In 2014, San Francisco started the postseason as the second Wild Card. The Giants' win in Pittsburgh behind Madison Bumgarner began a run that ended with a Game 7 victory against the Royals to win the World Series. It was their third title in as many playoff appearances for the franchise, so even though they are once again starting on the road, it is a path they are familiar with.
Much of that has to do with personnel. There are several players, starting with Bumgarner, who have been around for all three of those World Series titles. The number of players who experienced that euphoria in 2014 and are still on the roster reaches double-digits.
That continuity, both on the field, in the dugout with manager Bruce Bochy and in the front office, is a large part of how and why the Giants find themselves playing in October regularly, even if it has followed an every-other-year pattern. Continuing to build around a core formed via the Draft, the Giants have made some bold and smart moves to bring in the right players to give San Francisco another chance at being the last team standing.
Here's a look at how each player on the Giants' Division Series roster was initially acquired during his current stint with the club:
Player, how acquired, year
Sergio Romo, Draft, 2005 (28th round)
Madison Bumgarner, Draft, 2007 (1st round)
Buster Posey, Draft, 2008 (1st round)
Brandon Crawford, Draft, 2008 (4th round)
Brandon Belt, Draft, 2009 (5th round)
Joe Panik, Draft, 2011 (1st round)
Kelby Tomlinson, Draft, 2011 (12th round)
Derek Law, Draft, 2011 (9th round)
Ty Blach, Draft, 2012 (5th round)
Trevor Brown, Draft, 2012 (10th round)
The Giants continue to lean heavily on drafted players, with three first rounders still playing a very large role. Bumgarner and Buster Posey form one of the best homegrown batteries in baseball and know more than a little about what it takes to win in October. Bumgarner carried a 2.14 ERA in 88 1/3 postseason innings into this year's playoffs and then added to his legacy with an all-time great performance in the Giants' Wild Card win over the Mets. Posey's rookie year was when the Giants won it all in 2010, and he carries an expectation of success with him. Joe Panik is the third first-round pick in the lineup, and like Posey, he won a ring in his rookie campaign (2014).
Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt, taken a bit later on in their respective drafts, have two rings apiece. Crawford hit .304 and Belt .308 in the 2014 World Series against the Royals.
This is where that continuity of front office seriously comes into play. Brian Sabean, now the executive vice president of baseball operations, has been with the Giants for 24 years. Bobby Evans, who became GM when Sabean got bumped up, has held a number of positions in the baseball operations department over his 23 years. John Barr is finishing his ninth season with the organization overseeing the amateur Draft and international scouting. Eight of the players listed above were selected and signed under his watch.
Player, year, acquired from
Javier Lopez, 2010, Pirates
Angel Pagan, 2011, Mets
George Kontos, 2012, Yankees
Hunter Pence, 2012, Phillies
Hunter Strickland, 2013, Pirates*
Eduardo Nunez, 2016, Twins
Matt Moore, 2016, Rays
Will Smith, 2016, Brewers
In each of the last two postseason runs, the Giants have made key deals at the Trade Deadline to give the 25-man roster the extra firepower needed. Back in 2012, one of the biggest trades in recent franchise history was the acquisition of outfielder Hunter Pence. Not only did Pence hit .444 in the 2014 World Series, in many ways he's been the heart of the team, something that goes beyond the stat line. Say what you want about the even-year thing, the fact Pence played in just 52 games in 2015 had a lot to do with the Giants falling short of the postseason.
San Francisco also doesn't shy away from bolstering its pitching staff for the stretch drive. In 2014, Sabean and company brought in Jake Peavy and he had a 2.17 ERA over 12 starts following the trade. This year, more help was needed on the mound. Lefty Matt Moore was acquired from the Rays for Matt Duffy and two prospects, Lucius Fox and Michael Santos. Will Smith, another southpaw, was brought in from the Brewers, to help solidify the bullpen, this time for top pitching prospect Phil Bickford along with catcher Andrew Susac.
Offensively, Eduardo Nunez was acquired from the Twins and he took over at third, especially once Duffy was dealt to the Rays, finishing up one of the busier deadline periods the organization has had.
Santiago Casilla, 2010
Gregor Blanco, 2011
Gorkys Hernandez, 2015
Jeff Samardzija, 2015
Johnny Cueto, 2015
Denard Span, 2016
Conor Gillaspie, 2016
The Giants had already done quite a bit to upgrade the roster heading into the 2016 season. Knowing there were many questions marks behind Bumgarner in the rotation, that became a priority. The Giants were allowed to open the pocketbook a bit more and brought in two-fifths of their rotation in signing Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto. Cueto had a huge year, his finest since his 2014 season with the Reds when he finished second in NL Cy Young Award voting. Samardzija wasn't quite as brilliant, but he was consistent. Perhaps more importantly, both made 32 starts and helped give the Giants a front three who each surpassed 200 innings pitched.
Cueto was a big reason why the Royals not only returned to the World Series in 2015, but won it, tossing a complete-game gem against the Mets. Samardzija has just one inning of postseason work on his resume, back in 2008, but can look to Cueto and Bumgarner for guidance.
Free agent upgrades to the offense were less splashy, though Denard Span did reach double digits in home runs and steals for the first time in his career. He did surge in the second half (.765 OPS vs. .670) and while he scuffled for much of September, he may be getting hot at the right time, hitting .321/.387/.536 over his last seven games, including a three-hit, two-RBI performance in the regular season finale that enabled the Giants to clinch that second Wild Card spot.