Here are some facts about the 2012 San Francisco Giants that led them to their second World Series Championship in three seasons:
Weathering bad luck - As if losing your All-Star head trip, ah, I mean bullpen closer (Brian Wilson, the bearded gnome) for virtually the whole season to an injury in April wasn't bad enough; the team lost their best hitter as well when Melky Cabrera tested positive for a banned substance and was forced into a 50 game suspension. This happened on August 15th with Melky leading the league in hitting (.346) and right after he had won the 2012 All-Star game's Most Valuable Player award. Suddenly the Giants' faithful were faced with fearing the worst for their team but rather than collapsing, the team came together and rallied. The Giants lost on the day they heard of Cabrera's suspension. This was just before they made a 5-1 road trip through San Diego and Los Angeles. That road trip vaulted them into first place to stay. "When we lost Melky, that's when we knew that the team was really good," All-Star winning pitcher Matt Cain said.
Excellent play - Buster Posey came back from a terrible season-ending ankle injury suffered in a home plate collision in May of 2011 with a lot of questions to be answered. Could the catcher's ankle hold up against the rigors of catching? Would Buster stand in with another base runner bearing down on him at the plate? Would his hitting suffer? Buster answered those and many other questions by having a career year as he became the first catcher to win the NL batting title and MVP award in 70 and 40 years, respectively!
As a team the Giants were the seventh since 1900 to reach the postseason despite hitting the fewest home runs in the big leagues. Without any "Big Boppers" the Giants made up for their lack of long balls by hitting .296 with runners in scoring position after the All-Star break. Another area of batting prowess that often goes unnoticed: San Francisco's 61 sacrifice flies topped the NL by a huge margin; St. Louis ranked second with 49.
More excellent play - The strength of this team was and will continue to be the starting pitching. The Giants' 5 man rotation (Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Brian Vogelsong and Barry Zito) consistently pitched late into the games making it possible for a patchwork bullpen to find a new identity without its All-Star closer. This is where former catcher Bruce Bochy really earned his keep. On top of posting 2012's 5th best NL team ERA in 2012, the Giants went 82-2 when leading after eight innings. This they accomplished without their All-Star closer and as two-time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum slumped to a 10-15 record! Bochy plugged Lincecum into the bullpen for the playoffs. Tim accepted his post-season role as a team player should and shined.
Two late July deals made by General Manager Brian Sabean solidified both the Giants' offense and defense. Second baseman Marco Scutaro was brought in from the Colorado Rockies. The 37 year old veteran brought his work ethic along with his willingness to play team ball with him and soon became like the Pied Piper as he led the Giants' younger ball players by example. He teamed up with rookie shortstop Brandon Crawford, rookie first baseman Brandon Belt and 26 year old Pablo Sandoval at third to form a solid defensive infield but Scutaro's real value came when he had a bat in his hands. Marco strongly influenced teammates as he frequently bunted to advance runners, hit to all fields and rarely swung and missed. In 120 combined games with Sadean's other late July acquisition, Hunter Pence who came to San Francisco by way of the Houston Astros, the Scutaro/Pence tandem drove in 89 runs. The added bonus in all of this was the speedy Pence immediately began running down fly balls in right field and pressuring opposing defenses when on the base paths. Brian Sabean's deals had turned to gold!
What was the glue that held it all together? Field Manager Bruce Bochy and although the 2012 Manager of the Year award went to someone else, I have to say Bruce truly earned the recognition given all the obstacles he had to manage this team through.
The Icing on the Cake came as the Giants made postseason history by winning six consecutive elimination games, including an unprecedented four on the road. After going down the first two games of the best of five Division Series at home against the Cincinnati Reds, the Giants scrambled and won the next three games, all on the road in Cincinnati to advance to the League Championship Series.
The defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals bolted to a 3-1 series edge and appeared set to advance before Barry Zito rose to the occasion and twirled some of the best pitching of his life going 7 2/3 innings in a 5-0 must win shutout victory in Game 5. That gutsy effort took the series back to San Francisco, where the Giants rose up and won the next two games by a combined score of 15-1. The team had made it to the Fall Classic!
In the Series they met the heavily favored Detroit Tigers who featured the top pitcher in the AL (Justin Verlander) along with Miguel Cabrera, MLB's first Triple Crown batting winner in 45 years and Cecil Fielder, their power hitting first baseman. Were the Giants in awe of this team from Detroit? Evidently, not in the least as they swept the American League Champion out of the Series in four games!