Much has been made of the differences between the 2010 Giants and the 2012 version. One thing, however, has remained constant.
Both teams were built on pitching and defense, with a foundation of homegrown talent.
The philosophy of bringing up players from within the organization has never been more present than this year, when Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt joined the championship run, and Pablo Sandoval played a significantly bigger role.
One downside of relying on that strategy is the need to be patient with young players as they learn to compete in the big leagues. Belt bounced back and forth between the Giants and the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies in 2011, then started slow in 2012 before finishing the second half strong.
Crawford made the Opening Day starting lineup thanks to his stellar defense, though that skill seemed to escape him early in the year as he committed multiple errors. But Crawford settled down defensively as the year progressed. In the postseason, he made play after play to back up the efforts of the pitching staff.
“I know we struggled a little bit the first half of the year with making errors,” Crawford said. “And we got some heat about that I think the first half. But the second half we’ve been lights‑out I think, defensively, and I think it helped out a lot this postseason.”
Perhaps the greatest example of the Giants’ success with homegrown talent is Matt Cain. The only negative numbers he showed in his early years were in the win-loss column, where his record stood below .500 due largely to poor run support — not that you’d ever hear him complain about it.
Cain had highlight after highlight for San Francisco this year, beginning with signing a five-year, $112.5 million deal right before the season started.
The newfound wealth didn’t affect his performance on the field, however, as he pitched well enough in the first half to earn the starting spot on the All-Star team, threw the first perfect game in franchise history on June 13 and started each clinching game of the team’s three postseason series.
“This was such an unbelievable year from the start to the finish,” Cain said after the Giants finished off the Detroit Tigers on Sunday. “Obviously what we just did these last couple months is a pretty full year, and something that I’m going to enjoy definitely sitting down and watching at the end of the year.”
When you add in Buster Posey, who will likely be the NL MVP, and Sandoval, who was the World Series MVP, it’s clear the Giants have figured out the right way to develop burgenoning stars.
With their young stars just getting started with their careers and plenty of willingness to sign long-term deals, it’s safe to say Giants fans can expect plenty more postseason runs in the coming years.