When it comes to simply comparing the success of two teams in the last decade, there may be no bigger mismatch than this year's World Series.
Of course, the Royals are actually favored over the Giants in what should shake out to be a pretty intriguing series between two evenly matched sides. But San Francisco has been the superior franchise in any interpretation of "recent success." And that will have to be a key if the Giants want to win their third championship in the last five seasons.
Tuesday marks San Francisco's fourth World Series appearance since the turn of the new millennium. And while Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent and Dusty Baker aren't around anymore, the Giants return to the Fall Classic with an even stronger core of players who have won together and believe they will continue to do so.
Although Hunter Pence wasn't there in 2010, the core of he, Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval have anchored a lineup that has had as much postseason success as any in recent memory. They aren't the prettiest of power hitters or fleetest of foot, but what all three of those players do when they're at the plate is have winning at-bats.
It's a concept that gets lost in all the sabermetrics and science involved in baseball today. But doing little things that make up winning baseball trumps any type of big data when teams get into the playoffs; and that's why San Francisco has had so much success.
The biggest overlap in all three approaches is that they all have an impeccable ability to take their concentration to the next level. In the regular season, all batters more or less concentrate at the same level. It would be too strenuous to approach each at-bat with maximum concentration over an 162-game season. That means that the players who have a higher ability to dig deep and battle one-on-one with a pitcher see more playoff success. Pence, Posey and Sandoval all have that deeper level of concentration and it rubs off on the rest of the San Francisco lineup.
But for as many talented players as the Giants possess on their roster, it starts with Bruce Bochy. Everyone has their opinion on what exactly a managers' role is with his team. While some managers commit themselves to strategy, others depend on their personality to get the best out of the players. Bochy has positioned himself really as some excellent combination of the two.
A master of the National League game, Bochy gives San Francisco a sizable advantage on the bench with Ned Yost in the other dugout. But comparing the two skippers aside, Bochy has been the most important mainstay during the Giants' amazing five-year run. He brings experience and a demeanor that feeds his team with confidence. And that presence gives something Kansas City doesn't have. It has to be a factor.
San Francisco certainly has some clear advantages in the series. But they don't come without some equally as impressive things that KC does well. At the end of the day, it comes down to execution in a small sample size. And that means there will be plenty of uncertainty. It makes it fun for us all!
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