Note: Leverage Index is an average of the leverage of situations, with 1 being average, below 1 being low-pressure, and above 1 being high-pressure.
The 2012 World Series had one historic performance and three pretty good games. However, a sweep’s a sweep, and sweeps just aren’t all that competitive by nature. And that lack of competition leaves an impression of its own – this stands out to me as one of the least memorable World Series in recent years.
The San Francisco Giants (94-68) were just two years removed from a World Championship, at the time their first since 1954. The Bruce Bochy-era Giants are an unusual team. 3 titles in 5 years certainly screams “dynasty”, but the team has managed just a .500 record in the 2 non-title seasons. The Giants haven’t reached the playoffs in a non-championship season since 2003. The Giants didn’t stand out, but were above average in both run scoring (4.43 r/g, +0.21 over avg) and run prevention (4.01 r/g, -0.25 over avg). Leading the way was the team’s best player, league MVP C Buster Posey (.336/.408/.549/ 39 2B / 24 HR / 7.3 WAR). LF Melky Cabrera (.346/.390/.516/ 10 3B / 4.7 WAR) had an OPS+ of 157. 1B Brandon Belt (.275/.360/.421 / 2.8 WAR) hit only 7 HR but stole 12 bases and ripped 27 doubles. 3B Pablo Sandoval (.283/.342/.447/ 2.1 WAR) was limited by injuries but produced when in the lineup. CF Angel Pagan (.288/.338/.440/ 4.0 WAR) had 38 doubles and led the team in runs (95), triples (15), and steals (29). SS Brandon Crawford (2.4 WAR) was a defensive wizard, OF Gregor Blanco (26 SB, 2.1 WAR) provided speed and defense as a part time player, and 2B Marco Scutaro‘s bat (.362/.385/.473/ 2.1 WAR) was on fire after being acquired near the July deadline. On the mound, the staff was led by CYA candidate Matt Cain (16-5, 2.79, 3.9 WAR), who led the team in innings (219.1), strikeouts (193), and shutouts (2). 22 year old Madison Bumgarner (16-11, 3.37, 2.1 WAR) continued his early and impressive development. Ryan Vogelsong (14-9, 3.37, 2.0 WAR) was a solid #3 starter. Former staff ace Tim Lincecum (10-15, 5.18, -1.7 WAR) struggled mightily, but still possessed talent to make a postseason difference. Veteran Barry Zito (15-8, 4.15, 0.2 WAR) did a fine job eating innings. The bullpen was particularly good, starring early in the year closer Santiago Casilla (2.84, 25 saves), Jeremy Affeldt (2.70), LOOGY Javier Lopez (2.50, 7 saves, 36 innings in 70 games), George Kontos (2.47, 9.1 K/9), and relief ace and eventual closer Sergio Romo (1.79, 14 saves, 10.2 K/9, 6.30 K/BB, 2.0 WAR). When this team got leads, it typically didn’t surrender them in the late innings, which helps explains how a merely above-average offense and rotation wound up with 94 wins.
Since exploding out of longtime futility with a surprise World Series trip in 2006, the Detroit Tigers (88-74) have been major annual players in the title hunt, winning the AL Central 4 times and finishing 2nd twice. In 2011, they lost the ALCS, so they were clearly on the cusp, and with plenty of star players leading the way. Unfortunately, the results didn’t necessarily reflect their star power, as their run production wasn’t notable (4.48 r/g, +0.03 over avg), and the pitching was solid though not incredible (4.14 r/g, -0.26 over avg). Detroit had an MVP of their own – 3B Miguel Cabrera (.330/.393/.606/ 7.2 WAR), who on the back of 44 HR and 139 RBI became MLB’s first Triple Crown winner since 1967. Cabrera led the team in runs (109), hits (205), and doubles (40), and actually finished 5th on the team in steals (4 – they were a rather slow bunch). Nearly as impressive at the plate was offseason FA signing 1B Prince Fielder (.313/.412/.528/ 4.7 WAR), whose 30 HR and 108 RBI provided a mighty #2 punch to Cabrera’s historic slugging. CF Austin Jackson (.300/.377/.479/ 5.4 WAR) was an underrated star, tripling 10 times with 103 runs, 16 HR, 12 SB, and great defense. C Alex Avila (.243/.352/.384/ 2.4 WAR) hit 9 HR and provided solid defense. Part-time LF Andy Dirks (.322/.370/.487/ 2.2 WAR) was solid as well. Backup OF Quintin Berry went 21-for-21 in SB attempts. Reigning MVP/CYA winner SP Justin Verlander (17-8, 2.64, 239 K’s, 7.8 WAR) was his usual dominant self. Max Scherzer (16-7, 3.74, 231 K’s, 4.2 WAR) began his ascent to his status as one of baseball’s best pitchers. Doug Fister (10-10, 3.45, 3.3 WAR) was excellent as well. Closer Jose Valverde (3.78, 35 saves) wasn’t elite by any measure, but he seemed to get the job done more than not.
