10/29/10 6:00 PM ET
Homegrown Giants spinning October magic
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
Brilliant, and 100 percent pure orange and black.
The Giants' gem of a four-man rotation -- all four members homegrown, all four excelling at the Major League level early and often -- is what, above all else, is driving the Giants' 2010 World Series run. The Giants certainly wouldn't be within two victories of San Francisco's first title without their starting pitching, and all four postseason starters are born Giants, figuratively and professionally.
Tim Lincecum. Matt Cain. Jonathan Sanchez. Madison Bumgarner.
They make up the first homegrown foursome in the World Series since the 1986 Red Sox rotation included Roger Clemens (23), Oil Can Boyd (26), Bruce Hurst (28) and Al Nipper (27), and they're in the midst of one of the strongest postseason performances in recent memory.
With Cain's 21 1/3 scoreless innings leading the way, Giants starters have combined for a 2.25 ERA through their first 12 postseason assignments, heading into Game 3 against the Rangers at The Ballpark in Arlington on Saturday. Their 0.93 ERA in the National League Division Series was the lowest by Giants starters in any single postseason series since 1905, and they haven't steered very far off that course since, striking out 109 and walking 35 overall.
Each member of the foursome takes a certain amount of pride in being part of a group that is 100 percent San Francisco's own.
The most famous and most accomplished member definitely gets it.
"We built the starting rotation around guys that just kind of like myself and Cain who came up through the system and just understood it," the 26-year-old Lincecum said as the World Series began. "Guys like Bumgarner, a 20-year-old [now 21] out there, throwing in a National League Championship Series like he's done it before. That just speaks with specificity right there, how mature he is and how he can handle himself, and given the opportunity guys can flourish and do great things."
Heading into their next challenge -- the powerful and presently pent-up Rangers at their hitter-friendly home, The Ballpark in Arlington -- the Giants' starters have been doing great things, indeed. The Rangers will see the rotation's two left-handers -- Sanchez, the eldest at 27 and hoping to wash off a messy NLCS Game 6 outing, and Bumgarner, the youngest at 21 -- in the first two home World Series games in Texas franchise history, before facing Lincecum again in a Game 5, if necessary.
For the Giants organization, the four-man rotation that has spun October magic is more that just a source of pride. It's what got them here in the first place.
"It's our foundation," Giants general manager Brian Sabean said in the wake of the NLCS victory. "It helped us transition ourselves away from the Bonds era."
|Matt Cain||26||3/3||2-0||21 1/3||13||0||5||11||0.00|
|Jonathan Sanchez||27||3/3||0-1||15 1/3||10||5||6||19||2.93|
|Madison Bumgarner||21||3/2||1-0||12 2/3||15||5||3||12||3.55|
Yes, in a roundabout way, Giants fans can thank Barry Bonds for this starting rotation.
As the Giants prepared for life beyond the powerful swing they rode into their new ballpark and then to the 2002 World Series and record-setting heights, they had to figure out what would take them into the next decade, what would work at their special home yard.
Of course, that works at every yard, pretty much, and it's not that simple to acquire. But the Giants have succeeded not just with this vaunted four-man rotation, but with closer Brian Wilson, setup man Sergio Romo and left-handed reliever Dan Runzler, all homegrown Giants, all brought through a system directed by vice president for player personnel Dick Tidrow, a former pitcher himself.
"We've been very lucky," Sabean said. "Dick Tidrow and the scouting staff should take a lot of credit for that, too. We're above the norm as far as drafting, signing and developing these guys, including getting them to be big league ready and produce at a young age."
The rotation is Exhibit A of the Giants' run of plucking the best talent at the right time -- three of them selected in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft -- from wherever they may find it.
First came Cain, at 26 but with nearly six years in the Majors the veteran of the group, from Tennessee, drafted 25th overall in 2002, the year the Giants last visited the World Series. He was in the big leagues for good by the end of 2005, pitching a complete game in his third start. Then came Sanchez, drafted in the 27th round in 2004 out of Puerto Rico, and in the big leagues by 2006, displaying his talent for all to see by pitching a no-hitter in 2009.
Then, the crown jewel -- Lincecum, the Freak from up the coast in Washington who has two Cy Young Awards and three strikeout titles since being drafted 10th overall in '06.
Finally, there's the guy who was born the year the 1989 Giants played in the fateful Bay Bridge Series -- Bumgarner, drafted 10th overall in 2007 out of South Caldwell High School in Hudson, N.C. Bumgarner, whom teammate Aubrey Huff aptly compares to a young Andy Pettitte, continues to show why his presence in the October rotation was worth the difficult call to leave veteran Barry Zito, the lone transplant among the Giants' five main starters this season, off the postseason roster.
The Giants have steadfastly resisted trade offers for their starters, including well-publicized Lincecum-for-Alex Rios discussions at the 2007 Winter Meetings. They've each been nurtured, in all cases relatively quickly, and while in the Major Leagues, each has grown and matured, even Bumgarner, in his short time.
"I think our player development people deserve credit," manager Bruce Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "You look at what they've done here, you have to look at [pitching coach] Dave Righetti and how he's handled these guys and made them better pitchers. He's got a great way about him, not just working on the side with them, but he has the ability to get inside their head and develop that confidence that they need to have, and this guy to me deserves all the credit with the success that these pitchers have."
The mix of development and coaching with individual talent and work ethic has brought a foursome to the forefront of the Giants' run to and through October 2010. It's the kind of group you don't see very often, as the World Series history dating back to 1986 indicates.
This group is special, indeed. From one future postseason hero to another, Giants outfielder Cody Ross knew he was on the right side of the fence when he first arrived in August.
"As soon as I got over, I went to every one of the starters and told them I'm glad I don't have to face you guys anymore, because they're filthy," Ross said.
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.