Now that the Detroit Tigers and their fans know who their opponent will be in the World Series, it’s time to take a closer look at the National League Champion San Francisco Giants. This is a team that came back from the brink of elimination by winning the final three games of the NLCS. They are a team that just two seasons ago won the World Series. They will be a tough opponent.
Here are nine things you need to know about the Giants.
1. They keep the baseball in the ballpark
The Giants are not a team that hits a lot of home runs – they finished last in baseball with just 103 homers. Much of that has to do with the dimensions of their ballpark, but a lot of it also has to do with a lineup that hits line drives in the gap more than they crush the ball. Their biggest home run threat is catcher Buster Posey, who hit 24. Only two other Giants hit as many as 10 homers.
The Giants pitching staff doesn’t allow a lot of homers, either. They ranked fifth in home runs allowed, with 142. At AT&T Park they surrendered only 53 homers all season. It’s a tough place to hit homers.
Don’t expect a lot of home runs in this World Series (especially from the Giants), considering Comerica Park is also a spacious ballpark.
2. The Giants are strangers to the Tigers
The 2012 World Series will be the first meeting between these two teams in the post-season. That’s pretty amazing considering that these are two of the oldest franchises in baseball history and the Giants have won 22 pennants, tied for the most in NL history.
In recent seasons, since inter-league play was introduced, the Giants visited Detroit in 2011 and took two of three, losing their one game to Rick Porcello. In 2008 the Tigers took two of three from the Giants in San Francisco, beating Barry Zito in one of the games.
3. The Giants offense relies on making contact and stringing together rallies
As we stated in #1, these Giants don’t hit a lot of homers. They score runs by stringing together base hits and walks. Their team batting average was 3rd and their on-base percentage ranked 4th in the NL. This offense will be unlike any other that the Tigers have faced in this post-season. While the Oakland A’s and New York Yankees were home run hitting clubs who struck out a lot, the Giants make contact and rely on moving runners along one and two bases at a time.
4. They have an aggressive manager
Bruce Bochy is in his sixth season at the helm of the Giants and his 18th overall after spending a dozen years with the San Diego Padres. This will be Bochy’s third trip to the World Series, having guided the G-Men to the title in 2010 and taking the Padres to the Fall Classic in 1998.
A former catcher, Bochy is known for his ability to handle a pitching staff and implement the running game. The Giants swiped 118 bases in 2012 and more impressively they had a 75% success rate. Since the Giants lack the power hitters that Detroit has, and Tiger pitching has been stingy at allowing baserunners of any kind this post-season, the Giants will probably be aggressive on the basepaths. Tigers catchers will need to be on their toes, and Tiger hurlers will need to do their best to hold San Francisco runners close. Outfielders Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco are the biggest threats to steal a base.
5. Buster is the best
The Giants best player is their All-Star catcher, who was NL Rookie of the Year in 2010 when the Giants won their first World Championship in San Francisco. Posey is sort of a right-handed hitting Joe Mauer – he hits for a high average, lines the ball to all fields. and is a team leader. Unlike Mauer, however, Posey is a fine defensive catcher. He’s the guy on the Giants who the Tigers least want to have at the plate with the game on the line.
6. Starting pitching is their strength
Tigers fans have been watching their starting pitchers dominate in the post-season, and in the World Series they’ll see an opponent who has the horses to do the same. Matt Cain is the Giants answer to Justin Verlander – in fact his career parallels JV’s. Both debuted in 2003 and have gradually evolved into the best pitchers in their leagues. Cain, who won 16 games for SF, has a great fastball and he walks few batters. Madison Bumgarner is a tall lefty who is only 22 years old. He also won 16 games and has struck out more than 190 batters in each of his last two seasons. 28-year old Tim Lincecum is a two-time Cy Young Award winner who had his worst season in 2012, his ERA almost doubling from the 2011 season to 5.18. It was a troubling year, but in the NLDS he came out of Bochy’s bullpen and was brilliant. He has the sort of stuff – and a freaky arm angle – that could be very effective out of the bullpen against the Tigers.
Cain started Game Seven, so he will not be able to match up with Verlander in Game One or a possible Game Five. More than likely he will pitch Game Three in Comerica Park on Saturday. Either Lincecum or Zito are in line to start Game One, with the other getting Game Two. Or Bochy could go with a four-man rotation and put Lincecum or Ryan Vogelsong (a veteran starter who was effective pitching in AT&T Park) in the bullpen.
7. Marco! Scutaro! Marco! Scutaro!
You’ll hear Marco Scutaro’s name a lot in this World Series. The Giants caught lightning in a bottle when they acquired Scutaro at the July trade deadline from the Colorado Rockies. In his previous 10 seasons with five teams, Scutaro never did anything to indicate that he could be this good with the stick. He hit a blistering .362 after joining the Giants, sparking a surge by the Giants offense down the stretch. He won the NLCS MVP by leading all batters with a .500 average on 12 hits in the seven games. He hits second for the Giants and he’s faced several of the Tigers pitchers before during his stints with the A’s, Blue Jays, and Red Sox (however with limited success).
8. Panda and Pence can do damage too
You’re going to hear the name “Panda” a lot in this Series. That’s the nickname of Pablo Sandoval, the Giants pudgy third baseman who resembles Kung Fu Panda (yes, really). Sandoval is a switch-hitter who is pretty good from both sides of the plate. He doesn’t hit a lot of homers, but he has some pop in his bat. Like Scutaro, Hunter Pence was a trade deadline player who came over to the G-Men from the Phillies. Pence has hit 20 homers four times in his career, including this year. He has a penchant for delivering key hits.
9. Those beards are real
Since post-season games are usually low-scoring, the bullpens will most likely get a lot of work. The Giants have a couple of guys in their pen who have long, dark-black beards that look like they’re fake. They’re not. Sergio Romo, one of the better setup men in the game, sports the noted beard, and Brian Wilson, who famously came out of the pen as the Giants closer in the 2010 World Series, has a beard that seems to almost reach his knees. Wilson is hurt, so Detroit fans will only have to look at his bushiness as he cheers from the dugout.