The 2012 season is officially over.
We doff our caps to the Giants and wish them congratulations on a job very well done. Before we completely turn our attention toward 2013, though, it is time to take one last look back at the playoffs to see if there are any lessons to glean from the winners and the losers.
We'll get to those, but not until we acknowledge that the biggest lesson of all was one that didn't really need to be taught. Good pitching is the one thing in baseball with no counter and the Giants are celebrating a second World Series in three years because of how well they pitched in October. Night after night, Bruce Bochy's life was made easy as every pitcher to take the mound pitched at the top of his ability.
Elimination games mean nothing when you can pitch like that and neither does the fact that your offense can sometimes resemble a little league team tasked with hitting Bob Gibson. The natural inclination would be to say that every team should build with that kind of staff in mind, but the reality doesn't work for the Rangers.
They can't turn themselves into the Giants overnight because they play in a different league in a different stadium than the Giants and the realities of what kind of team you build have to take these things into account. That's not to say that the Rangers shouldn't improve their pitching staff, but you couldn't win with the Giants team in Arlington or in a league with the designated hitter.
The lesson you can learn is that you can never have enough hard throwers in your organization because that's the way to build a bullpen that shuts down opposing hitters from both sides of the plate. You might strike out a lot along the way, but it only takes two or three hits to make a bullpen that can carry you to a title.
Other smaller lessons were learned as well:
Beware the Curse of the MVP Third Basemen: The Rangers should hope that Adrian Beltre never gets named the American League MVP. Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Cabrera (we're just kinda assuming even if we're in the Mike Trout camp, each flamed out in big spots for their teams.
The Cardinals Do Player Development Better: They almost went back to the World Series after losing Albert Pujols, dealing with injuries all over the place and churning up another set of previously unknown contributors to go with David Freese and Allen Craig from last year's discovery pile.
Wild Card Good for Excitement, Bad for Losers: It's pretty clear that fans aren't buying the idea that making and losing in the Wild Card game qualifies as a playoff experience. The Rangers might have lost 90 games for all their regular season wound up meaning. That's not a complaint about the system, just a reality teams should keep in mind going forward.