McAdam at the World Series: Giants win with pitching

McAdam at the World Series: Giants win with pitching

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Sometimes, with all the advanced metrics, all the statistical analysis, all the mountains of data, baseball comes down to pitching. Pure and simple.

Case in point? The San Francisco Giants, 2010 champions.

Nobody in the lineup hit more than 25 home runs during the regular season and no one knocked in 90 runs. Even in the World Series, which they won Monday night with a 3-1 victory over the Texas Rangers in Game Five, they hit a mere .249.

But here's the thing: They held the Rangers, one of the game's best lineups, to a .190 average. They shut them out twice in five games. And over the final 19 innings, in a ballpark known as one of the game's most hitter-friendly, they held the mighty Rangers to a single run on just six hits.

They weren't loaded with huge names or a fearsome lineup. But somehow, the Giants won the N.L. West, then beat the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Rangers.

How?

"Pitching,'' said outfielder Aaron Rowand without hesitation. "Pitching and defense wins championships. It's a cliche, but it's the truth. You can get to the postseason with a great offense. You can get there with shaky defense. But when you get to the postseason, pitching and defense wins championships.''

The duo of shortstop (and MVP) Edgar Renteria and second baseman Freddy Sanchez formed an unlikely double-play combination, and there were a few sparkling plays by others over the course of the five games.

But the Giants sprayed each other silly with champagne Monday night because their starters were dominant.

For the series, they combined to post a 2.38 ERA, allowing just 9 earned runs over 34 innings pitched. And those 34 were critical too -- in the five-game series, the starters left just 10 innings to their bullpen.

Take away the one poor start in five games, from Jonathan Sanchez, and the Giants' pitchers had an even more impressive 1.53 ERA.

Brian Sabean, the New Hampshire-born general manager of the Giants, has surely had more talented teams since taking over in 1996. His Giants, needing only one more win to take the the title, led in Game Six of the 2002 World Series only to lose that game and the next night, too, to the Anaheim Angels.

But none had the stockpile of arms that this edition had. Tim Lincecum (masterful Monday over eight innings), Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner were all first-round picks, and the the Giants' home-grown rotation was the first in the World Series since the 1986 Red Sox (Roger Clemens, Bruce Hurst, Oil Can Boyd and Al Nipper).

"The best lesson learned is that pitching and defense can take you a long way,'' said Sabean. "It took us all the way to the World Series and actually won it for us. If you follow our team, it's kind of a standing joke: We don't know what's going to happen on any given night except that you're probably going to get a good pitching performance.

"Everybody expected that we'd come to Texas and be up against some runs scored, but it didn't turn out that way. I can't speak enough about our advance scouting and the way out pitchers executed the game plan.''

Lincecum won four games in the postseason and Cain wene 21 13 innings in October without giving up an unearned run. And Bumgarner, all of 21, was as dominant as any in winning Game Four Sunday night to set up the clinching victory Monday.

With the pitching in place, Sabean kept adding pieces along the way, picking up Pat Burrell, Cody Ross, Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez well after the season started. He had his foundation -- his rotation -- already in place.

''I think the biggest decision we made,'' said Sabean, "was to not trade any of the pitching. We all believed that was the right thing to do. It turned out to be the real proof in the pudding. That's our foundation, that's the basis of this team.''

A championship team.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam.

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.