Why the Giants Own First Place in the NL West

The NL West is loaded at the top end. The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres continue to be must-see TV as the division rivals wrap up their three-game set Wednesday evening. However, it’s another California team that resides atop the division, the San Francisco Giants . This article was almost titled, “Why the San Francisco Giants are the best team in the NL West.” But, ultimately, cooler heads prevailed. It would be unfair to make a statement like that, even as that Giants club holds a record of 47-26. This mark is the best in MLB.

You’ve heard that pitching and defense win ballgames. Well, what does pitching, defense, and hitting win? The division, perhaps? The Giants are in first place in the NL West because of a combination of the three. The Giants currently top the National League in home runs hit, pitching wins, and have committed the fewest errors.

Arguably the Best Pitching in the NL West

The Giants starting rotation started the first quarter of this season in another stratosphere. Kevin Gausman’s dominance has continued. He currently has a 1.51 ERA and holds an 8-1 record. Wednesday, he will take the mound vs. Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels in what will be a showcase of two dominant splitters.

Anthony DeSclafani has also remained very good. DeSclafani woke up on May 23rd with a 2.03 ERA. He had been cruising. Unfortunately, he ran into a Dodger buzz-saw on this day. He surrendered ten earned runs in 2 2/3 innings of work. The obliteration raised his ERA to 3.54. However, after a dominant performance Tuesday night vs. the Angels, he has got his ERA back down to 2.77.

The Giants pitching as a whole has been very good. However, when the season started and the rotation was performing at an elite level, the bullpen struggled. Now, the rotation has chilled, though it is still performing very well. The bullpen, however, got a kick in the rear and is now performing extremely well. Here are some notable stats that paint a clear picture of how the Giants pitching staff has lead the Giants to first place in the NL West.

Stats up to date as of July 23rd.

National League Rankings, Pitching

  • Wins- 1st
  • Loses- 1st
  • ERA- T-3rd
  • SV- 1st
  • SHO- 1st
  • QS- 2nd
  • H- 4th
  • ER- 3rd
  • HR- 4th
  • BB- 1st
  • WHIP- T-1st

NL West Best Defense

The Giants aren’t only the top-rated defensive team in the NL West. They are the top-rated defensive team in the National League. The Giants have committed the fewest errors, 32. Also, they have the highest fielding percentage, .988. This has been the staple of the San Francisco Giants since the Barry Bonds days, pitching and defense. In addition, Giants pitchers have the highest groundball rate in all of baseball. With a pitching staff that is so good at keeping the ball on the ground and a defense behind them that doesn’t miss, that’s a recipe for winning baseball.

Brandon Crawford

Brandon Crawford deserves to be under the defensive heading above. In 222 total chances this year, Crawford has committed just four errors. Thus, making his fielding percentage .982. This is only a tick below his career defensive year in 2016, in which he sat at .983 during his second Gold Glove season. Since Crawford’s 2016 season in which he finished 12th in the MVP voting, his defensive stats have declined every year. Well, that’s over, and Crawford has turned 2021 into his own personal highlight reel.

So, why does B-Craw get a category all to his own? Because not only is he having, arguably, the best defensive season of his career, but he is undoubtedly having the best offensive season of his career as well. Crawford leads the Giants in home runs, runs batted in, and on-base percentage. He is second on the team in hits. Technically he is first in the club in batting average as well. However, Buster Posey is batting .328. He doesn’t qualify due to the number of at-bats he’s taken with all the rest that manager Gabe Kapler is getting him.

In 2015 Crawford hit 21 home runs in 143 games. 64 games into 2021, and he’s already got 16. They haven’t been cheapies either. Ask anyone if they thought Crawford would be on pace to end the season at nearly 40 home runs. As long as everyone can commit to being realistic, the response you should receive in that situation would be a grin followed by a chuckle.

A Surprising Offense

Usually, the talk of the offense should be a player or group of players. And plenty of players have been very successful. However, the stars of the Giants offense are the coaching staff. What hitting coaches Donnie Ecker and Justin Viele have been able to do to these Giants offensively, has been amazing. The offensive philosophy in San Francisco is to only swing at pitches you can drive. It sounds simple enough, but it is working very well.

The staff allows hitters to swing their own way. It’s a “what works for you” approach. The hitters focus on their swings, and the coaches help make small tweaks that allow hitters to stay comfortable and be more successful. When asked about his offensive uptick, Brandon Crawford delivers huge props to the coaching staff for putting him in the best position to be successful.

While the hitting coaches allow the players to feel comfortable in their own swings, manager Gabe Kapler has been brilliant in his chess match of pinch hitters. It’s not too often in San Francisco that a position player that starts a game will finish it. So Kapler is constantly pinch-hitting and trusts every hitter on his roster to step up and make the play when their name is called. And he’s got no reason not to trust in his guys. As a result, the Giants lead the league in pinch-hit home runs along with a variety of other offensive categories, including home runs.

National League Rankings, Hitting

  • Runs- 2nd
  • 3B- 4th
  • HR- 1st
  • RBI- 3rd
  • TB- 1st
  • BB- 3rd
  • SO- 4th
  • AVG- T-4th
  • OBP- 3rd
  • SLG- 1st
  • OPS- 1st

NL West Leading Giants

The Giants are top-tier in all three categories of pitching, hitting, and defense. This is why not only do they have the best record in the NL West, but the best record in all of baseball. They currently hold a three-game lead over the defending World Champion Dodgers. A month into the season, the talk of the town was, yeah, the Giants are better than we thought, but it’s only a matter of time before the Dodgers and the Padres take over. And after month two, Ok, the Giants are for real, but it’s only a matter of time. Now, as we get ready to close out on the third month of the season and the Giants remain in first place, it’s time to change the narrative. The best rivalry in baseball isn’t the Dodgers and the Padres. It’s the Giants, who supposedly can’t keep this up, vs. the National League.

“Main Photo”
Embed from Getty Images

 

Players Mentioned:

Kevin Gausman, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Barry Bonds, Anthony DeSclafani


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