Ok, raise your hand if you expected the San Francisco Giants to be in first place in the NL West at the conclusion of the first month of the season. As long as everyone remains unbiased, not many hands should be flying up to the sky. However, for the first time since 2014, The underdog Giants are leading the NL West. So, What is the explanation for the Giants hot start?
It’s fair to say that heading into the start of the 2021 season, the battle for NL West superiority appeared to be a two-team race. There are the defending World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, who have won the division for eight straight years, and the exciting San Diego Padres, lead by mega-star Fernando Tatis Jr. Offseason conversations surrounding these two clubs were about more than just which one of these teams would win the division. It was more like which one would be representing the NL in the 2021 World Series.
Here come the Giants with their oversized whisk, ready to stir the pot. The Giants finished the month of April at 16-10. They are half a game ahead of the Dodgers and 1.5 games ahead of the Padres. And, the Giants are doing this with names such as Buster Posey, Evan Longoria, and Johnny Cueto. Three aging stars who have been labeled as “past their prime.” Whatever it is that has washed up on the shore of the San Francisco Bay is working for the Giants.
Starting Rotation Key Factor in Giants Hot Start
The Giants offense was very good in 2020 and figured to carry its success into 2021. The pitching staff, however, remained drenched in question marks. Can Kevin Gausman carry his success over from 2020? Who the heck was Johnny Cueto going to be? Aaron Sanchez has been MIA since 2019, also, Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood were coming off of the worst year of their careers ERA-wise.
Well, Surprise Surprise
The questionable bunch of reclamation projects known as the San Francisco Giants starting rotation has the best ERA in MLB through one month. The hot start is attributed to this rotation, which has posted a 2.29 ERA. Five of the six pitchers that have made starts for the Giants have an ERA of 2.41 or lower. Furthermore, Alex Wood and Anthony DeSclafani both have an ERA of 1.50
The Giants are tied for first in the big leagues with six shutouts in April. They are tied with the Dodgers in this category. The Giants also are tied for first in the big leagues with 11 saves. And, drumroll please, they are tied for first with the Padres in that one. There are some big-name studs pitching out of the NL West so far.
The Dodgers have guys like Clayton Kershaw and Trevor Bauer. And, if one continued to type out a list of studs that the Dodgers had available for their rotation, said person’s fingers would get tired and fall off because they have a lot. Ok, a bit of sarcasm was peppered in there, of course, but they are definitely a powerhouse. The Padres have studs Blake Snell and Yu Darvish at the top of their rotation, and Dinelson Lamet is now working his way back into the rotation as well.
Whatever has come over the Giants rotation that has positioned them on the same level as the Dodgers and Padres is a welcomed sight. Gaints fans are excited, and baseball fans are, well, shocked, frankly. Still, 140 games remain, and only time will tell if this level of success is sustainable for this rotation. However, so far, so good in San Francisco.
The New Buster Posey Looks Like the Old Buster Posey
It is difficult to define what Buster Posey has been doing at the plate this year. Is he the Buster Posey of old, or is he a new Buster Posey? In his last “full-ish” season in 2019, Posey hit seven home runs. In April of 2021, he has hit six. A lifetime .302 hitter, Posey is off to a blistering start hitting .361 through 26 games. Posey leads the Giants in hits, runs, home runs, and batting average.
“I feel good, I think it’s a combination of a lot of different things — some of my preparation for the game, working with the hitting [coaches], being a little bit further away from the hip surgery.” Said Posey
Buster Posey taking off the 2020 season for health-related concerns due to Covid-19 proves to have made a world of difference for the longtime Giants backstop. His bat speed is looking great, and his hips are looking strong. Manager Gabe Kapler is doing a great job getting Posey plenty of rest. Posey’s body has been beaten down and riddled with injury since his Rookie Of The Year 2011 season. Posey’s body needs this rest, and Kapler is doing it the right way. He is making off days for Posey real off days, rather than off days for Posey being him sliding over to play first base.
Giants Hot Start Sustainability
The Giants hot start has been a surprise. Especially playing in what has arguably been the best division in baseball through April, with four of the five clubs having records over .500. The Giants play the Padres in five out of their next eight games. They will get their first taste of the Dodgers on May 21st. Perhaps a better way to describe the team’s first meeting with the Dodgers is buffet rather than a taste. The two clubs will play seven games over a ten-day span.
The San Francisco Giants are among three Cinderella teams through April. There are the Boston Red Sox, who sit atop of the AL East at 17-10, and the Kansas City Royals on top of the AL Central at 15-9. There seems to always be that team that turns heads and finishes the season way above expectations. If the Giants pitching continues to perform the way it has through April, there is no reason to believe that the Giants couldn’t be that team. However, if their rotation starts to slow down, it will be up to the offense to pick things up in order for the Giants to remain a force in the talent-crowded NL West.
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