For the San Francisco Giants, dominance was subjective
By JON ALBA
College Contributor Network
Three out of five. In baseball, that's a .600 batting average. That, while it's never happened, would put a hitter atop the elite, among the best of all-time, if not the best of all-time. It is a sign efficiency, peak performance and above all, dominance.
The San Francisco Giants have now won three of five World Series. But were the teams ever that dominant?
In the past, perhaps. But in 2014, when the postseason was filled with praises of a packed bullpen and hot-contact hitting, it was two men who stepped to the plate: Madison Bumgarner and Pablo Sandoval.
Some would argue Bumgarner's postseason performance has been saturated by the media, but simply put, it hasn't. Though his win was eventually credited as a save, let me blow your mind with a statistic that "could have been."
3 Wins, 15 K, ERA below 0.50 in a single World Series: Madison Bumgarner (2014) Christy Mathewson (1905) <the end>- Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) October 30, 2014
And while statistics aren't usually the best form of analysis, they are necessary in discussing Bumgarner's World Series. His ERA stood at 0.43, which as baseball purists would note, falls below the 2001 mid-season Hideo Nomo line. He threw half a ballgame more than the rest of the Giants' starters threw innings combined.
Statisticians love WHIP, and apparently, Bumgarner does too. It was a jaw-dropping 0.476.
To call Bumgarner dominant would be an insult to the word "dominant."
Sandoval will go as the unsung hero for San Francisco's postseason, which is baffling. While he didn't slug a homer like his three-home run performance in 2012's Fall Classic, he channeled his inner-Ted Williams. Despite a poor frame in the NLDS, his NLCS and World Series numbers were on another level.
A .400/.478/.500 frame in the NLCS allowed for his Giants to float past the Cardinals, though the headlines were on Bumgarner. But in the series that counted, Sandoval established himself as one of the best postseason hitters of the last two decades, with a .429 average all but ensuring himself a stellar contract in the upcoming offseason.
Their performances were a microcosm of the World Champion San Francisco Giants' season, if there ever was one. The Giants made it through the 2014 season by winning when it mattered. Do recall, there was a time when this team looked like the ugly cousin of the squad that ultimately took home the gold.
Let's go back all the way to June 8, a time where the Giants were "dominant" out west. The team had a 9.5 game lead on division foe Los Angeles, with the Rockies in third at 13 games back. The Giants' 213 runs allowed to that point were the lowest in the NL West and the third lowest in all of Major League Baseball.
But that meant little. While it's important to establish a strong start to a season, the push towards the trade deadline is crucial in attempting to determine a team's outlook for the season (though admittedly, it meant little for the Athletics and Tigers). As the team made this push, it dropped, and dropped fast.
By the July 31 deadline, the Giants were three games back of first place in the NL West. Poor bullpen performance and underwhelming starting pitching dropped the team into a race for the wild card, one it would remain in contention for as the season progressed.
And then it mattered. A strong season-ending finish propelled the team through the wild card round, and the rest is history.
Yet the Giants were far from "dominant" in the World Series. There was the Game 6, 10-0 blowout loss that resulted in one of the lowest-rated World Series games in the history of the sport. There were the two catastrophic performances by Jake Peavy, a man the team acquired at the deadline who was supposed to help give postseason depth.
In Game 7, Tim Hudson was supposed to give the Giants enough innings to rectify his long search for a World Series title and get them to the bullpen, and eventually, Bumgarner for an inning or two. But he couldn't make it out of the second inning. He was most definitely not dominant.
But when it mattered, Bumgarner was there.
Of course, the Royals were only 90 feet away from tying the game. The pressure-filled defensive inefficiency of Gregor Blanco and Juan Perez ensured that. The 25-year-old Bumgarner didn't fret, though. He took advantage instead.
He reared back and threw multiple high fastballs at the free-swinging Salvador Perez. And on pitch 68 of his evening, his 185th in the span of three days, he secured a sky-high fly to Sandoval, who, in doing his best Charlie Hayes impersonation, squeezed the final out of the season.
It only made sense that the last two people to touch the ball were Bumgarner and Sandoval.
This is not to take away from the accomplishments of the Giants, or to downplay what the Kansas City Royals were able to do. To win a World Series, a well-balanced squad is needed.
But in October, the well-balanced squad gives way to dominant postseason performances (Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling would agree). And without the performances of Sandoval and Bumgarner, a very good Giants team doesn't become elite.
So make no mistake about it. The Giants were a team good enough to win a World Series... but it was the dominance of two players who made it possible.
Jon Alba is a senior at Quinnipiac University. There he serves as general manager of the school's television station, Q30 Television. Follow him on Twitter: @JonAlbaSFC