Giants' latest title fueled by proven bunch
Bumgarner's heroics clinch championship set up by roster's perfect blend
SAN FRANCISCO -- Many observers have maintained that Madison Bumgarner won the 2014 World Series for the Giants single-handedly. After all, he won Games 1 and 5 before saving Game 7 with five stunning scoreless innings of relief that capped a remarkable postseason.
But other Giants also had a hand in the club's excellence.
There were the sure hands of catcher Buster Posey, whose improvement at framing pitches stole strikes for San Francisco's staff. Moreover, his resurgent second-half hitting buoyed the offense.
There were the hot hands of various Giants, including Hunter Pence, Michael Morse, Pablo Sandoval, Tim Lincecum and Jake Peavy, whose bursts of productivity sustained the team at different junctures through the season.
There were the soft hands of shortstop Brandon Crawford and rookie second baseman Joe Panik, who combined to strengthen the Giants up the middle while contributing valuable offense.
There were the firm hands of relievers Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo -- two left-handers and two right-handers, whose complementary styles made San Francisco's bullpen one of the best in the Majors.
And there was the steadying hand of manager Bruce Bochy, who pushed the Giants to wondrous heights during their 43-21 start and prevented them from falling when they staggered through much of the summer.
Here's a look back at these and other events and developments that made the 2014 campaign unforgettable for the World Series champions.
5. To the rescue
Peavy's contributions cannot be overstated. Acquired from Boston shortly before the non-waiver Trade Deadline to replace the injured Matt Cain in the starting rotation, Peavy recorded a 2.17 ERA for the Giants, whose 8-4 record in his starts included six consecutive wins to end the regular season.
Yusmeiro Petit sometimes struggled in his 12 starts, recording a 5.03 ERA in those outings. But the Giants won four consecutive starts behind him from July 22-Sept. 9 and five of his last seven overall. He saved his best for the postseason, amassing 12 scoreless innings in his first three outings, including his remarkable six-inning relief gem in the Giants' 2-1, 18-inning road win in Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the Nationals.
4. Twin threats
Many observers considered Posey to be the Giants' most valuable individual and Pence their best player, while some had it the other way around. Ultimately, either interpretation didn't matter. Both meant so much to the Giants.
Following a lukewarm 2013 season, Posey hit .311 in 2014, including a Major League-high .354 after the All-Star break. He also caught all but two innings in the postseason, reflecting his indispensable presence behind the plate. Pence extended his consecutive-games streak to 383 while scoring a career-high 106 runs. His .333 postseason batting average was fattened by a .444 effort in the World Series, which lengthened his Fall Classic hitting streak to 10 games.
3. No stone unturned
As is the case with most successful teams, the Giants' effort was collaborative. The postseason illustrated this vividly.
Crawford's grand slam was the big hit in the NL Wild Card Game win over Pittsburgh. Brandon Belt's homer settled the aforementioned 18-inning standoff at Washington. Travis Ishikawa slugged his way into baseball immortality with the winning homer in the Giants' NL pennant-clinching Game 5 win over the Cardinals. Every starting position player except one hit safely as the Giants captured the World Series opener over Kansas City; all of them got at least one hit in San Francisco's Game 4 victory.
2. Bumgarner's emergence
Now the entire world knows of Bumgarner's skill and fortitude. He's no longer San Francisco's little secret.
The names of the stars and legends whose feats Bumgarner matched or eclipsed during his record 52 2/3-inning postseason demonstrated the heights he scaled. The list included Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson, Whitey Ford and Sandy Koufax, as well as American League MVP and Cy Young Award recipient Justin Verlander. Not only did Bumgarner become the seventh player and fourth pitcher to capture MVP honors in the LCS and World Series, he also won Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year award.
It's easy to forget that Bumgarner, 25, also delivered an outstanding regular-season performance. His total of 18 victories was the highest by a Giants pitcher since Shawn Estes had 19 in 1997. Bumgarner struck out 219 batters, the most in history by a Giants left-hander since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958. He made the NL All-Star team, won an NL Silver Slugger Award as the league's best hitter among pitchers, captured the league's Pitcher of the Month honors in May and August and was named the "Willie Mac Award" winner as the team's most inspirational player.
1. Sparkling summary
The Giants became the second NL team, joining the 1942-46 St. Louis Cardinals, to win three World Series in five seasons. In the process, San Francisco lengthened its streak of consecutive postseason series victories to 10. Bochy became the 10th manager to steer his team to three titles; the previous nine are Hall of Famers, including franchise icon John McGraw. With Derek Jeter's retirement, Lopez is the lone active Major Leaguer to have played for four World Series winners.
Are the Giants in the midst of a dynasty? Only that singular a term can generate so much shared and individual success.