The San Francisco Giants’ Wild World Series Run


The San Francisco Giants aren’t supposed be here. The team that was arguably the worst in baseball for a two-month stretch shouldn’t be on their way to the World Series. A team without their ace Matt Cain, without any contribution by the pitcher formerly known as Tim Lincecum, and without their leadoff hitter Angel Pagan, has no business playing for their third title in five seasons.

And yet, after a walk-off home run by back-up first baseman/left fielder Travis Ishikawa (again, who’s writing this stuff?), the Giants are heading back to the Fall Classic in what might be their most improbable run yet.

And it doesn’t seem to make a lick of sense.

Granted, the Giants absolutely deserve to be where they are. Any team that goes through the grueling MLB postseason and makes it to the final round worked hard and played hard to get there. But somewhere in Washington D.C., Washington Nationals players and fans are still scratching their heads and wondering how this team scratched and clawed their way to defeating Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez en route to the NLCS.

Fans in St. Louis will certainly do the same after watching their team fall in five games in the NLCS, despite their ace Adam Wainwright taking the mound twice in the series.

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  • What is it that makes this team better than the rest? Why can’t the star studded Los Angeles Dodgers or Los Angeles Angels get past the first round, but the chippy Giants go all the way to the World Series with regularity?

    The difference between playoff teams is rather miniscule when you think about it. The biggest benefit of baseball’s 162-game season is when playoff time comes around is there is almost no question that the best teams in baseball got in. Baseball’s playoff teams are essentially even, all having survived the grind of the regular season, and every one of them with their own unique strengths and weaknesses.

    It’s the aforementioned miniscule differences that make the Giants so special, and the biggest reason for that is their future Hall of Fame manager Bruce Bochy. When teams are so evenly matched, a handful of games are going to come down to managerial decisions. This is where Bochy thrives and consistently outduels more inexperienced managers.

    In game two of the NLDS, Nationals manager Matt Williams made the much criticized move to take out Jordan Zimmermann, and Bochy made a much heralded move to bring in Yusmeiro Petit in extra innings who provided essentially a six-inning start. It doesn’t feel like hyperbole anymore to say that Bochy handles his bullpen and pitching staff better than anyone in the game today or throughout history.

    Bochy also deserves credit for always having the magic touch with his lineup card. It certainly helps to have All-Star caliber hitters like Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence, but the solid production from guys like Ishikawa or Gregor Blanco? That’s a credit to Bochy and his ability to get the most out of his veteran hitters.

    Ishikawa is just Bochy’s latest reclamation project, who joins a list that includes Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross, Pat Burrell and Marco Scutaro as veterans who found second life with the Giants.

    It’s hard to quantify exactly how Bochy or his hitters have done it through these playoff runs. But from the outside looking in, it always seems that Bochy shows the utmost confidence in all of his players, and that confidence becomes highly contagious in the Giants’ clubhouse. It’s that confidence that gives veteran hitters new life and helps the lineup, as a whole, believe they can score any way possible, even when the long ball isn’t showing up.

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  • The Giants, as well as their World Series opponents, the Kansas City Royals, are indicative of what modern baseball has become. Power doesn’t always win anymore. The steroid era is a thing of the past. Barry Bonds, despite a guest appearance in the NLCS, is no longer roaming left field at AT&T Park.

    These new Giants win games the old fashioned way. Just find a way to get on base, grind out at-bats, get in the opposing pitchers’ head and play like the smartest guys on the field. Oh, and out-pitching the other team sure doesn’t hurt either. This is the Giants’ new formula for success, and they do it better than anybody in baseball.

    In the new baseball world order where sabermetrics is king, the Giants represent a sort of anomaly. Their emphasis on great pitching and defense en route to two World Series championships though shows that’s not entirely true.

    After that, the Giants’ formula for success has more to do with clubhouse chemistry than it does new statistical analysis. And if the difference between playoff teams is essentially nothing, than things like confidence, experience and chemistry can be the difference between a pennant winner and everybody else.

    Maybe it’s not so crazy that the Giants are once again fighting for another championship. This team that balances new school and old school baseball strategy should be one of the teams battling until the end. They have great starting pitching that has extensive postseason experience, a perfectly managed, lights-out bullpen and a lineup that has overcome injury after injury while continuing to grind out every game and every at-bat.

    When you really dissect how they did it, it starts to make a lot of sense how the Giants did it.

    Then you remember that shikawa hit a three-run home run to send the Giants to the World Series. A back-up first baseman that looked like bad luck had finally caught up to him after he made a boneheaded mistake in left field earlier in the game. A player who considered retirement as early as this summer, only to come back to the organization that drafted him over 10 years ago, become their emergency left fielder, and hit a walk-off home run that will go down in Giants lore as one of the biggest hits in franchise history.

    Ok, so this team is still kind of weird.

    The Giants are going to the World Series. And in the weirdest way, it makes perfect sense.