I know it's hard, but just try not to think of individual performances for a second and transport yourself back to the beginning of the season.
Think about what you wanted this team's goals to be-- both for each player and collectively.
All we wanted was Pagan and Cabrera (sorry) to be better than 4th outfielders. We wanted Brandon Crawford to play good defense, and if he hit his weight, we'd be thrilled.
We wanted Brandon Belt to get playing time and to learn how to hit with any kind of consistency. We fought amongst each other all season as to whether he should be sent down-- whether he had the mental makeup to deal with his situation.
We didn't think Hector Sanchez was ready to catch a big league pitching staff coming out of Spring Training. He was too raw, we were told. Joaquin Arias was a random infielder who we knew very little about. He impressed in Spring, and with the injury to Freddy Sanchez, he made the team and never looked back. He made the final play of Matt Cain's perfect game and has racked up clutch hits.
With Brian Wilson shelved very early on, Santiago Casilla stepped up until the all-star break, closing out games with authority. Now that's Sergio Romo's job-- something he's never done before.
We PRAYED that Buster Posey would be able to play 100 games and thought 15 HR and 70 RBI with a .280 avg. would've been a great comeback story. We all know how that turned out.
Look at our starting pitchers. We expected ZERO from Barry Zito. Many of us, including me, just said eat the guy's contract and get someone-- ANYONE in here other than him to be the 5th starter.
When it became apparent that there was something dreadfully wrong with Tim Lincecum, the staff never gave up on him or his season. They continued to cart him out there, always treating him with the respect and waaayyyyy-tooooo-long rope earned by being a two-time Cy Young winner.
They worked with him, watched tape, talked to his dad-- anything that would get their ace back to some semblance of respectability. He seems to have found that respectability as a reliever of all things.
Vogelsong and Bumgarner had incredible first halves, but tailed off badly after the all-star break.
Now look at them. Shutdown baseball in the playoffs-- seemingly out of nowhere.
Pablo Sandoval, still not up to required fitness standards, struggled at times this season-- frustrating all involved. Instead of rehabbing his hamate bone, he was out until all hours in a Santa Cruz resort getting into trouble. He fell in and out of his old ways at the plate; impressing sometimes, maddening us in others.
Now look at him.
We don't see what goes on behind the scenes or on the practice field, but it's clear that this coaching staff constantly spins thread into gold on their baseball loom. It's unbelievable.
Remember when we led the league in errors in the early season? Remember that game in Houston when we had all absolutely HAD it with Crawford and his errors? Seems like a long time ago.
Now? His coaches and his hard work have molded him into a Gold Glove candidate who hit .248-- higher than the .235 we were praying for.
He hit .204 last year.
So much tangible improvement by so many players during the season didn't happen by accident. So many in-game moves and questionable lineup moves by Bochy have turned to gold seemingly every time.
When we all scorned George Kontos for constantly allowing his inherited runners to score, and demanded to know why Bochy continued to cart him out there during similar situations, we got our answer when he came into huge situations in the NLDS, and up until his last two outings, has shut it down.
|Gardy the bullpen guru.|
Mark Gardner in the bullpen has overcome the loss of our closer and the entrance of new players like Jose Mijares and the aforementioned Kontos. He got Casilla back on track after he'd seemingly lost everything in July. He has managed to keep this bullpen together when it seemingly was running out of steam during the dog days.
Dave Righetti is a magician. Overseeing the entire pitching staff while it regressed and befuddled all, Rags managed to keep it between the lines. Look at the job he's done with Barry Zito! Absolutely incredible.
|Rags, the miracle worker.|
As for Bochy? What more can I say. He's just unbelievable.
I've likened him to a big oil tanker at sea. It takes him forever to get moving, and even longer to change course. Sometimes that's a good thing though.
If he made every little knee-jerk decision we demanded of him on Twitter, Crawford, Belt, and Kontos would probably be in AAA, and God knows what would be happening with Lincecum and Zito.
I know I'm gushing like a schoolgirl here, but this staff needed this kind of recognition. Ron Wotus, Tim Flannery, and Shawon Dunston invisibly tutoring the infielders, Will Clark handing out pointers during BP, Billy Hayes down there in the bullpen teaching Hector Sanchez how to catch Tim Lincecum-- it just goes on and on...
|Bam Bam and Belty.|
We couldn't hit last year worth a damn, and newly acquired players like Pagan, Scutaro, Pence, and a healthy Posey have definitely helped that tremendously. BUT, one cannot discount the work put in with young guys like Crawford and Belt-- seemingly lost at the plate. You have Pagan beasting around since early August and Posey contending for the MVP while we annihilate the Cardinals and Tigers in back to back games.
Kudos Bam Bam. Seriously.