The Giants are in First?
The most surprising success story so far this season is that of the San Francisco Giants. While most everyone thought the NL West would be a two team race between the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers, both have found themselves lagging behind the Bay Area team. The craziest part is, they haven’t really hit a long winning streak, only sweeping one series so far this young season. Let’s take a look and see how they’ve found so much success:
The Giants are not a young team. Most of their starting lineup is over the age of 30, especially when factoring in players currently on the Injured List (such as Tommy La Stella and Donovan Solano). The youngest player to receive regular playing time is 26 year old Marico Dubon.
You would think all this means the Giants are playing with elite talent that has kept up their numbers throughout long careers. Instead, most of these players have been declining before resurging this year. Buster Posey is one example of this. Despite 2018 and 2019 OPS+ numbers of. 108 and 83, respectively, and being out all of 2020, Posey is currently posting a 235 OPS+ in 23 games. That might not be completely sustainable, but he’s definitely on pace to end the season with the highest OPS+ of his career (which is currently 171 from 2012). Other notable players who have found the fountain of youth this season are Evan Longoria (146 OPS+, highest since 2012) and Brandon Crawford (127 OPS+, highest of his whole career). Again, smallish sample sizes, but definitely enough to somewhat predict the rest of their seasons.
The Giants pitching staff is slightly younger than their position players, but not by too much. Highlighting the staff are 30 year olds Kevin Gausman and Alex Wood. After being around league average for most of his big league career, Gausman is currently dominating, sporting a 1.97 ERA in seven starts. His 2.97 FIP (which I defined in my last article) is over a full run better than his career average, meaning it hasn’t just been a good defense behind him. Wood’s numbers are similar, with a 1.80 ERA and 2.94 FIP (Half a run better than career average). The rest of the rotation, save for 24 year old Logan Webb, has been solid.
The bullpen needs a little work, but Tyler Rodgers has been top notch. Closer Jake McGee has been below average, especially compared to his career numbers, but there’s still time for him to turn it around. We’ll see if they attempt to make a trade for another reliever soon.
The Giants have been bolstered by career years for a number of players,so it’s no wonder why they’ve jumped out to first in this young season. Looking ahead, they have one more game against a lowly Rangers team before starting a series against a similarly middling Pirates squad. Following that, they’ll face a middle of the road Reds team and the struggling but still dangerous Dodgers. These next series give them the opportunity to grow their lead over the Dodgers and Padres, so keep an eye on them over the next week and a half to show how legit they really are.
– Pat Shuman (@PShu1996 on Twitter) Check out my other articles here!