In the first half of the 2021 MLB season, the San Francisco Giants exceeded expectations, leaping to the top of the NL West in April, staying in first in May and June and making it to 83 games without relinquishing first place, save for one single day. They have bounced back twice from losing streaks, most recently their longest, of four games.
They have done it with great starting pitching by Kevin Gausman, Alex Wood, Anthony DeSclafani and Johnny Cueto; with outstanding defense, and by leading the national league in team home runs and Runs Against in the Differential columns. They’ve also had a very successful next-man-up mentality that has steadied the club amidst injuries. These are all features of moneyball.
The Giants also managed to play the entire first half without a fifth starter. They’ve used the fifth spot in the rotation as an experimental starting pitcher’s slot. They used an “opener” twice, tried out veteran comeback hopeful Scott Kazmir, brought up rookie Scott Long and used Logan Webb in and out of injury rehab. This was all the more impressive because they had a weak bullpen throughout that cost the guys several games they could have won.
Gabe Kapler must be acknowledged for remarkable flexibility and smart use of staff. He’s used rookies and vets and numerous combinations in the field. He has had a short leash when he sees something clearly isn’t working. Kap has been flexible and accommodating with his starters – it is SO different from Boch who just left ’em out there.
Kap still struggles with extra innings with the Manfred Man on second, and the seven-inning double-headers. The statistics reveal a glaring weakness. But he has gotten better at managing the bench late in games.
The bounce-back with these Giants has been tested twice, most recently as the Dodgers went on a NINE GAME TEAR, beating the Giants in a brace at the Ravine in LA on the way to pulling within a half game of first. The Giants responded to the pressure this time by scoring 21 runs out in the desert against the Diamondbacks.
Opposing batters are hitting .145 against Alex Wood in their first at-bat. But the second time through the order, opponents are hitting .300 against him. Alex Wood righted his ship, striking out eight over five innings, and Giants bats responded to the season’s longest losing streak (four games) by exploding for eleven runs. Giants 11, Diamondbacks 4
Started rookie Sammy Long who didn’t last and fell behind. Came back to win on the road as Slater busted out of a slump with a go-ahead two-run jack in the eighth. Giants 6, Diamondbacks 5
DeSclafani hurled a gem last night and made a case for All-Star selection going 9.2 innings on 103 pitches, throwing seven K’s Giants 5, Diamondbacks 2
Injuries, poor base-running, weird scoring spurts and errors have plagued all of baseball this year, but the Giants have shown remarkable resilience against these attritions and when I look at it, it seems to be a part of the moneyball strategy as well. Lots of motion between the minors and majors and numerous players getting chances are all being governed by Kapler and Zaidi very effectively.
Our most glaring weakness remains the bullpen – despite their recent successes in not-blowing saves. The bats have given the Giants large enough leads that Kap has been able to work a LOT of guys in the ‘pen without too much liability. This has given the guys more opportunities to get better and yet we still do NOT have reliable relief.
Longoria was killing it before he had that unlucky violent collision with Crawford on June 6th. I really hope he comes back that strong. Longo is so reliable at third. Like Belt at first. Brandon Belt was coming up out of a slump with a ten-game hit streak and a great slash line when his knee gave out. If we can get these vets back in mid-July it will help a lot. We still haven’t really had a chance to see Tommy LaStella, but recently LaMonte Wade, Jr. has made a STRONG case for leadoff hitter in his absence.
Zaidi went and got Tauchman and Brebbia and stays in the hunt for ways to make us better. I am excited to see what we do with the trade deadline because we have a LOT of valuable pieces that we have made more valuable and we have plenty of money. Zaidi is great at managing money.
The Giants have three 2021 All-Stars: Kevin Gausman, Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford. There is still a possibility that DeSclafani could be selected. Posey and Crawford have massively resurgent numbers and the Championship Blood is stirring.
Let’s Go Giants!
There was NO JUNE SWOON.
We remain a half game up on the Bums.
NL West Standings
San Francisco Giants (53 -30) best record in all of baseball (.639)
Los Angeles Dodgers (53-31) 0.5 games back
San Diego Padres (50-36) 4.5 games back
The Giants go into the All-Star break on a home stand against the Cardinals and Nats. The Cards have not been great and the Nats are without Schwarber and other key players. Have to win these series.
I will be at the yard on Saturday for the day game versus the Nats.