Another Major League Baseball season has concluded, and this year an unlikely team stands alone as the champion. The San Francisco Giants won the 2010 World Series last week over the Texas Rangers in just five games.
A dramatic fifth game placed Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee—two of baseball’s best pitchers—against each other, with the Giants coming out on top due in large part to some late-game heroics from Edgar Renteria. Renteria’s three-run home run in the seventh inning was enough to give the Giants the win and the franchise’s first World Series title since 1954.
Renteria, like many Giants players, elevated his play when it counted in the playoffs. His .412 batting average and six runs batted over the course of the series earned him the title of Most Valuable Player for the World Series. Renteria has had two inconsistent and injury-plagued seasons in San Francisco in which he has posted his career’s two lowest hit totals. He was adequate in the regular season, hitting .276 in just 72 games, but the five time All Star looked like a shell of his former self.
When his team needed him most with a championship on the line, Renteria delivered. This was the case for many players that paved the way for the successful 2010 Giants season as there were several unheralded veteran players on a roster packed with young stars.
Following a promising 88-74 2009 season, the Giants felt their young core was extremely close to reaching the playoffs and the team didn’t require drastic changes. They didn’t make a major splash in the off-season, with the signing of Aubrey Huff to a one-year deal worth $3 million as their biggest addition. Seemingly minor moves at the time, like the signing of Huff or the midseason acquisitions of Pat Burrell and Cody Ross, provided the Giants with veterans that exceeded expectations. In the case of Burrell, the Giants took a chance on the slugger after his struggles in Tampa Bay led many to believe that he was washed up and no longer a valuable contributor.
Huff and Burrell added a significant amount of power, combining for 44 home runs, to a lineup that desperately needed it. Ross gave the Giants versatility in the outfield and clutch hitting during their stretch run in September and into the postseason. These savvy moves from GM Brian Sabean helped transform a talented young team into a legitimate contender.
The Giants’ young starting rotation was phenomenal throughout the season. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez all had a minimum of 190 innings and an Earned Run Average below 3.45 for the year. The Giants also had tremendous seasons from relievers Sergio Romo and Brian Wilson. The end result was that the Giants’ pitchers led the MLB in ERA.
The talented play from rising stars wasn’t confined to pitching, with 23-year-old Buster Posey providing a critical piece to the Giants’ lineup with 18 home runs and 124 hits in only 108 games. Even with some exceptional performances from veteran castoffs and young players, the Giants didn’t have an easy road to the playoffs.
The Giants’ lineup ranked in the middle of the pack in most of the major hitting categories, including hits and runs, meaning the stellar pitching alone didn’t allow for them to dominate the National League. They had to fight until the bitter end to earn their NL West title. Thanks in part to a 10-game losing streak for the Padres late in the season, the Giants were able to gain ground on the division leader with their 18-8 record in September. They clinched the division in the last game of the season with a win over the Padres. This late-season success seemed to build confidence and the momentum lasted throughout the playoffs.
The Giants never trailed in a postseason series, defeating Atlanta, Philidelphia, and Texas with very little resistance. Like the regular season, the postseason was all about pitching. Cain and Lincecum were flawless, with a combined record of 6-1. Closer Brian Wilson, who captivated the baseball world with his “Fear the Beard” slogan, did not allow a run in the playoffs. Some timely hitting took place, but with a team playoff batting average of just .237, it was clear that pitching paved the way for the Giants’ World Series win.
An odd assortment of role players that came alive when the team needed it most, rejects from other teams, and highly praised young stars came together and shocked the baseball world. Baseball fans and experts alike consistently overlooked a Giants team that up until this season hadn’t had a playoff appearance since 2003. First baseman Aubrey Huff acknowledged this, saying, “All the experts out there picked us last.” The Giants’ shocking World Series run was truly a tremendous underdog story.