Welcome back Giants Baseball Corner subscribers! and welcome aboard new friends and fans! I’m Karthik Rajan and this is the first GBC Reader of the 2021 season.
When it was announced The Farhan Zaidi Era was to begin with Gabe Kapler as skipper, I accused upper management of choosing an unproven manager whose record was average. When we hired Mr. Kapler away from Philadelphia, his teams had been 166-167. In his first two seasons as a major league manager he went 80-82, then improved infinitesimally to 81-81. I mean … average.
I had a change of heart as I threw in with Mr. Zaidi’s approach. What better person to start off at the helm of a moneyball team planning sabermetrics-driven decisions than a manager who is completely average? It’ll be really easy to measure improvement or failure, fast.
Then of course coronavirus struck and denied us a real opportunity to evaluate Gabe Kapler. We could do it in the little things, the everyday decisions and actions, but there wasn’t going to be a first full season of data.
I imagined being in Mr. Kapler’s place: first year manager at the helm of a high-profile team hijacked by pandemic conditions that require unbelievable flexibility and adaptability. To his credit, Kapler navigated that unprecedented madness that we call the Irregular Season well, showed moments of brilliance, and the San Francisco Giants overperformed. I applaud the efforts of the entire organization.
Sure, Kap couldn’t win a double-header. I mean none. And he seemed lost in the extra innings games with the free-guy-on-second rule, always ran out of pitchers. But who wasn’t lost? It was goofball, kooky rules. There was universal DH.
Kapler’s use of the “opener” was brilliant and effective. He changed the order with intent successfully. His goofy shifts were eye-boggling, and sometimes worked – that’s math! The sabermetrics gang would have us believe that math also made that string of guys pick up at the plate when another left off, when there was always a hot hitter: Longoria to Yaz to Donnie Barrels to Dickerson. It was exciting, the best baseball in SF in a while, and we almost made the playoffs.
The Giants were a really fun team in the Irregular Season. But when it comes to evaluating the manager, we must note that Mr. Kapler led the team … to an almost exactly .500 result, (29-31), ironically exactly erasing the single game he had gained in 2019 – to make his personal record again, just below .500.
The Giants have been bad since 2017. Really bad. Historically bad. So bad that despite being a surprise team of the Irregular Season last year, we opened this year on the road: bad teams travel on opening day because they’re not a big draw. That’s why we opened on an inter-league weekend at Seattle: because nobody thinks we’re any good.
I am sad to report our same-old problems have not mathemagically disappeared. The bullpen is terrible, the third, fourth and fifth starters have not landed, the bats – which electrified in the shortened season – have yet to wake up with consistency in 2021, and the outfield is a shifting question mark, with no consistent platoon in sight.
And yet … the Giants are in 2nd place in the National League West, with a 9-6 record and three series wins, including a sweep over the NL West rival Rockies and a road series win against the vaunted Padres! On the whole, the math is working despite cold bats. (and our super-secret plan to let the Pads and Bums beat each other up so we can slip through the side door, is well in motion).
The Early Positives
Starting Pitching – Kevin Gausman and Johnny Cueto look very good and Anthony DeSclafani is turning out to be a GREAT find for a third starter, especially when paired with his old teammate Curt Casali behind the plate (they were teammates in Cincinnati). Alex Wood made his first start today in Miami and was great, getting a tense 1-0 win with help from the beleaguered bullpen, who needed a bounce-back game in the worst way. Gausman, Cueto, DeSclafani and Wood could be what we are looking at for the immedite future, with Logan Webb, Caleb Baragar and perhaps Sanchez yet again filling in that fifth starter slot.
Jake McGee – do the Giants finally have a closer? Magee shot out of the gate to lead the majors with seven saves before the gut-wrenching blown opportunity in Miami on Saturday night. He is taking a short break after getting his Covid shot, but I think the timing is perfect to help wash out that loss. It was even better that Tyler Rogers was able to come in and get the Save in his absence today. McGee is a strong candidate for closer.
Today’s hard-fought 1-0 win on the road in Miami was a big positive.
Buster Posey – rejuvenated Buster is looking really good. At 34, we have him behind the plate about 20 – 30% less of the time. The time off has given his hip time to heal and he is batting with power again. Through 9 games, Buster is slashing .265 BA/.342 OBP/.441 SLG/.783 OPS, with nine hits and two homers. Five runs, coupla RBIs and 0.2 WAR.
