Right after the SF Giants won the 2014 World Series, I tweeted the following:
Tens of thousands of words will be written about this #WorldSeries.
The only ones that matter: #MadBum MVP #SFGiants
At the beginning of the post-season, very few people expected the Giants to win. Consider the situation at the time:
- The Giants were eight games under .500 over their final 98 games.
Not exactly a team with momentum on their side.
- The Giants were the National League wildcard entry, arguably the lowest ranked of the 10 teams in the playoffs, and therefore forced to play more games on the road than at home.
- Two of their starting pitchers (Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum) weren’t available.
Two stars from the 2012 playoffs, Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro, weren’t available either.
- Travis Ishikawa, a long-time first baseman, was slated to play left field even though he had never started a major league game at that position until the third-to-last game of the season.
It’s no surprise that people didn’t expect them to win. But win, they did. Although, at first glance, it’s not entirely obvious how they pulled it off. Consider these less-than-stellar facts:
- Buster Posey, the All Star catcher, had no extra-base hits in 69 postseason at-bats. He went just 4-for-26 (.154) in the World Series. Compare that to the regular season: 22 homers, 28 doubles, and a .311 batting average.
- Gregor Blanco was the lead-off hitter, an unusual position for him, and only hit .153 during the playoffs. That’s after hitting .260 in the regular season.
- One starting pitching, Jake Peavy, ended up with an abysmal 6.19 ERA. Opponents had 18 hits and 11 runs, in just 16.0 innings over 4 games. Another starter, Tim Hudson, wasn’t much better: 4.29 ERA, 21 hits and 10 runs, in 21.0 innings over 4 games.
- Hunter Strickland gave up 6 home runs in 8 innings this post season. Over the 17 games, the Giants collectively only hit 7 home runs.
So how did they win? Lots of articles have cataloged Bumgarner’s commanding performance but some of the other heroes have gotten less attention:
- Joe Panik never seemed like a rookie second baseman and arguably had the most amazing play of the playoffs. Incidentally, Bochy’s challenge was the first successful one in World Series history.
- Jeremey Affeldt ended up as the official game 7 winner by pitching 2.1 scoreless innings, extending his scoreless postseason streak to 22 consecutive innings. To put this in perspective, it’s the longest streak in history by someone not named Mariano Rivera (*).
- Hunter Pence, known as The Reverend for his motivational speeches, hit .333 for the playoffs and .444 (12-for-27) for the Series. Even more impressively, he was 7-for-14 on two strike counts. Going into game 7, Pence was a legitimate candidate for MVP.
- Pablo Sandoval seems to shine in October. After hitting .279 in the 2014 regular season, he hit .366 in the post season and .429 in the World Series, including 3 hits in the deciding Game 7. This year wasn’t an anomaly; Pablo’s career Series batting average is .426.
Extraordinary performances, all. Clearly Bumgarner didn’t win the Series by himself, but he was the most valuable player. As always, teamwork wins, not individual feats.
Additional notes added after the original publish date:
(1) Whitey Ford pitched 33 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings in the World Series (breaking Babe Ruth’s record). The Affeldt and Rivera streak are for the post-season in general.
(2) Affeldt pitched in nine different innings in the post-season: every inning from the 2nd through the 10th. In this day of specialty pitchers, that’s remarkable. Source.
(3) Casilla only threw four pitches in the entire World Series. My inconclusive investigation suggests that’s the fewest for a (healthy) closer in a seven-game Series.