DETROIT — One Major League Baseball executive familiar with the San Francisco organization said it’s no secret why the Giants are dominating this postseason. He said they have the best game preparation of any team in baseball.
The Giants, now up 3-0 against the Detroit Tigers in the World Series following a 2-0 win Saturday night, are meticulous when it comes to advance scouting. The reports, identifying tendencies of opposing hitters against all three teams they have met in the playoffs, have been spot on.
Giants scouts have been doing video scouting of teams in the playoffs, a group of them led by advance scout Steve Balboni, who was born in Brockton and grew up in Manchester, N.H. The Giants have detailed meetings before games with their pitchers and positional players to go over the opposition. Sure, most teams do it, but apparently the Giants do it better than anyone and get their players to execute.
And, boy, have their pitchers executed.
“We’ve been ready to pitch and pitch well,” Giants general manager Brian Sabean said. “Our manager and our pitching coach do a great job getting our staff ready, but the guys pitching have done a great job executing their pitches. Great job all around.”
If you notice, you don’t see too many mistakes made by the positional players or the pitchers.
A lot of the credit goes to manager Bruce Bochy, as Sabean pointed out.
It would be difficult to argue that Bochy is the best manager in the game right now. That’s 18 years into his managing career after being a backup catcher for much of his nine-year playing career. If you thought he managed flawlessly in the 2010 postseason when the Giants won the World Series, then give him credit for more of the same.
He made one personnel decision even before the playoffs started — he would not activate Melky Cabrera after his 50-game suspension for a positive testosterone test, feeling it would disrupt the team and penalize players such as Gregor Blanco who have been a big part of the Giants run.
He also made the decision to shut down Madison Bumgarner after one start in the National League Championship Series against St. Louis and had him do exhaustive work with pitching coach Dave Righetti on his mechanics, which had become flawed. Bochy then made the decision to start Bumgarner in Game 2 of the World Series over Tim Lincecum. Bumgarner responded with seven shutout innings.
Bochy’s use of the bullpen throughout the playoffs has been impeccable. Inserting Lincecum as a reliever and having him follow Barry Zito in Game 1 was also wise as even Lincecum’s reduced velocity looked tough to hit after the Tigers watched Zito’s 80-mile-per-hour stuff. Lincecum piggy-backed Ryan Vogelsong in Game 3 and once again did the job.
Bochy surely didn’t draw up Pablo Sandoval hitting three home runs in Game 1, or Blanco laying down a perfect bunt, which led to the Giants breaking up a scoreless contest in Game 2, but his team’s positioning on the field and the way pitchers have attacked Tigers hitters have been virtually perfect.
“They do a great job identifying weaknesses in the opposing hitters and they attack it and they execute it,” said the executive. “They have a great staff. Ron Wotus has been a bench coach there for a long time. Dave Righetti does a great job with those pitchers and they just work together so well. They have a system in place. Every game is important and there are detailed reports.”
Of course, the Tigers have certainly helped matters. We are amazed that a lineup with Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Delmon Young, Jhonny Peralta, and Austin Jackson has been shut out two consecutive games and scored three runs in three games. Rust, from a long layoff after the Tigers swept the Yankees has been blamed, but that doesn’t give the Giants enough credit for shutting them down.
The free-swinging Tigers simply haven’t put together the best at-bats. They’ve often been impatient and the Giants seem to be able to pitch them tough.
“You can see why they’re favored to win this Series when you have hitters like they do and a guy like Justin Verlander,” Sabean said. “These are great players and great hitters. But this is why the game is fun. You go out there and compete and right now we’re winning a lot of innings. But we know this is far from over. We have to get ready to play tomorrow night and keep doing the same things we’ve been doing — prepare well and execute.”
Sabean has built this team on pitching and defense and so far the Giants, save for an error by shortstop Brandon Crawford, have excelled in both areas, while the offense has provided just enough.
“You have to build it with pitching and defense, especially in our division the way it’s set up,” Sabean said. “We’re proving that both areas are still very important. That never changes.”
And they’re proving that all of the things that happen behind the scenes, before the fans arrive to the ballpark, all the scouting and preparation and the time and money that’s poured into it matters. It matters if you do it right.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.