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How much individual talent was on each Giants World Series team?

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Comparing the 2010, 2012, and 2014 Giants to other modern title teams.

Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

We’ve been doing postseason rewatch threads three days a week since the coronavirus suspended the MLB season, and we just wrapped up 2010.

On Saturday, we watched Game 5 of the 2010 World Series, in which the San Francisco Giants won their first title since moving to the Bay Area.

In the comment section, a Giants fan (shoutout to user sheik37) asserted that the 2010 team was, “Prolly the worst lineup in major league history to win WS.”

I’m not sure if “lineup” was supposed to refer to just the hitters, or the entire team, but either way I didn’t find anything offensive about that remark, though perhaps others might. I think most baseball fans have either come to terms with, or embraced the fact that a lot of luck and variance come into play when determining a champion. The rings all look the same, no matter the route.

But it did get me wondering. How good/bad were the 2010 Giants, as well as the 2012 and 2014 Giants, two other championship teams that were far from juggernauts?

You can’t answer that question without first defining what determines the goodness of a lineup (a term I’m using to refer to the entire team, not just the hitters). You could opt for pythagorean record, which tells us how many wins a team should have won, based on their performance. By that metric, the 2010 Giants (94-68) were a fair bit better than the 2012 Giants (88-74) and the 2014 Giants (87-75).

You could also opt for total team WAR, though I find that less than ideal, since it involves a lot of players that aren’t really involved in the postseason. In 2014, for instance, Andrew Susac, Hector Sanchez, and Guillermo Quiroz — all backup catchers — combined for 275 plate appearances in the regular season, and 4 plate appearances in the postseason. Factoring in their contributions, positive or negative, doesn’t really tell the meaningful story of the team (though you could make a case that this evens out to a wash when you compare teams).

Long story semi-short, there’s no one way to measure how talented a team is, but I was curious about the individual talent on recent championship teams. So I compared the last 30 World Series winners, from 1989 to 2019 (there was no champion in 1994). You’ll find these stats have two versions of the 1995 Atlanta Braves — an unadjusted version, and an adjusted version that prorates their 144-game season to 162. Since the two Atlanta teams are usually clustered together, I’m counting them as one in rankings (for instance, if the Giants finish 11th, but behind both 1995 teams, I’m saying they finished 10th).

So let’s answer a few questions, with all Wins Above Replacement (WAR) stats coming via Baseball-Reference.

How good was the Giants best player?

First I wanted to look at the best player on each of those championship teams, to measure stars against each other. Of the last 30 teams to win a World Series, Posey and the 2012 Giants come in 10th, Aubrey Huff and the 2010 Giants come in 23rd, and Posey and the 2014 Giants come in 28th.

Best Player

TEAM BEST PLAYER rWAR
TEAM BEST PLAYER rWAR
2018 Boston Red Sox Mookie Betts 10.6
1995 Atlanta Braves (Adjusted) Greg Maddux 10.6
1995 Atlanta Braves (Unadjusted) Greg Maddux 9.6
2001 Arizona Diamondbacks Randy Johnson 9.5
2008 Philadelphia Phillies Chase Utley 9.0
2006 St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols 8.5
1999 New York Yankees Derek Jeter 8.0
1993 Toronto Blue Jays John Olerud 7.8
2004 Boston Red Sox Curt Schilling 7.7
2017 Houston Astros Jose Altuve 7.6
2012 San Francisco Giants Buster Posey 7.6
1998 New York Yankees Derek Jeter 7.5
2016 Chicago Cubs Kris Bryant 7.3
2015 Kansas City Royals Lorenzo Cain 7.0
1997 Florida Marlins Kevin Brown 6.8
1991 Minnesota Twins Kevin Tapani 6.8
2009 New York Yankees Derek Jeter 6.6
1992 Toronto Blue Jays Roberto Alomar 6.6
2007 Boston Red Sox Josh Beckett 6.5
2019 Washington Nationals Stephen Strasburg 6.4
2002 Anaheim Angels Darin Erstad 6.3
2013 Boston Red Sox Dustin Pedroia 6.1
1990 Cincinnati Reds Jose Rijo 5.8
2010 San Francisco Giants Aubrey Huff 5.7
1996 New York Yankees Andy Pettitte 5.6
2000 New York Yankees Jorge Posada 5.5
1989 Oakland Athletics Mike Moore 5.4
2011 St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols 5.3
2014 San Francisco Giants Buster Posey 5.1
2005 Chicago White Sox Mark Buehrle 4.8
2003 Florida Marlins Ivan Rodriguez 4.5