The only redeeming aspect of Game 1, one of the 20 or so worst games in World Series history, was Pablo Sandoval’s historic night. Sandoval homered off Tigers ace Verlander in the bottom of the 1st for a 1-0 lead. In the 3rd, Scutaro singled home Pagan to double the lead, and Sandoval doubled it again with his 2nd HR of the game. In the 4th, Giants starter Zito got in on the fun, singling in Belt for a 5-0 lead. In the 5th, now facing Al Albuquerque (which would no doubt confuse Mike Francesa), Sandoval came back to the plate. He homered again.
In the 6th, the Tigers finally got on the board with a Cabrera RBI single, but Lincecum entered the game in relief (the 3rd CYA winner to pitch in this game) and slammed the door shut on the Detroit rally. An inning later, the Giants were at it again – this time plating two on singles from Scutaro and Posey for a commanding 8-1 lead (and a 100% win probability). Tigers SS Jhonny Peralta hit a 2-run HR in the 9th, but it was too little, too late as the Giants rolled to a one-sided 8-3 Game 1 victory.
Average leverage: 0.375
Bumgarner faced Fister in Game 2, which proved to be a much more entertaining contest than the opener. Each got into a jam in the 2nd: Bumgarner stranded a man at 2nd with a pop-up and strikeout. Fister was hit in the head with a batted ball but later somehow escaped a bases loaded jam by getting Bumgarner to pop up. Through 6 innings, no other runner had reached 2nd base. In the bottom of the 7th, RF Hunter Pence led off with a single, and Detroit manager Jim Leyland called on Drew Smyly to put out the fire. Smyly instead walked Belt and gave up an IF single to Blanco to load the bases. He got Crawford to bounce into a double play, but Pence scored for a 1-0 lead. In the bottom of the 8th, the shaky Tigers bullpen failed again. Smyly walked two batters and was relieved by Octavio Dotel with one out. Dotel walked Posey to load the bases, and Pence drove in Pagan with a sac-fly for a 2-0 lead. Sergio Romo retired the side in the 9th to preserve the win, 2-0 in the game and Series alike. Bumgarner was magnificent, allowing just 2 hits and 2 walks in 7 shutout innings, striking out 8.
Average leverage: 1.12
Vogelsong faced mid-season acquisition Anibal Sanchez in Game 3. The Giants got to Sanchez fairly early, with a Blanco RBI triple and Crawford RBI single bringing home 2 in the 2nd inning. Vogelsong cruised along until the 5th, when, with one out, Detroit had two singles and a walk to load the bases. Vogelsong, however, struck out Berry and got the best hitter in the game, Miguel Cabrera, to pop up to the SS to end the inning. Lincecum again pitched well out of the pen, giving up just a walk in 2.1 innings, striking out 3. Romo again set down the side in the 9th for a 2-0 win and 3-0 Series lead. It was the first time since 1966 (which we covered recently) a team had been shut out in back to back games.
Average leverage: 1.015
Game 4 promised another great pitching matchup, with Giants ace Cain facing Tigers #2 starter Scherzer. Scherzer stumbled in the 2nd, giving up a RBI triple to Belt. In the 3rd, however, Detroit answered, ending their scoreless streak with a 2-run HR from Cabrera, giving Detroit its first lead of the Series. In the 6th, Cabrera’s MVP counterpart answered with a 2-run HR of his own, to reclaim the lead for San Francisco 3-2. In the bottom half, however, Tigers DH Delmon Young homered off Cain to knot things up at 3-3. In the 7th, the Giants got a man to 2nd with one out, but were undone a flyout and groundout. In Detroit’s half of the 8th, Avisail Garcia led off with a walk, only for Giants reliever Affeldt to strike out Cabrera, Fielder, and Young in succession. After 9, it was still 3-3, and the deciding game of the Series headed to the deciding inning. With Phil Coke, who had struck out Pence, Belt, and Blanco in order in the 9th, still on the mound, Giants DH Ryan Theriot led off the 10th with a single. Crawford sacrificed him to second, but Coke rebounded with a strikeout of Pagan. The July acquisition, Marco Scutaro, hit a line drive single to centerfield, driving in Theriot for a 4-3 lead. In the bottom half of the inning, Romo struck out Jackson and pinch-hitter Don Kelly, and got Miguel Cabrera looking to end the World Series, giving San Francisco their 2nd championship since moving west and 2nd in 3 years.
Average leverage: 1.43
There’s something to be said for momentum and regular play. Detroit swept the Yankees in the ALCS, clinching their WS berth on October 18, 6 days before Game 1. San Francisco, on the other hand, needed the full 7 to dispatch St. Louis, winning the NL on October 22 just 48 hours before Game 1. It was the 4th time a team coming off a game 7 win faced a team coming off a sweep in the World Series – and it was the 4th time the team coming off game 7 had won the World Series.
Pablo Sandoval went 8/16 with 3 Game 1 homers, enough to earn him World Series MVP honors; he led all players in hits, runs, homers, and rbi. Delmon Young, Detroit’s ALCS MVP, continued his hot hitting, going 5/14 with a HR. 10 Giants pitchers took the mound, and only 3 gave up runs – Zito, Kontos, and Cain. Aside from Kontos, the bullpen was spectacular: Affeldt, Lincecum, Jose Mijares, Casilla, and Romo combined to go 11.1 no-hit innings, striking out 17 and allowing just two baserunners via walk.
Average leverage: 0.985