Giants earn high marks on group project

Giants earn high marks on group project

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants have earned themselves a golden opportunity, one which will guarantee them immortality in franchise history if they fully capitalize on it.

This is a team that at once cherishes its past yet is haunted by it. For most of the 1960s, the club's roster featured five future Hall of Famers: Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry. Yet the Giants won only one pennant during the decade (1962) and finished second five years in a row (1965-69).

Since that era, the Giants reached the World Series only twice, in 1989 and 2002. The heart of the 1989 club's batting order consisted of Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell and Matt Williams, a core which briefly rivaled Mays, McCovey and Cepeda, and the '02 team revolved around Barry Bonds.

The Giants who will oppose the Texas Rangers in the World Series beginning Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET on FOX) have nobody approaching the level of the aforementioned position players -- though rookie catcher Buster Posey appears to be a budding star and the starting rotation, led by Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, ranks among the deepest the Giants have had since they moved west in 1958.

These Giants ranked ninth in scoring and grounded into the most double plays in the National League while placing nobody among the top five in the NL's major offensive categories. So how did they position themselves to end the Major Leagues' third-longest championship drought if they can win the club's first World Series since 1954?

First, there's no underestimating the Giants' pitching. Jim Davenport, an infielder on those star-crossed 1960s squads, said last week, "I would have loved to have played with this pitching staff. Not that we didn't have good pitching. But all of their starters here are quality starters."

General manager Brian Sabean cited the singular quality of the club's pitching while tweaking the team's naysayers.

"One thing that kind of perturbs me, and I don't mean this with any disrespect: We deserved this, because we pitched really well," Sabean said while drenched with champagne and beer in the Giants' wild clubhouse celebration following Saturday night's NL Championship Series-clinching Game 6 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. "Everybody's saying the Phillies didn't hit. But they didn't hit because we pitched this well. That's why we really won the series."

Closer Brian Wilson pointed out that the Giants are defined by the sum of their parts, not by statistical analysis.

"You look at every single guy and know that his role was a key component in why we're here," he said.

If Wilson or the Giants could chronicle how they won the pennant, here's what they might write:

They won because Aubrey Huff proved to be much better than skeptics believed, at the plate and in the field.

They won because though Juan Uribe hit .248 in the regular season and .143 so far in the postseason, he made so many of his hits count.

They won because Lincecum was Lincecum -- dynamic, inspiring and one of the finest pitchers we'll ever see.

They won because Wilson, who has 53 saves including the postseason, channels his energy superbly.

They won because Posey, a special talent who's worth the price of admission, bonded with the pitching staff and settled in the heart of the batting order.

They won because Andres Torres performed often enough like a legitimate leadoff hitter.

They won because Cain's the type of pitcher you wish could start every day.

They won because Aaron Rowand sparked the offense early in the season and didn't complain when he lost his regular's role.

They won because when Sergio Romo's slider is working, he could tell batters it's coming and they still wouldn't hit it.

They won because Pat Burrell remained a formidable offensive presence.

They won because Nate Schierholtz contributed off the bench, never more so than when he drove in the only runs in a 2-0 victory at Arizona on Sept. 6.

They won because Guillermo Mota saved his fellow relievers' arms by pitching key innings in the season's final days.

They won because Santiago Casilla stranded 41 of 47 inherited baserunners and pitched more effectively than he ever did in parts of six seasons with Oakland.

They won because Travis Ishikawa adjusted admirably to a reserve role and was a proficient pinch-hitter.

They won because Jonathan Sanchez took big steps toward becoming a big-time pitcher.

They won because Jose Guillen had his day in the sun, driving in six runs on Sept. 19 against Milwaukee.

They won because left-handed batters found Javier Lopez almost impossible to hit.

They won because Dan Runzler will give lefties -- and righties -- similar problems pretty soon.

They won because Freddy Sanchez remained mostly healthy, enabling him to hit and defend consistently.

They won because Barry Zito began the season 5-0 and maintained poise when his performance slid.

They won because Darren Ford showed off his considerable speed when he scored the winning run Sept. 1 against Colorado.

They won because Madison Bumgarner is 21 going on 31 and recalls the toughness of Perry, another North Carolinian.

They won because Edgar Renteria gave everything he had and freely shared his baseball wisdom.

They won because Jeremy Affeldt restored order in Game 6 at Philadelphia.

They won because the Florida Marlins had no more use for Cody Ross, who picked the right time to metamorphose into Clark circa October 1989.

They won because Chris Ray added bullpen depth.

They won because when Eli Whiteside was in the lineup, he looked like he belonged.

They won because slumping Pablo Sandoval played just often enough like the Kung Fu Panda.

They won because Todd Wellemeyer, though he was released, earned the decision in three victories.

They won because Ramon Ramirez was almost perfect.

They won because Bengie Molina, who's going to try to beat them in the World Series, tried so hard to win for them in 3 1/2 seasons.

They won because manager Bruce Bochy treated all of these men like men.

And because Sabean brought them together.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.