How high is the top-end talent?

No matter how good your best player is, you need multiple really good players to win a championship. So I wanted to know how good each team’s best triumvirate was. What was the cumulative WAR provided by each team’s three best players?

Now we start to see the Giants slipping. The 2012 team, led by Posey, Melky Cabrera, and Matt Cain, is 17th among the 30 teams. The 2010 team, led by Huff, Andres Torres, and Posey, is 25th. And the 2014 team, led by Posey, Madison Bumgarner, and Hunter Pence, is 27th.

Best Three Players

TEAM BEST THREE PLAYERS WAR
TEAM BEST THREE PLAYERS WAR
2001 Arizona Diamondbacks Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Luis Gonzalez 25.9
2018 Boston Red Sox Mookie Betts, Chris Sale, J.D. Martinez 23.9
1995 Atlanta Braves (Adjusted) Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz 21.1
1993 Toronto Blue Jays John Olerud, Devon White, Roberto Alomar 20.2
2006 St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Chris Carpenter 19.3
2017 Houston Astros Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer 19.2
1995 Atlanta Braves (Unadjusted) Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz 19.1
2008 Philadelphia Phillies Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels 19.0
2016 Chicago Cubs Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester 18.6
1998 New York Yankees Derek Jeter, Paul O'Neill, Bernie Williams 18.6
2019 Washington Nationals Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer 18.5
1999 New York Yankees Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, David Cone 18.5
1992 Toronto Blue Jays Roberto Alomar, Devon White, Juan Guzman 18.3
2009 New York Yankees Derek Jeter, C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira 18.1
2013 Boston Red Sox Dustin Pedroia, Shane Victorino, Jacoby Ellsbury 17.9
2007 Boston Red Sox Josh Beckett, David Ortiz, Mike Lowell 17.9
2004 Boston Red Sox Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz 17.4
2012 San Francisco Giants Buster Posey, Melky Cabrera, Matt Cain 16.9
2002 Anaheim Angels Darin Erstad, David Eckstein, Garret Anderson 16.6
1991 Minnesota Twins Kevin Tapani, Shane Mack, Scott Erickson 16.2
1990 Cincinnati Reds Jose Rijo, Barry Larkin, Chris Sabo 15.7
2015 Kansas City Royals Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas 15.4
2000 New York Yankees Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter 15.3
1997 Florida Marlins Kevin Brown, Charles Johnson, Alex Fernandez 15.3
1989 Oakland Athletics Mike Moore, Rickey Henderson, Carney Lansford 15.1
2010 San Francisco Giants Aubrey Huff, Andres Torres, Buster Posey 14.9
1996 New York Yankees Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams 14.6
2014 San Francisco Giants Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Hunter Pence 14.0
2005 Chicago White Sox Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Paul Konerko 13.5
2003 Florida Marlins Ivan Rodriguez, Luis Castillo, Dontrelle Willis 13.3
2011 St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday 12.9

How deep is the talent?

I also wanted to know how much the talent fell off after the top players, something I suspected was an issue with each Giants team. So I inputed the WAR for the seventh-most valuable player on each team.

An arbitrary number? Kind of, but I was attempting to find the spot that represented the median of a team’s core, which I assumed was something close to eight position players and five pitchers.

As I suspected, the Giants didn’t fare well here. Their best mark came with Brian Wilson in 2010, which was 22nd among the 30 teams. Brandon Crawford and 2012 came in one spot behind, at 23rd. And Joe Panik and the 2014 squad came in at 27th or 28th, depending on which Atlanta team you’re measuring against.

