Put a bow on Opening Week and file it away. Fans of the San Francisco Giants have already experienced firsthand the suspense, excitement, and disappointment that the game of baseball offers. Although one week is a short sample size, there is a lot to review. So, let’s take a deep dive into the Giants Opening Week and break down some key points of emphasis.
One week in, and the Giants sit at 3-3, having dropped two of three to the Seattle Mariners and snatching two of three from the San Diego Padres. Heartbreak, however, was served on Opening Day. Entering the bottom of the 8th inning in Seattle, the Giants enjoyed a 6-1 lead. This was when the bullpen took over for Kevin Gausman, who had pitched a gem. Unfortunately for Giants fans, it seemed as if the bullpen missed the memo that you need to throw strikes to record outs because the Mariners went on to score six runs in the inning and take the lead.
The game would conclude in the 10th inning when newly acquired Jose Alvarez took the mound. Alvarez proceeded to face three batters, walking them all. The third walk issued by Alvarez brought a runner home, ending the night with a final score of 7-8.
So, if the first game of Opening Week had to end in an extra-inning heartbreak, it’s only fitting that the week would conclude with some extra-inning delight. With the second series of the young season tied at 1-1, the Giants took care of business in the 10th inning this time. Wandy Peralta closed the door on San Diego to secure the game and series victory.
Players that Made a Statement in Giants Opening Week
A good place to start is with the big lefty Kevin Gausman. Gausman entered 2021 after establishing himself as the Giants’ number-one starter in 2020. Gausman had a bounce-back year after struggling in 2019. But would Gausman’s 2020 success carry over into 2021? That was a question that loomed in the minds of fans.
In Game One, Gausman was brilliant, pitching 6 2/3 innings of two-hit ball, allowing only one run. Once was great, but the new question quickly became, can you do it again? Gausman answered the question in his second start against the dynamic Padres offense and pitched seven innings of four-hit baseball, again allowing only one run. In one week’s time, Gausman has proven that 2020 was no fluke.
Kevin Gausman made a statement in the Giants Opening Week, but so did right-fielder Mike Yastrzemski. The difference being, where Gausman wowed fans, Yastrzemski baffled them. Yastrzemski, who finished 8th in the MVP voting last year, has started with an abysmal 2021. The statement made by Yastrzemski was ten strikeouts in 24 plate appearances.
In the Giants’ final Spring Training game vs. the Oakland Athletics, Yastrzemski was struck by a pitch on the left hand. X-rays were negative, however, and Yastrzemski was listed as day-to-day. Known by Giants fans as YAZ, the 30-year-old didn’t miss anytime and landed a spot on the team’s Opening Day lineup.
Yastrzemski has looked lost at the plate, and the issue hasn’t been weak contact. It’s been no contact at all. Although Yaz has publicly denied any correlation between the injury and his slow start, it’s safe to assume that he isn’t 100%. So, watch Yastrzemski closely and cross your fingers that he can turn things around.
The Long Ball
Holy home run. Gone are the Giants of the previous decade. From 2015-2019, the Giants finished in the bottom five for total team home runs. Six games into the 2021 season and San Francisco has already launched 11 big-flys over the wall.
The power bats for the Giants need to continue throughout the year. 11 home runs are great, but the team has scored just twenty total runs. Not a bad number, but over 50% of the Giants Offense is attributed to the longball. If the power dies off, the Giants will need to be able to string runs together to continue to win ball games.
- Evan Longoria – 3 home runs
- Buster Posey – 2 home runs
- Darin Ruf – 2 home runs
- Brandon Crawford – 1 home run
- Alex Dickerson – 1 home run
- Austin Slater – 1 home run
- Mike Yastrzemski – 1 home run
Not the Same Gabe Kapler
Analytics continues to insert itself as a primary tool for players and managers. Gabe Kapler and President Of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi rely heavily on this new, forward way of thinking. Don’t expect that to change, but it seems that Kapler is opening the door to a new and more human approach to managing.
In the 60-game 2020 season, San Francisco stole 19 bags. Six games into 2021 and the Giants have already swiped five. This puts the Giants on pace to surpass their 2020 total in a month. Kapler loosening the reigns and allowing, even encouraging players to steal bags, is exciting for both players and fans.
Let the players play. There’s an expression baseball fans have heard, but what about let the pitchers pitch? Too often last year, Giant starters were getting pulled in the fourth and fifth innings. If the analytics said it’s time to get the starter out, Kapler would primarily lean in that direction, but in the Giants Opening Week, Kapler has been letting the pitchers pitch.
- Kevin Gausman’s first start – 90 pitches
- Kevin Gausman’s second start – 96 pitches
- Johnny Cueto’s first start – 105 pitches
- Anthony DeSclafani’s first start – 86 pitches
- Logan Webb’s First start – 97 pitches
It’s not to say that these high pitch counts are to be expected day in and day out. However, the lengthening of the leash on starters and Kapler’s ability to trust in his pitchers, while looking away from what the computer might say to do, will go a long way towards establishing a high level of trust between players and manager; not to mention the stress this takes away from the bullpen.
A Long Way to go
There’s a lot of baseball left to be played, and the journey ahead won’t be easy. But if the Giants can continue to show power at the plate, and the starting rotation continues to perform at a high level, the fans have a lot to be excited about. The Giants will be back in San Francisco for the home team’s opener Friday vs. the Colorado Rockies.
Kevin Gausman, Jose Alvarez, Wandy Peralta, Mike Yastrzemski, Evan Longoria, Buster Posey, Darin Ruf, Brandon Crawford, Alex Dickerson, Austin Slater, Gabe Kapler, Johnny Cueto, Anthony DeSclafani, Logan Webb
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