Hunter Pence was better at speeches than hitting (USAT)
The Giants improbably won their second World Series over the past three years in 2012, once again riding strong pitching and terrific defense in the postseason. They did so despite being down 2-0 against the Reds while heading to play the next three games in Cincinnati and then down 3-1 against the Cardinals in the NLCS, only to outscore their opponents 36-7 over the next seven games – all wins. San Francisco became champs while hitting by far the fewest home runs in major league baseball, although that had plenty to do with AT&T Park, which had the lowest HR Park Factor (0.522) of any stadium since 2002.
The Giants somehow won the World Series despite Tim Lincecum finishing with a 5.18 ERA, losing their closer (Brian Wilson) for the year, once again getting nothing out of Freddy Sanchez, Aubrey Huff posting a .192/.326/.282 line, Pablo Sandoval missing 50+ games and also disappointing while playing, Brandon Belt not even coming close to breaking out like hoped (he didn’t hit his fifth homer of the year until September 4 - his first of the year against a right-hander), Hunter Pence batting .219/.287/.384 over 219 at-bats after SF traded for him and losing Melky Cabrera, who was leading the league in batting at the time, to a season-ending PED suspension. Moreover, the Giants spent $38.1 million on Aaron Rowand, Wilson, Sanchez and Huff last year. The entire A’s payroll was $52,873,000.
[Also: Ryan Braun again in middle of PED storm]
Of course, plenty of other things went right, and most teams need some luck to win a championship, which the Giants undoubtedly had during their October run. Barry Zito saved possibly his two best starts since joining SF for the most important times, shutting out the Cardinals over 7.2 innings in St. Louis during an elimination game and beating Justin Verlander in Game 1 of the World Series in a matchup that Vegas pegged the Tigers as nearly 3-1 favorites (about as big as any single baseball game ever gets). Yes, the same Zito who threw this pitch last season. Marco Scutaro hit .500 in the NLCS, and after having 12 homers over 396 regular season at-bats, Sandoval hit six in 66 postseason ABs, including three over his first three at-bats in the World Series. And then there was this.
While the Giants stood pat during the offseason, with their only major moves re-signing their own players, the Dodgers sure look formidable. Arizona could be sneaky good too. This division should be hard fought, and despite SF being the defending champs, Los Angeles may enter 2013 as the favorites in the National League West.
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