By Sean McAdam
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.
"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.