Will the Giants Remain Elite?


(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Dillon Monroe, Staff Writer

A rotation headlined by Kevin Gausman has led a squad to a 18-12 record? This MLB season is off to a crazy start, with some teams unexpectedly playing poorly while others are exceeding expectations. Going into the season, the San Francisco Giants were expected to be another team contending for the worst record in the league. Websites such as The Ringer, MLB, and ESPN released power rankings prior to the start of the season; the Giants were placed in the bottom ten of each of the websites’ rankings. The Giants are 18-12 right now, a game-and-a-half ahead of the reigning champion Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the NL West. The records may be similar, but the difference in talent on each team’s roster is quite noticeable. What’s currently going right in San Francisco? Will they maintain this success?

The Giants celebrate their 2012 World Series win over Detroit (via Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

The San Francisco Giants spent the first five seasons of the 2010s dominating the MLB, winning three world championships in five seasons. The success since then has been minimal, with their 2016 postseason appearance being their only playoff berth since 2014. Year-in and year-out since 2016, the Giants have been in that awkward position where they aren’t good enough to make the playoffs while also not being bad enough to secure a top pick in the draft. 2021 wasn’t expected to be any different, yet somehow the Giants are making it work with a subpar roster.

The San Francisco Giants can attribute their early success to top-tier pitching and surprising play from players that were deemed “washed” or “bad.” Buster Posey, former MVP and potential hall-of-famer, is currently posting a .382/.440/.735 slashline, which is nothing short of elite. It’s safe to say that this was not expected of Posey, as even though he was great in his prime, he is a shell of his former self due to injuries. Evan Longoria, another former All-Star, is also playing shockingly well. After a shortened season in which he posted underwhelming numbers, he’s currently rocking an impressive .284/.398/.527 slashline with a 160 OPS+. It’s important to note that there’s more to winning than batting, and the argument can and should be made that the pitching has been the main reason why this team is winning in the first place. The lineup is currently below league average in runs scored per game while the pitching, both rotation and bullpen, currently holds the third-best team ERA in the MLB with a 3.26 combined ERA and allows 3.40 runs per game, second-least in the MLB. Starters Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, Johnny Cueto, Aaron Sanchez, and Alex Wood have all pitched exceptionally well, with only one of those hurlers currently having a WHIP above 1.000. 

One of the first questions people ask when a team begins exceeding expectations is: are they playing real competition? According to Strength of Schedule (SOS), a statistic which measures the number of runs per game a team’s opponents are better or worse than an average team, the Giants have one of the most difficult schedules in the league. That can be credited to the Giants belonging to the NL West division, the division which houses the two strongest teams in baseball: the Padres and the Dodgers. Of the top six teams with the most difficult schedules, the entire NL West makes up five of the six teams. The Giants have more than excelled against poor teams, as they’re currently 12-6 against teams with sub-.500 records. When playing against good competition, San Francisco has held its own, sporting a 6-6 record against teams with a record of .500 or better, further proving that the team can compete with the best of them. 

There’s no way to know whether or not a team will implode during the season, so all fans have as a resource to base their predictions on is what they’ve seen thus far. The Giants’ combination of elite pitching and average batting could keep the team in the playoff race, however it is unlikely they compete for a championship. By the end of the season, San Francisco will probably find themselves in the third spot in the NL West, trailing San Diego and Los Angeles. Finally, the answer to the main question: will the Giants sustain this elite play throughout the season en route to a potential playoff run? The signs point towards no.