Seventh-Best Player

TEAM 7th BEST PLAYER WAR
TEAM 7th BEST PLAYER WAR
2009 New York Yankees Johnny Damon 4.2
2002 Anaheim Angels Tim Salmon 4.0
2007 Boston Red Sox Dustin Pedroia 3.9
2017 Houston Astros Marwin Gonzalez 3.8
2016 Chicago Cubs Addison Russell 3.7
2004 Boston Red Sox Mark Bellhorn 3.7
2013 Boston Red Sox Koji Uehara 3.5
1998 New York Yankees Orlando Hernandez 3.5
1989 Oakland Athletics Bob Welch 3.4
2019 Washington Nationals Anibal Sanchez 3.3
1996 New York Yankees Derek Jeter 3.3
1990 Cincinnati Reds Eric Davis 3.3
2018 Boston Red Sox Rick Porcello 3.2
1992 Toronto Blue Jays Manuel Lee 3.2
2000 New York Yankees Orlando Hernandez 3.1
1993 Toronto Blue Jays Tony Fernandez 3.1
2003 Florida Marlins Derrek Lee 2.9
1991 Minnesota Twins Chuck Knoblauch 2.9
2005 Chicago White Sox Tadahito Iguchi 2.8
1999 New York Yankees Paul O'Neill 2.8
2015 Kansas City Royals Kendrys Morales 2.7
2010 San Francisco Giants Brian Wilson 2.7
2012 San Francisco Giants Brandon Crawford 2.4
2011 St. Louis Cardinals Allen Craig 2.4
2008 Philadelphia Phillies Pat Burrell 2.4
2001 Arizona Diamondbacks Mark Grace 2.4
1995 Atlanta Braves (Adjusted) Javy Lopez 2.0
2014 San Francisco Giants Joe Panik 1.9
1997 Florida Marlins Livan Hernandez 1.8
1995 Atlanta Braves (Unadjusted) Javy Lopez 1.8
2006 St. Louis Cardinals Scott Spiezio 1.6

The verdict

There’s no real verdict, since I only opted for a few arbitrary ways of answering the question. That said, I took the ranking for each team in each of these lists and averaged them out, in hopes of finding one semi-questionable way of comparing the Giants to recent champions.

By this silly metric that A) values the quality of a team’s seventh-best player as a big piece of the equation and B) counts a team’s best player twice (hey, double counting is a foundational part of MLB stats), the 2010 Giants are not, in fact, the worst modern World Series champion!

Hooray!

But the 2014 Giants are.

Average Ranking

TEAM AVERAGE
TEAM AVERAGE
2018 Boston Red Sox 5.33
2017 Houston Astros 6.67
2016 Chicago Cubs 9.00
1993 Toronto Blue Jays 9.00
2001 Arizona Diamondbacks 9.33
1998 New York Yankees 9.33
2004 Boston Red Sox 10.33
1995 Atlanta Braves (Adjusted) 10.33
2009 New York Yankees 10.67
2008 Philadelphia Phillies 12.00
2007 Boston Red Sox 12.33
1999 New York Yankees 12.33
1995 Atlanta Braves (Unadjusted) 13.00
2019 Washington Nationals 13.67
2006 St. Louis Cardinals 14.00
2002 Anaheim Angels 14.00
1992 Toronto Blue Jays 14.33
2013 Boston Red Sox 14.67
2012 San Francisco Giants 17.00
1991 Minnesota Twins 17.33
1990 Cincinnati Reds 18.00
2015 Kansas City Royals 19.00
1989 Oakland Athletics 20.33
1996 New York Yankees 20.67
2000 New York Yankees 21.33
1997 Florida Marlins 22.33
2010 San Francisco Giants 23.67
2005 Chicago White Sox 26.00
2003 Florida Marlins 26.00
2011 St. Louis Cardinals 27.33
2014 San Francisco Giants 28.33