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The greatness of Giants pitching

Updated: November 2, 2010, 8:40 PM ET
By Jayson Stark

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!

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