made 18 in his rookie campaign.
Brian Wilson didn't miss time, and the bullpen was solid enough up and down that when people did go on the shelf, there were people there to pick up the slack.
For Giant fans, this is great news. If the Dodgers can't improve, and the Giants DO, that makes October baseball much more of a reality. The race between LA and SF was close last year, but the Giants just couldn't catch up to the Bums when it counted.
Maybe this year they'll be distracted by some attorneys, and not just the Giants in their rear-view mirror.
The Dodgers sucked this year.
Now they have no money to spend on free agents, their players are unhappy, and their once-rich homegrown talent (Russell Martin, James Loney) is faltering.
And they still have no idea who owns them.
Moral: Don't f*** with magic.
The Rockies also seemed just out of reach for the Giants last year, but using the same logic as the Dodgers, if the Giants improved this offseason (which they did) and the Rockies didn't (which they didn't), San Francisco's got a good chance at winning the West.
Nobody predicted the Padres would stick around in first place for two-thirds of the season.
Nobody. At. All. Not even San Diego fans.
This was the Rockies' division to win.
Why the Rockies?
For some reason, the Rockies just cannot lose in September. They can't.
Nobody knows why. It doesn't matter who their manager is, or who ends up in their starting rotation.
But they had Jason Giambi winning more games than he ever did with the A's.
And they had two legitimate MVP candidates in Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, who put up MONSTER numbers in September.
And they almost caught up at the end of the year.
But the Giants weren't having it, and took two of three in their final series in Colorado to put the Rockies away for good.
|Although going from the cellar to the top of the West won't be easy, the D-Backs proved that they're willing to make the moves to make it possible. With other teams in the division seeming dormant, Arizona could be a surprise team to break out this year.|
As much as a lot of people want to think so, potential doesn't win games. Performance wins games.
32 homeruns. 85 RBI. Pretty standard for Diamondbacks 3B Mark Reynolds.
But a .198 batting average? Seriously?
Reynolds and newcomer Adam LaRoche, who wasn't too shabby this year with 25 jacks and 100 RBI of his own, were supposed to anchor down the middle of a lineup that had pop up and down.
In their 41st game of the year, light-hitting second baseman Kelly Johnson hit his 12th homerun of the year off of Brandon Medders. He had hit nine in the first month of the season. He ended up cooling off significantly.
The Diamondbacks had the third-most homers in the National League, out-homering the Giants 180-162. But the fact that they struck out over 1,500 times, almost 200 more times than any other team, made it very hard to win.
Another year in the cellar wasn't planned, but with a new manager and GM, 2011 should make for another exciting race in the NL West.
Their offense is powerful, their defense solid, and their pitching is surprisingly dominant. If the Giants are going to get to and through the playoffs, it'll have to be through the Redbirds.
Redbirds? Close, but no cigar.
Reds? The REDS? The Cincinnati REDS?
Who cares that they were no-hit by Roy Halladay in the first game of the playoffs. He's good. Real good.
Dusty Baker found some way to guide the Cincinnati Reds PAST the St. Louis Cardinals, in a year that included one of the best baseball fights of my lifetime, and into the playoffs for the first time since 1995.
It also marked only the fourth time in the last decade that the Cards did NOT make the playoffs.
Albert Pujols was Albert Pujols, taking two legs of the Triple Crown (HRs, RBI) and hitting .312. Matt Holliday was Matt Holliday, hitting 28 HRs, knocking in 103 RBI, and also hitting .312.
Adam Wainwright went 20-11 and stayed in the Cy Young race until the end.
Jaime Garcia was in the running for NL Rookie of the Year.
But for some reason, Cincinnati was better. Joey Votto, Ramon Hernandez, Brandon Philips, Mike Leake and Jay Bruce were better.
And with Holliday, Carpenter and Wainwright, already on payroll, keeping Albert Pujols is going to keep getting harder for the Cardinals to do.
Giants President Larry Baer points to the World Series trophy and says, "This is mine."
The World Series trophy.
Outside San Francisco's City Hall.
The Beard has been feared, and we are tortured no more.
(cue Tony Bennett)