The 2010 San Francisco Giants shocked the baseball world when they tore through the postseason with an 11-4 record to win their first World Series championship since 1954.
How did they do it? One word would suffice in explaining their amazing run—pitching.
San Francisco's staff gave observers of the game something to remember. With performance after performance of historic proportions, Giants hurlers utterly shut down offensive juggernauts from Philadelphia and Texas on their way to claiming the crown.
When all was said and done, San Francisco's arms had produced four shutouts, compiled an ERA of 2.47, and struck out 133 opposing hitters while limiting opponents' batting average to just .196 in 15 postseason games.
After being labeled underdogs in the NLCS and the World Series, with the chief reason being that their opponents had better offensive capabilities, the Giants proved the old adage true yet again—good pitching always beats good hitting—always.
In a season that was called the "Year of the Pitcher", pitching won the day when Tim Lincecum tossed eight masterful innings in Game 5 of last year's fall classic, helping his Giants clinch the title.
San Francisco's success has led many baseball analysts to ask, who will be 2011's version of the Giants that won it all last season?
Looking Across the Bay
The search for this year's version of the 2010 Giants could involve just a short drive across the Bay.
The Oakland A's led the American League with a 3.56 team ERA in 2010. Oakland's staff also led the league in shutouts, with 17. A's arms yielded just 566 earned runs last season, lowest in the league, while holding opposing hitters to just a .245 batting average.
This season, the staff in Oakland has picked up right where it left off, leading the American League, with a 2.86 team ERA and just 127 earned runs allowed so far in 2011. And opponents' batting average? Just .244, a point lower than in 2010.
The A's, much like the Giants in 2010, are struggling offensively in 2011. They currently rank 23rd in baseball in runs scored, and 25th in team batting average.
But if there's one thing the 2010 Giants proved about winning, it was that a lot of pitching mixed with a little timely hitting is a recipe for success.
Potential World Series Preview?
The Giants and A's are two teams on very different tracks. While the composition of their clubs may be very similar, with pitching as the centerpiece and strength, and hitting being almost a secondary consideration, the Giants are the defending world champions while the A's are still in a success-building mode.
That doesn't mean, however, that we won't see both of these clubs in the playoffs. The Giants are primed to make another serious run in the NL West, having nearly the same personnel back to defend the title.
The A's have the potential to become what the Giants were last season, given their young pitching talent and the presence of veterans Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham to provide just enough offense.
Much like San Francisco last season, if Oakland can just reach the playoffs, whether by winning the AL West or claiming the AL Wild Card spot, anything can happen. With the likes of Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, and Gio Gonzalez leading a stellar pitching staff in a short series, the A's could find themselves in the American League Championship Series before they know it.
With the A's visiting AT&T Park this weekend for a three-game set with the Giants, look for low-scoring games, playoff-caliber baseball, and maybe even a preview of what's to come this October.