Sunday, November 4, 2012

25 for 16: The Three-headed Late-inning Monster

Most teams are lucky to have a few good pitchers. The 2012 World Series Champions San Francisco Giants had a whole staff full of them. Here are some numbers: 28 IP, 17 H, 3 R, 5 BB, 27 SO. That's closer stuff from three different guys. We all know that sometimes the most important outs in a ballgame are not the three in the 9th inning reserved for "the closer." Sometimes there are big situations in the 7th or 8th inning that are just as important and are often more important than those final three outs. The Giants had three guys who could close on most teams, and those three delivered a string of big outs in the post-season.

Santiago Casilla faced 32 batters in his 11 appearances and struck out eight of them. He gave up only eight hits, the rest were ground outs (8) and fly outs (6). He hit one batter and walked another. He pitched in all five LDS games, giving up the only runs he allowed in the post-season (2) in the 9th inning of the Game One loss. He finished Game Four, getting the final three outs in the 9th after taking over for Tim Lincecum. He also came in to get the last out of the 8th (whiffing Matt Holliday) after Barry Zito's brilliant 7-2/3 in Game Five of the LCS. In Game Two of the World Series, Casilla got the ball after Madison Bumgarner put up seven zeroes and got a quick 1-2-3 with 10 pitches. It was only a 1-0 lead for the Giants at that point, so you have to figure that was a "high leverage" situation. The power-pitching righty got the "W" in the final game by getting the last out in the bottom of the 9th.

Jeremy Affeldt faced 40 batters in his 10 appearances and struck out ten of them. He gave up a mere five hits and did not allow a single run. He pitched the 6th and the 7th in relief of Ryan Vogelsong in the pivotal marathon Game Three of the LDS, pitched in back-to-back games twice in the LCS (Games One/Two and Six/Seven), and struck out four in his crucial 1-2/3 in Game Four of the Series. It was a dominating performance by the big lefty. Remember all the whining about how much the Giants "wasted" on relief pitching that could have been spent signing Carlos Beltran? A guy like Affeldt, who can hammer 94 mph fastballs in on the hands to all hitters and them freeze them with unhittable curveballs is not a "fungible" commodity. The Giants recognized his skill set, paid him handsomely for it, and used it to great effect to win another title.

Sergio Romo faced 37 batters in his 10 appearances and struck out nine of them. Four hits, one walk, and one run were the only damage. He got the final out in Games Two, Three, and Five of the LDS, Games Two, Five, Six, and Seven of the LCS, and Games Two, Three, and Four of the World Series. That's a win and four saves if you are keeping track. The skinny right-hander with the magic pitch and the flashy style put himself squarely on the national radar after an exceptional post-season run. How do you top Brian Wilson? Be Sergio Romo, that's how. His finest performance was of course the three strikeouts to close out Game Four. Those 15 pitches were all about movement and location and the hapless Tigers hitters had no chance. Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera could only watch helplessly as the final strike scooted past him right down the middle in his "hit me" zone. That was as masterful a display of guile as you will see in a big game. Buster Posey noted afterwards that Romo "shook to the fastball," intending to fool the big slugger who was expecting the slider low and away, just like everyone else in America. His final Series line was nine up, nine down, the final nine outs of the final three games. You can't do much better than that!

The 2012 Giants are the World Series Champions. That makes the 2010 championship a hell of a lot less "flukey," wouldn't you say? I'm not sure the national media will ever appreciate what the Giants have done, but I think 8-1 in the Series and 22-9 overall in the playoffs is pretty damn impressive, as well as the list of victims: Atlanta, Philadelphia, Texas, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Detroit.

Enjoy this off-season, my friends!


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