First of all, congratulations to the San Francisco Giants and their fans. One of my favorite aspects of the 2010 World Series was that regardless of who won, in either case a long-suffering fan base was finally going to be rewarded after years of patience and support. It’s been a long time coming, and it’s pretty amazing that the Giants not only had had the third-longest Championship drought but had never won it all since making the fateful move to the west coast after the 1957 season.
As a New Yorker, it’s tough not to feel a bit of excitement for the Giants what with their New York roots. Additionally, as a baseball fan born in the early 1980′s, it’s nigh-impossible to fathom that there were once three baseball franchises in this city, and one can only dream of the possibilities that could have been had Walter O’Malley and Horace Stoneham not selfishly moved their beloved teams (well, beloved at least with respect to the Brooklyn Dodgers. One certainly hears a good deal less about the New York Baseball Giants) to the west coast.
Given that my dad grew up a massive Yankee fan, idolizing Mickey Mantle, I still would’ve been a Yankee fan myself, but I think I would’ve had a slightly easier time pulling for the New York National League teams had the Dodgers and Giants hung around, if only because the fan bases presumably wouldn’t constantly feel as though they were living in the Yankees’ shadow. I wish I could like the Mets more than I do, but given that a good number of Mets fans I’ve encountered seem to take more joy in anything negative befalling the Yankees than rooting for their own team, I find it hard to extend my rooting interest to the Metropolitans when their fans show such hostility toward my team. That being said, I’m sure there are countless Mets fans who aren’t preoccupied with the Yankees at all, and couldn’t care less about what happens in the Bronx, and to those fans that fall under that category I salute you. I’m guessing you are a significantly less vocal lot.
Getting back to the World Series, I still can’t get over the absolute pitching clinic the Giants put on against the Rangers. It’s pretty unbelievable that the same Rangers that OPSed a ridiculous .890 against the Yankees in the ALCS ended up posting a horrific .546 against the Giants, but that’s what happens when your opposition’s starting rotation pitches to a 2.38 ERA over five games, and a 2.45 team ERA as a whole. As noted by Dave Cameron at Fangraphs, the Giants allowed 2.31 runs per nine innings since September 1, which is unspeakably amazing.
As beastly a rotation as Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez as Madison Bumgarner were this season (and ended up being in the postseason) — 119, 130, 133 and 136 ERA+, respectively — I don’t think too many prognosticators expected that the team with the worst overall offense of the eight playoff teams was going to end up coming out on top.
Here’s where I’m supposed to say something about how in the postseason, good pitching beats good hitting, blahedy-blah-blah, and while that’s true, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible for a great offense to get to a great pitcher. Sometimes an entire team gets cold at the exact wrong time. And sometimes a team with a less-than-imposing offense gets hot at the right time. Prior to Game 1 I really thought Texas was going to win this thing, and I kept waiting for one of those patented offensive explosions that kept coming against the Yankees in the ALCS, but none showed up. The one thought that cropped up more than anything else while watching San Francisco’s pitchers absolutely have their way with the Rangers’ offense was that I was almost relieved that the Yankees didn’t make the World Series, because if Texas was having that much trouble I can’t imagine how badly the Yankees, who love team-wide slumps more than anyone else in baseball, would’ve been embarrassed.
While I greatly enjoy the playoffs, I do think there’s something to be said about trying to change the format up some, as the current system doesn’t really reward the teams that played the best baseball during the regular season enough. A buddy of mine and I were discussing this very topic last night, and he’s planning on putting together a guest post for Yankeeist detailing what he believes would be some highly beneficial changes to the Major League Baseball playoff system, so look for that post soon. Without going into too much detail yet, we both feel that it’s still too easy for a weaker team that happens to get hot at the right time to run the table. I’m not saying that the Giants were necessarily the weaker team in this instance, but I don’t think anyone expected the Series to be over in five games, either.
Some random thoughts:
- How awesome was Colby Lewis this postseason? I’ll be the first to admit I sold him short prior to the playoffs, but he sure shut me up, putting up a 1.71 ERA over 26 1/3 innings. His peripherals indicate he may have gotten a tad lucky (4.45 FIP; 4.62 xFIP), but in such a small sample size it doesn’t matter — he still got the job done.
- What a strange postseason for Josh Hamilton. A .311 OPS in five games against the Rays in the ALDS convinced me he was going to be a non-factor against the Yankees, who he subsequently destroyed to the tune of a 1.536 OPS in six games. Then Hamilton fell back down to a .393 OPS against San Francisco.
- Meanwhile, after pitching three of the most dominating games in postseason history in the first two rounds, Cliff Lee was beaten around like a pinata in Game 1 of the World Series, and though he looked much more like himself in Game 5 still ended up taking the loss because he gave Edgar Renteria a cookie.
- How about that Nelson Cruz? A .456 postseason wOBA over 63 plate appearances! Talk about beastly. With each double he clobbered I couldn’t help but wonder wher
e the heck he came from. I had to laugh when a quick check of B-Ref informed me that he was initially signed by the Mets back in 1998! Cruz’s bat sure would look good in a Mets outfield whose best wOBA was Angel Pagan‘s .342, huh?
- Not to take anything away from the Giants’ offense, which hit to a .756 OPS in this series, but massive props are due once again to their quartet of starting pitchers. Throughout the postseason, Lincecum put up a 2.43/2.62/2.82 line, Cain a 0.00/3.13/4.98, Sanchez a 4.05/3.68/3.81 and Bumgarner a 2.18/2.84/3.46. If the Yankees ever made it through a postseason with lines like that from four of their starting pitchers I do not know what I’d do with myself.
- Is there any other team in baseball that has drafted as well as the Giants have over the last 10 seasons? Not only do they have four total studs in their starting rotation, but a bona fide middle-of-the-order masher in catcher Buster Posey and All-Star closer Brian Wilson, to boot. As Cliff Corcoran notes at SI.com, they’ll likely need to bolster the offense to make a run at a repeat, but if they do make it back to the World Series in 2011 they’re going to pose a real problem for whichever unlucky team from the AL has to face them.
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