Veterans Swinging – Evan Longoria has 14 hits and four homers in 45 ABs. His line .311/.380/.682/1.002 exemplifies the clutch and power hitting being achieved by the veterans including Brandons Crawford and Belt who, while not hitting for average, have provided clutch extra base hits.
The 2021 Season Thus Far
Opening Series @ Seattle
Giants Lose to Mariners 1 – 2
The first game of the season was the worst game of the season. Let’s hope it stays that way. We lost in extra innings by issuing a walk with the bases loaded. A walk-off walk. Ugh. And ANOTHER Gabe Kapler-led Extra Innings Fail. But Buster homered! And so did Longo! And we looked good til we handed the ball to the bullpen. Kevin Gausman solidified himself as our starter. We prevented the opening series sweep in game two as Johnny Cueto led us to our first win of the season behind Buster’s second home run in the first two games. The third game was a disaster. Our bullpen is bad, a real and ongoing problem.
Giants Beat Padres 2-1
The Giants went down to San Diego and in game one, the Padres lost star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. – signed to a 14-year, $340 million contract on Feb. 22, the longest deal in big league history – to a partially dislocated left shoulder when he swung too hard on a strike three in the third inning! In a game in April! and had to go on ten days IR. That pitch was thrown by Anthony DeSclafani in his debut as a Giant. DeSclafani held San Diego to one run and four hits in five innings, struck out four and walked three. Ruf and Longo also homered. The Giants won 3-2. Caleb Baragar vultured the win, picking up right where he left off last season, and Jake McGee got his second save. They dropped a hard-fought game two against Yu Darvish who pitched six strong and got the win. Game three was our first successful extra innings win in a game that mattered under Gabe Kapler. Gausman threw a gem. Solano drove in Dickerson in the 10th. McGee pitched a perfect ninth for the win. Taking this series is the first prong of the super-secret plan – take as many series’ as possible from Pads and Bums, and never let them sweep.
Home Opening Series
Giants Sweep Rockies 3-0
Giants fans were treated to a sweet sweep of a division rival when the guys finally got home. Cueto dominated the home opener, nearly throwing a CG. B-Craw ripped a homer in the win and then did it again the next night! Delivering a three-run homer in the sixth of game two that would prove to be the winner (Caleb Baragar Vulture Win).The sweep came on a shutout thrown by new Giant Anthony DeSclafani that the bullpen closed out – not without incident, but no runs crossed the plate.
Giants Beat Reds 2-1
The Reds came to town leading the league in Home Runs … and the Giants shut them out once, hit more Home Runs throughout and outscored them 10-9. The loss, 0-3, was another Aaron Sanchez fail, exposing the glaring problem of our third and fourth starters. LaMonte Wade Jr.’s first start in CF was rocky, but he was good at the plate. McGee kept racking up Saves.
Giants Lose to Marlins 1-2
All of these were close and the Giants had chances to win or take bigger leads in all of them, but failed to do so. Terrible with RISP. Game one was the Giants to win but they squandered opportunities. The Saturday night game was the gut twister, McGee’s first blown save opportunity. We lost this game becase Marte successfully beat our HUGE overshift. Just hit it to left. and it just rolled and rolled to nobody. sigh. Those are the moments I really hate this sabermetrics approach. But the team rebounded brilliantly behind new starter Alex Wood to get the win today and prevent the sweep. Kudos again to Tyler Rogers, for picking up the Save. As I write this, the Bums did NOT sweep the Pads. Padres won today 5-2, leaving us tied for 2nd place in the NL West and revealing the second prong of our super-secret plan – hope the Pads and Bums beat each other up in a way that keeps us in the mix.
Up Next: The Phillies
Giants travel to Philadelphia for a three game set.
Game One: Kevin Gausman vs. Chase Anderson is tomorrow, 19th
Game Two will not be Cueto, Tuesday, 20th
Game Three could be Anthony DeSclafini, Wednesday, 21st
I *was* able to exhibit the Proper Execution of the Rally Visor in Game Two:
I will be posting more now that the season is getting going and our team is becoming more clear. Thanks for joining me at Giants Baseball Corner.
Editor-in-Chief, Giants Baseball Corner