Monday, October 29, 2012

San Francisco Giants Win 2012 World Series

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Closer Sergio Romo celebrates with catcher Buster Posey after
striking out Miguel Cabrera to win the World Series.

For the second time in the last three seasons, the San Francisco Giants have won the World Series. It was a long and unpredictable season for the Giants, who overcame many obstacles on their way. After facing six elimination games in the first two series, the World Series champs unloaded on the Detroit Tigers and were able to sweep them in four games.

The path to the World Series was an emotional and physical roller coaster for the Giants. When the team lost Brian Wilson to Tommy John surgery at the start of the season, many wrote off the team immediately. When Tim Lincecum collapsed this season as a starting pitcher, analysts thought the team was doomed. When the Dodgers started off red hot and claimed an early division lead, critics believed they had the NL West wrapped up easily with no faith in the Giants. Nobody believed in the Giants besides the dedicated fans in San Francisco, but what mattered most to this team was that the players believed in each other. When they were down to their final games, they motivated each other by saying how they wanted to keep playing with each other. And in the end, that motivation was enough to propel this team to a World Series victory.

With Buster Posey back in the lineup this year, the team knew they could accomplish anything. Posey, arguably the team's best player, returned this year after missing most of last season after seriously injuring himself in a home plate collision. Posey put up MVP numbers this season, hitting .336 with 24 home runs and 103 RBI's. The 25 year-old slugger also finished 3rd in Slugging % and 2nd in OPS. Posey hit three home runs this postseason, including one in Game Four that gave the Giants a 3-2 lead.

Another influential player for the Giants in the regular season was Melky Cabrera. Cabrera exploded this season and led the MLB in batting average. He was a first time all-star, and even won All-Star Game MVP. Melky's season ended earlier than he had wished though, when the MLB discovered that he had taking PED's. Cabrera was suspended 50 games, while he asked to take his name off the batting title. When Cabrera's suspension was over, the Giants still decided to keep him off the playoff roster. Despite Melky's effort in the regular season to propel the team to first place, his terrible decision to take PED's clearly had a greater impact on the Giants.

With Melky out, they shifted Gregor Blanco to left and threw Angel Pagan in center. 
The Giants decided to bring in more bat support so they traded for slugger Hunter Pence to fill the final outfield spot. Pence had a solid season, driving in over 100 RBI's. Blanco and Pagan added both solid bats, but more importantly, outstanding fielding. It was Blanco who had a diving catch early in the season to preserve Matt Cain's perfect game.

But which San Fran slugger deserves to be talked more about than the Kung-Fu Panda, Pablo Sandoval? Sandoval had a subpar regular season, but exploded in the postseason. He hit .364 with six home runs and 13 RBI's in 16 games. Sandoval's World Series performance will go down as one of the best of all-time. The 2012 World Series MVP went 8-16 with three home runs to lead the Giants to victory. His Game One performance, which included three home runs, has only been done three other times in MLB history.

The Giants wouldn't have won the World Series if it weren't for their pitching rotation. The rotation owned the Tigers, allowing just six runs in 37 innings. In Game One, Barry Zito out-duled reigning Cy Young and MVP Justin Verlander. Zito allowed just two runs, setting up the Giants for a victory. In Game Two, Madison Bumgarner pitched a game for the ages. Bumgarner allowed just two hits in seven innings, while striking out eight batters. His dominance out-shined opposing pitcher Doug Fister, who allowed just one run in six innings. In Game Three, Ryan Vogelsong continued his postseason dominance with another shutout. This put the Giants up 3-0 with their best pitcher, Matt Cain, set to pitch the final game. Cain went 16-5 in the regular season and is likely to finish in the top five for the  NL Cy Young award.  Cain pitched seven innings and allowed just three runs to be scored in Game Four.

Aren't we missing someone though? Oh right, Tim Lincecum. After a disappointing regular season as a starting pitcher, Lincecum found his niche as a reliever this postseason. Lincecum was lights out against the Tigers, as he set up the perfect bridge to connect San Francisco's starting pitchers to closer Sergio Romo. And that's what brings this team full circle. They say a team is a strong as its weakest link, so Romo made sure that the Giants wouldn't lack a key closer. Romo appeared in 10 games this postseason, but only allowed one run. He made Giants fans forget all about Brian Wilson, as he struck out the side to clinch the World Series.

What's great about baseball is the fact that the underdog can win. In the NBA, only eight teams have won championships over the past 20 years. Similar to how a hockey playoff team really depends on its goaltending, a baseball playoff team relies on its starting pitching. The Tigers were able to shutdown the Yankees' bats in the ALCS, but then had their own bats strikeout in four consecutive games. The Giants knew they could win it all this year and that's all that mattered to them. Congrats to the World Series champions!

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