The Giants won 3 out of the last 5 World Series so obviously fans of other teams are looking at them and asking "How did they do that?" and "Can my team do that?". Unfortunately I'm not sure you can.
It helps to have a dominating pitcher or two... - Obviously Bumgarner is the story of this playoffs. 1.03 ERA for the playoffs, 0.43 in the World Series. 4 hit shutout in WC game. 4 hit shutout in Game 5. It's hard to see the Giants winning it all without him
But it's no guarantee... The A's traded a key offensive player to get Jon Lester, who sported a 2.11 postseason ERA before this season, and specifically a 1.53 ERA last year in helping the Red Sox win a WS. They got him into a one and done game and staked him to a 2-0 1st inning lead, which he blew, then a 7-3 lead heading into the 8th, which he blew (He was only at 86 pitches going into the 8th)
The Dodgers had without question the best pitcher in the majors in Clayton Kershaw. In game 1 he was given a 6-1 lead heading into the 6th. Kerhsaw gave up one in the 6th, then couldn't get out of the 7th giving up 4 straight singles to start the inning (he was only at 81 pitches at the start of the inning). Given a chance at redemption in Game 4, and given another lead (this time a more modest 2-0), Kershaw again fell apart in the 7th giving up two singles and a homer to lose the lead and eventually the game
It helps to have been there before... The Giants had won the World Series in 2010 and 2012, and by the sake of not making the playoffs in the off years, haven't lost a playoff series since the Marlins beat them in 2003. This likely gave the set of returning players a bit of pressure relief and a boost of confidence going into this postseason.
But it's no guarantee... Last year's Pirates team was also in the WC and won that game. They lost this year. The Cardinals had won the WS in 2011, won a WC and a DS in 2012, and reached the WS last year, yet went out fairly meekly to the Giants in the CS this year. The Tigers had won three straight DSs but got swept out this year. The A's were the only other AL team in the playoffs last year. They lost. The Royals hadn't been in the playoffs in 30 years and they were one game from winning it all.
It helps to have a killer bullpen... The Giants had the 3rd best pen in the NL (just the barest of margins behind #2). Romo, Lopez, Casilla, and Affeldt threw almost 30 innings during the playoffs and gave up all of 1 run, earned or otherwise. We all know what the Royals back end of Herrera, Davis, and Holland had done to end the year and in the playoffs.
But it's no guarantee... the 2nd best NL bullpen? The Nats. The Pirates pen was good. The Orioles pen was very good. The A's bullpen was great. Where did they all go?
I suppose you could say you need to combine all 3. The Dodgers and Tigers pens were bad. The A's had been here but never won a series. The Angels hadn't been here in several years. The Nats and Pirates and Orioles didn't have a winning series tradition or a long history of being in the playoffs. The Cardinals simply faced a team like themselves.
But what explains the Royals? No great starter, never been there before, should have lost right?
Here's what I say then are the take away from the 2014 playoffs
1) Be good - you have to be in it to win it
2) Hope to get lucky in one of your first times in the playoffs because that probably helps with the things we can't measure. You feel less pressure and more confidence because you have won it before.
There you go. That's all I got for you. You can still do that and not win. The Rangers bust out and got the the WS and lost to another upstart in the Giants. They got back and with all the confidence in the world... lost to the Cardinals who hadn't won a playoff series in the previous four years.
Looking for comparisons for the Nats is hard, but the most recent team to turn multiple post-season failures into success were probably the early 90s Blue Jays. Lost the CS in 89 and 91 but were able to win back to back titles before the strike