Let me welcome everybody to the wild wild West.
Defeating the San Diego Padres by a score of 11-4 on Sunday, Oct. 3, the San Francisco Giants did what no one said was possible: they won the National League West.
In doing so, the Giants ended the Dodgers 8 year reign atop the division and their entire $267 million payrolls. The Dodgers also claimed a win on the final day of the season against the first-place Milwaukee Brewers, but it was too late for Los Angeles. The Giants finished ahead of them in a division race for the ages by just one oh-so-very decisive ballgame.
Deviating from the norm, rather than forecasting predictions for the upcoming Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs, I would much rather prefer writing this article as an ode to such a strange team of misfits that, quite frankly, makes no sense.
The outlook of the 2021 San Francisco Giants entering the season was bleak at best. Returning were some solid players; first baseman Brandon Belt came off a 173 Weighted Runs Created Plus (WRC+) season in 2020 and pitcher Kevin Gausman entered the new year fresh off of a 3.09 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) season where he firmly asserted himself ace of the staff. Outside of this, however, there was not much for fans to anticipate.
Franchise cornerstones Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford appeared on the way out; the former had not had an above-average year at the plate since 2018, and the latter had been above average merely twice in his 11-year career.
2021 would then become the year of the veteran.
Both Crawford and Posey’s WRC+’s exploded with Posey’s spiking to 140 and Crawford’s to 139, firmly placing them amongst the top-ranked hitters in the National League.
Similarly, other veterans had a career renaissance. Outfielder Darin Ruf continued his two-year excursion as a top ten hitter in Major League Baseball, along with “washed” third baseman Evan Longoria, who overcame an early-season injury to achieve a 123 WRC+.
The Giant’s offense, led by the players already mentioned and a full crew of above-average batters, ranked first in home runs and fifth in team WRC+. Though, this was not even the main reason for the Giants’ success this season. Where this team made its mark was on the mound.
Along with Kevin Gausman’s continued surge as a bonafide ace starter, the Giants saw another unproven pitcher breakout. Right when they needed it, righty Logan Webb became straight-up dominant.
Equipped with a nasty 95 Miles Per Hour (MPH) sinker and wipeout slider, Webb has mowed down Major League hitters time and time again in just his third year as a pro. This emergence would serve as one of the most important pieces down the stretch after a Giants mid-season plagued by injury Webb’s FIP of 2.72 paces Giants starting pitchers. The Giants also received unexpected contributions from starters Anthony Desclafani and Alex Wood, both of whom were signed to off-season deals for under $5 million (a small price to pay for MLB owners). Suffice to say, the Giant’s rotation has been outstanding. However, an even bigger impact is heavily attributed to the team’s bullpen.
Headlined by closer Jake McGee and his team-leading 31 saves, the San Francisco bullpen has not disappointed in the slightest. The Giants have prevailed via multiple unheard-of players, as one can see a common theme throughout the story of the 2021 Giants. Therefore, somehow the bullpen is top five in nearly every statistic available.
Camilo Doval’s reemergence after a shaky first stint in the bigs has been perhaps the biggest win for the Giants out of the pen. Armed with a fastball that tops out at an absurd 104 MPH, paired with a filthy slider that leaves hitters dizzy, Doval has established himself as one of the league’s most dominant relievers.
Finally, after years of frustration post-dynasty, the Giants are back. Watching this team has been nothing short of magical. Not once all season has there been a moment where fans had felt that they were out of a game, serving as a testament to how well Gabe Kapler has performed as the Giant’s skipper and how calculated President Farhan Zaidi was when he built this team.
No matter what happens during the postseason, this team that was projected for around 78 wins by nearly every baseball outlet has exceeded every expectation imaginable. Any outcome they face will cap off a victorious season. However, the Giants are anything but content.
Their next challenge will be none other than battling the Los Angeles Dodgers in a five-game series to move on to the National League Championship Series.
Starting on the 8th, it is gonna be an Orange October.