Key to the Giants’ Early-Season Success in 2021

Key to the Giants’ Early-Season Success in 2021

by May 8, 2021 1 comment

When a big league manager walks into the ballpark before a game knowing that the pitching staff can be counted on must be a comforting thought. That is exactly what San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler has experienced in the early goings of the 2021 campaign. 

The National League West has been a talking point throughout the baseball world this year, not because of the Giants, but due to the divisional spotlight that has shone on the fierce San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers rivalry.

Giants in control early

San Francisco currently sits atop of the National League West (19-13), with a roster that consists of a starting rotation that currently ranks No. 1 in ERA in the NL. In a year where the Dodgers and Padres pose two of the best rotations on paper in the game, the Giants have enjoyed success from unexpected arms. These are players that have fit well either in the middle of a given rotation or in the bullpen as relievers in recent years. These are not names that have jumped off the page as Cy Young front-runners.

WATCH: Tyler Milliken and Logan Lockhart host Prime Time Sports Talk’s MLB Weekly Roundtable “The Squeeze” to reveal their biggest surprises in baseball thus far

Injuries struck the team’s most productive hitter in 2020, Mike Yastrzemski, and to former-ace Johnny Cueto. Despite this, the Giants have seemingly put themselves in the mix for a division that previously appeared to be a two-horse race. They have done it almost solely based on pitching. 

It’s only the beginning of May, far too early to proclaim who the contenders are in a 162-game marathon. At the very least, however, San Francisco has announced themselves to the NL West party in the early goings. That wouldn’t be possible without a pitching staff who’s held opposing batters to an average under .200. 

The arms that make up the staff

San Francisco’s starting rotation is made up of pitchers who all previously played for other teams, with the exception of 24-year-old Logan Webb. In an era where developing homegrown pitching talent has become increasingly important, the Giants have found early-season success by doing the opposite. 

Kevin Gausman: 39.2 IP, 2.04 ERA, 5.7 H/9, 0.90 WHIP

Alex Wood: 23 IP, 1.96 ERA, 5.1 H/9, 0.78 WHIP

Anthony DeSclafani: 41.1 IP, 2.40 ERA, 6.3 H/9, 0.94 WHIP

Aaron Sanchez: 28.1 IP, 3.18 ERA, 7.6 H/9, 1.20 WHIP

Johnny Cueto: 20 IP, 1.80 ERA, 5.9 H/9, 0.85 WHIP

Dodgers’ struggles 

After winning 13 of their first 15 games, Los Angeles has found themselves in an early-season slump, one that has opened the door for the Giants to stand atop of the division. The Dodgers have lost 14 out of their last 18 contests. The team hopes it’s nothing more than a one-off cold-stretch, and not a full-blown World Series hangover. 

Contrary to the Giants’ stellar bullpen, the Dodgers have faltered in that category over the last two weeks. The team has blown 12 saves, and it’s only the beginning of May. Furthermore, Los Angeles has lost six out of the last seven games that have required extra-innings.

The window for opportunity

San Francisco’s proficiency on the mound through the first month of the season shouldn’t be looked at as something that is sustainable for another five. What makes the team’s early success so intriguing is the position that it will put them in this winter. The 2014 World Series champions are committed to a little over $74 million for the 2022 season. This upcoming offseason will surely invite the Giants into the conversation for a number of high-profile free agents. 

The shortstop position should be of particular interest. Javier Baez, Trevor Story, Carlos Correa, and Corey Seager all round out the 2022 free-agency class. Even when coming off the most mediocre seasons, San Francisco’s brass always seems to be in the mix to potentially make front-page news in the winter. With the current edition of the Giants coming together nicely so far, the team’s front office may be even more inclined to make a splash in the aftermath of the campaign.

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