The San Francisco Giants had waited their entire existence for a championship heading into the 2010 season. The franchise’s last championship was in 1954 when they played in New York at the Polo Grounds. Fifty-six years later, the Giants headed to their fourth World Series with a group of castoffs and misfits. They also brought a dominant pitching staff.
Fans of the San Francisco Giants look at the 2010 team with amazement for their unlikely group of everyday players, but the team won because they their pitching staff silenced the best lineups in baseball. Tim Lincecum, coming off back to back Cy Young Award seasons, was elite in his first post-season, beginning with an unforgettable eight inning, 14 strikeout performance in the National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves and ending with an eight inning, 10 strikeout performance in the World Series to clinch a championship.
Matt Cain, who did not allow an earned run the entire post-season, was equally elite and the one two punch was undeniable. No matter how the lineup was hitting, these two took over the 2010 playoffs and sent a message to the rest of baseball that pitching wins championships.
This series also introduced the world to 20 year old rookie Madison Bumgarner, who would pitch eight shutout innings in Game four of the World Series. It was the first of several performances Bumgarner would have in October in his young career.
And you can’t talk about the pitching staff without mentioning the 2010 bullpen. Brian Wilson, the Giants closer and owner of the team’s most fabulous beard, was dominant in the ninth inning saving six games that post-season. And in front of Wilson was the heart of the bullpen, better known as the “Core Four” now.
Yet, when we look back at the 2010 Giants, you cannot deny the castoffs and misfits that made up the everyday lineup. A quick recap:
Catcher: Bengi Molina and Buster Posey
The Giants had a big decision to make in 2010. They had their team leader behind the plate who caught every game of Lincecum’s career in Bengi Molina and they had a phenom in the wings in the minor leagues in Buster Posey.
Posey was clearly ready to hit at the big league level, but with such a veteran presence behind the dish, it would be difficult for the team to hand the catching reigns to an unproven rookie. Posey quickly made the team and the front office comfortable and his Rookie of the Year season was the proof. The team eventually traded Molina to the Texas Rangers and handed the keys to the pitching staff to Posey.
First Base: Aubrey Huff
After several years in the American League where he never made it to the post-season, Aubrey Huff was looking to sign with a new team. There were few teams willing to bring Huff in to be their designated hitter, let alone their first baseman. Yet, the Giants offered Huff $3 million to do just that and he rewarded them with an MVP caliber season where he led the Giants in most offensive categories. His infamous “Rally Thong” that he wore around the locker room certainly helped keep the locker room loose during the September pennant race.
Second Base: Freddy Sanchez
Much like Huff, Freddy Sanchez had spent several years in Pittsburgh without a playoff appearance, and was hoping a trade to San Francisco might change that. Sanchez became one of the Giants most consistent hitters in 2010 and his presence in the number two spot in the order really helped the lineup put pressure on the Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers.
Shortstop: Edgar Renteria
Edgar Renteria was hurt most of the 2010 season and the Giants weren’t sure if they could even count on him being healthy enough to include on the post-season roster. However, Renteria had talked to the team during a road trip towards the end of the regular season and told them he would be ready. Renteria proved to be right and his MVP performance in the World Series will live in Giants lore forever.
After a tremendous 2009 season, Pablo Sandoval struggled in 2010 and ended up losing his everyday job to super utility man Juan Uribe. Uribe had joined the team in Spring Training as a non roster invitee for the second straight season. Despite the team not committing to him in the off-season after a good 2009, he made the team once again in 2010. Uribe had a knack for finding ways to drive in runs and that was no more evident than in the 2010 post-season. Despite hitting .148 with only seven hits, he drove in nine runs. His home run in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series in the 8th inning off Ryan Madsen will always be one of the biggest home runs in team history.
Left Field: Pat Burrell
Pat Burrell was released by the Tampa Bay Rays earlier in the season. Huff, his former teammate at the University of Miami, told the Giants that he would be a great addition to the Giants. Burrell absolutely was. His .872 OPS and 18 home runs help lead the Giants push in the second half of the season to win the National League West by a single game. Despite not hitting in the playoffs, his presence in the lineup and his bat in the regular season were instrumental in getting the Giants to the playoffs in the first place.
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Center Field: Andres Torres
Andres Torres began the year as a minor league free agent playing behind Aaron Rowand, one of the team’s highest paid players. Torres ended up as the winner of the Willie Mac Award, given by the players for the player that most impacted the team on and off the field. His impact at the top of the lineup was clear. He became the spark the Giants needed. His defense was above average as well in center as the leader of the outfield. For a team with so many new faces out there, Torres became the one constant.
Right Field: Cody Ross
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The Giants tried several different players in right field, from Opening Day starter John Bowker and homegrown talent Nate Schierholtz, to trading for Jose Guillen and Cody Ross. Ross became the answer and his MVP in the NLCS carried over into the World Series.
His home runs off Derek Lowe and Roy Halladay to break up no hitters in the NLDS and NLCS respectively changed the course of those games and those series. His bat stayed hot throughout October as “Cody Ross is Boss” became a battlecry for Giants fans.
After defeating the Braves, Phillies and Rangers in three straight series where experts had them as the underdogs, the 2010 San Francisco Giants cemented their place in team history as one of the most unlikely group of Giants to ever win the World Series.
The Giants would go on to win two more World Series since 2010 and we will take a look back at the 2012 and 2014 seasons as well.