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The greatness of Giants pitching

The Rangers hit .190 against them. The Braves hit .175 against them. The Phillies hit .216 against them.

Boy, what a coincidence. Every offense that faced the Giants in this postseason went into a slump. Can't figure out how that happened.

"You know," said Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti, of the staff that won this World Series, "there are two sides to every game."

Right. Good point.

In fact, though, in most of the 15 games the Giants played this postseason, there was really only one side -- because their pitchers were so good, and so well-prepared for the lineups they spent October chewing up, that the other side barely had a chance.

What we've just witnessed is one of the great exhibitions of postseason pitching by any team since the postseason turned into its current multiround marathon state. So how great were these guys? Here's how great:

Over three rounds of postseason play, the Giants turned three lineups full of hitters good enough to get to October into a whole sport full of Ryan Langerhans. Combined batting average of the Giants' opponents in this postseason: .196. Since the wild-card era began in 1995, only one staff that had to play all three rounds has beaten that -- the Randy Johnson/Curt Schilling 2001 Diamondbacks -- at .193.

But as good as the Giants' bullpen was all month, when we look back on this team, we'll have a tough time looking past the starters. The batting average against the Giants' rotation in those 15 games? How about .194. Of the 32 World Series teams in the wild-card era, the only rotation that topped that was -- yep, here they come again -- the 2001 Diamondbacks (.175).

Now let's get away from opponent average and check the ERA column. Again, the ERA of the Giants' rotation in this postseason was a remarkable 2.23. Just two World Series teams in the wild-card ERA -- and only one World Series winner -- ever did better. One was -- guess who? -- those '01 D-backs (1.94). The other was a team with one of the great rotations of modern times (but an epic bullpen glitch) -- the 1996 Braves (1.59).

But unlike the Unit-and-Schill Diamondbacks, these Giants were a staff whose domination ran four starters deep. They had five different postseason starts, by three different starters, in which they allowed no earned runs. And the only World Series team ever to get that many starts of zero earned runs, with that many pitchers contributing, was the '96 Braves of John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.

And the fourth starter, Jonathan Sanchez, combined with Tim Lincecum for a total of three double-figure strikeout games by Giants starters in this postseason. That's tied for the most by any World Series champ in history with -- ta-daaaa, the '01 Diamondbacks.

Seven times in 15 postseason starts, the Giants' starter gave up no more than one earned run -- and all four starters did that at least once. Only two World Series winners in history ever got that many starts that good by four different pitchers -- the '99 Yankees (7, by Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Orlando Hernandez and David Cone) and '98 Yankees (7, by the same foursome).

Four different times, the Giants had a starting pitcher go at least seven shutout innings and give up no more than four hits. So how many rotations in postseason history had ever done that? None. The old record was three -- by the '01 Diamondbacks (Johnson, Schilling) and 1999 Yankees (Clemens, Cone, El Duque).

And they threw four shutouts in their 15 games -- tying the all-time record for a single postseason, held by the 1905 New York Giants and the 1998 Yankees.

Finally, all this was accomplished by four starting pitchers age 27 or younger. Last team to win a World Series without starting a single pitcher 28 or older: the 1973 Oakland A's of Vida Blue, Catfish Hunter and Ken Holtzman. But I found only one other World Series team in the division-play era to use four starters that young (and no other starters). That was the 2008 Rays (James Shields, Matt Garza, Scott Kazmir, Andy Sonnanstine).

So any more questions about how the Giants won this World Series? Not by this blogger!

Part 2 -- Nuggets, anyone?

And now, in other news, here come my nine favorite World Series tidbits:

1. Juan Uribe was the everyday shortstop on the 2005 White Sox team that wiped out an 88-year title drought. This fall, he started all but two postseason games for a Giants team that won for the first time in 56 years. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he's the first player ever to be a regular for two different teams that ended droughts of more than a half-century. Rowand, who also played for those '05 White Sox, could have joined him, but started only three games in this postseason.

2. Cody Ross hit eighth for the Giants in their first game of the postseason -- and hit fourth in their last game of the postseason. He was just the third player in history to start in both the No. 4 hole and the No. 8 hole in the same postseason, according to Elias. The others: Frank White for the 1985 Royals, and Eric Chavez for the 2000 A's.

3. Another great Cody Ross claim to fame: He batted cleanup in a World Series game after never hitting cleanup in any regular-season game all year. Jorge Posada also did that for the 2001 Yankees. But before him, no one had done it since Pepper Martin, for the 1931 Cardinals.

4. Cliff Lee may have gone 0-2 in this World Series, but I'm still ranking him as the greatest midseason pitching acquisition in history. He won four games in last year's postseason after the Phillies traded for him. He won three games in this postseason after the Rangers traded for him. According to Elias, he's the first pitcher in history to win at least three postseason games for two different teams that traded for him in midseason. And the only other pitcher who ever won three games in any postseason after being acquired in midseason was Jeff Weaver, for the 2006 Cardinals. So what do Weaver and Lee have in common? The Mariners traded both of them.

5. More on Lee: Before he came along, only one other pitcher in history had ever won even one postseason game for two different teams that traded for him in-season. That was the original "hired gun," David Cone, who won one apiece for the '92 Blue Jays and '95 Yankees.

6. Did Aubrey Huff just lay down the most unprecedented sacrifice bunt in World Series history? Here's a "yes" vote on that. Huff had gone to the plate 6,112 times in his career and racked up 5,505 official regular-season at-bats without ever executing a successful sacrifice bunt -- and then laid down his first one ever during the winning rally in the last game of the World Series. Are you kidding me? Huff ranks No. 2 on the list of most career at-bats by active players who have never had a regular-season sac -- and three of the top four started Game 5 of this Series:

7. Speaking of Burrell, he made the kind of history in this World Series that nobody wants to make: In 15 trips to the plate, he put only two balls in play. In his other 13 plate appearances, he walked twice -- and struck out in the other 11. No player who got that many plate appearances in any World Series ever hit that few fair balls. The only hitter who ever came close? David Justice, who had nine strikeouts, two fair balls and a walk in 12 trips for the 2001 Yankees.

8. One more reason this Giants title was so improbable: They spent only 36 days all season in first place. According to Elias, if you don't count wild-card teams, that's the fewest days spent in first place by any team that won the World Series in a quarter-century -- since the 1985 Royals won after a season in which they were in first for only 30 days.

9. Finally, here's why I'd love to give up making any predictions again for the rest of my life: Edgar Renteria played 72 games this season and drove in three runs or more in none of them. He played five games in this World Series, but drove in three runs in two of them -- both on one swing of the bat (i.e., two three-run homers). And if you saw that coming, your membership card to the American Clairvoyant Society is in the mail.