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Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Giant Dynasty

They did it.  Again.

The San Francisco Giants are your 2014 World Series Champions.  I'll go out on a limb and say that THIS Giants parade, this Giants trophy, this Giants championship may be the unlikeliest of them all. In 2010 and 2012 (2010 in particular), the Giants had amazing pitching from top to bottom. Lincecum was pitching like Cy Young Timmy, Cain was Cain, Bumgarner was a ridiculously talented and unflappable rookie, and even Jonathan Sanchez was awesome.  The bullpen was lights out and featured 3 relief arms that all eventually would be closers for the Giants in the playoffs (Wilson, Romo, Casilla).  The Giants had the pitching, they just had to make the playoffs.  And when they did, trophy #1 came a calling.

In 2012, the Giants again relied heavily on their pitching.  Lincecum was NOT Cy Young Timmy but Cain was having arguably his best season and was the definitive ace.  Bumgarner had proven he was a stud.  And Ryan Vogelsong, after re-establishing himself as an MLB starter in 2011, was at times so dominant that it could have been argued he was actually our #1 starter at some points in the season. The wildcard to that magical run of elimination games was Barry Zito, who took the mantle from Jonathan Sanchez as the lefty we totally didn't expect would be a stud but then was (though Sanchez was more a stud in the regular season in '10 whereas Zito decided to stud it out in the NLCS and World Series).  Again, the bullpen was damn near untouchable, especially with Lincecum used as a x-factor out of it.

2014?  It was the Madison Bumgarner show.  That's really how this postseason will be remembered. The coronation of Madison Bumgarner.  The insertion of Madison Bumgarner in the discussion of best pitcher in the game.  Madison Bumgarner: the most clutch pitcher in modern baseball history perhaps.  Let's recap his postseason.

NL Wildcard game.  Complete game shutout.  Winning pitcher.
NLDS Game 3:  7 IP, 3 R, 2 ER.  One costly error that led to a loss.
NLCS Game 1:  7.2 shutout innings and another win.
NLCS Game 5:  8 IP, 3 ER and a no decision in a game the Giants won on a walkoff.
WS Game 1:  7 IP, 1 ER in garbage time.  Another win.
WS Game 5:  Complete game shutout and the win.
WS Game 7:  5 IP of no run relief, on 2 days rest, and the save.

Cumulatively?  That's a 4-1 record with a save, a 1.03 ERA, and a 0.65 WHIP.  Un. Believable.

And he was at his absolute best in the World Series where he now has the lowest ERA of any starter in the Fall Classic in the history of baseball at 0.25 for his career in 5 World Series games.

So yeah, if Reggie Jackson is Mr. October and Pablo Sandoval was being called Senor Octubre than Madison Bumgarner might be the President of October.

His performance was historical.  He now will be a legend in baseball forever.  And he brought the Giants with him.  With San Francisco winning 3 of the past 5 World Series, it's not a question.  They are a dynasty.  This is baseball.  There is more roster turnover from year to year in baseball than there is in any other sport.  To win 3 championships in a sport where only 1/3 of the teams qualify for the postseason over a grueling 162 game schedule is prolific no matter how some people may try to spin that it's not a dynasty.  The Giants were not, statistically, the best team in baseball in 2010, 2012, or 2014.  Yet at the end of the season, they carried home the trophy.  That, by rule, makes them the best team of the season.

The Giants didn't have the pitching staff in 2014 that they did in 2010 and 2012.  Their rotation wasn't as strong.  Bumgarner was a true ace but Hudson, Peavy, and Vogelsong all were mid-rotation starter types.  The bullpen had only 4 dependable and trustworthy arms in Affeldt, Lopez, Romo, and Casilla.  And it's no coincidence that those 4 have been an ingredient in all 3 championships.  As Kansas City taught a lot of people this postseason, sometimes having a lights out bullpen is as good as having a lights out starting staff.  The Giants and Royals were evenly matched (a Game 7 seemed to be a foregone conclusion 2 games into the Series) and actually mirrored each other in a number of ways.  The Royals and Giants play the game right.  They play the game fundamentally.  It's not flashy or as exciting as hitting monster home runs to casual fans but seeing Lorenzo Cain run and Kevin Dyson running around making ridiculous plays or watching Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik turn one of, if not THE best double play in World Series history is exciting.  The Royals were a worthy opponent and the Giants were up to the task.  In the end, the Giants barely out-gritted KC.  The rest of the starting staff faltered but the pen stepped up when it absolutely had to and no bullpenner was more amazing than the last one:  Madison Bumgarner.  5 innings to save the World Series.  5 innings that permanently will put him in World Series lore forever.  5 innings that etched him team into the history books of Major League Baseball and gave the National League its first dynasty in a very very long time.

This post has the word "history" in it a lot.  It's because baseball fans just witnessed it.  A historical performance by a ridiculous pitcher.  And his franchise will forever be remembered for it.

2010. 2012. 2014.

The Giants ARE a dynasty.  And they couldn't have done it without Madison Bumgarner.

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