Thursday, November 1, 2012

San Francisco Giants Redefine Baseball's Winning Formula

If 2010 was special, then 2012 was special-er.

The ultimate smack in the face is the San Francisco Giants going into every round of the 2010 playoffs as underdogs, then going into the playoffs two years later as underdogs once again.

In 2012, the Giants smacked back and won their second World Series title in three years --  a feat not accomplished by a National League team since the Cincinnati Reds' Big Red Machine.

Major League Baseball, take notice -- the Giants know something the rest of you do not.

If 2010 hinted at the new winning formula in baseball, then in 2012 it made its definitive case.

The San Francisco Giants' formula is simple: Great pitching, plus timely hitting from players with not-so-memorable names equal championships.

San Francisco won the 2012 World Series based on their great starting pitching, a shut-down bullpen and professional players that know how to hit a baseball (see Marco Scutaro).

KNBR 1050's Damon Bruce had an interesting point in his opening monologue the morning after the Giants were crowned the MLB's best this week.

"If sports are copy cats, if everyone tries to copy a winning formula, I think what you might see around baseball coming soon is the following: An emphasis on pitching like never before -- not just in the starting staff but in the bullpen as well, one or two cornerstone position players and that's really it."

Now, maybe Bruce was reaching just a tad for emphasis, but the Giants won the World Series in 2010 and 2012 with this exact formula.  Of course, money-hungry executives and businessmen get in the way of crafty formulas like this, and rarely does a team not throw fist-fulls of cash at the best free agent available that offseason.  

However, the Giants have set the bar high for how a franchise is to be run.  We can say it starts at the top. Giants' president Larry Baer has marketed the Giants brand like no other team in sports over the past few seasons, as was evident from opponents' ballparks being filled with orange and black wherever the team traveled in 2012. Even more, they sold out every single game this season without an offense worth writing home about.

Why is this team so marketable, so captivating, and so successful?

It is their winning formula, a good part of which is an emphasis on homegrown talent.

Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Sergio Romo, Pablo Sandoval, Brian Wilson, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Ryan Vogelsong, etc. The list goes on and on. 

When Barry Bonds left, the Giants franchise completely started over, farming young drafted talent to hopefully develop into key pieces of a successful winning team down the road. What they got was a core group of players that could very well lead the franchise to more than just a successful winning team -- how about a dynasty?

GM Brian Sabean had no way of intending this to develop. No GM intends on structuring his team to be pitching-heavy and completely lacking in offense, but maybe that is the winning formula now.

Nothing is changing in San Francisco.  The team will continue to be constructed around its pitching, of which the likes of Lincecum, Cain and Bumgarner will be front and center. The bullpen is also a focal point that Sabean understands well. But Posey will be that cornerstone in the Giants' lineup, and Crawford, Belt and Sandoval are all along for the ride.

This is the new brand of winning baseball -- get used to it.  As basic and bland is it, it works. 

The Giants took notice of this a long time ago, and the rest of baseball is taking notice now that San Francisco is set up for a high level of baseball over the next several seasons.

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