The San Francisco Giants cap the first half of the 2021 season with a victory at Chase Field in Arizona. The win comes on the heels of a four-game losing streak. The four-game skid prior to Friday night’s victory marks the largest losing streak for the club this season. The Giants currently have a record of 52-30 and hold a half-game lead over the Los Angels Dodgers.
According to FanGraphs, the Giants currently have 77.1% odds of making the postseason. Considering the Giants began this season with a 5.7%, one could say things are going well. The club has exceeded expectations in all three phases of the game, pitching, hitting, and defense. Players like Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey seem to have been reborn. And, the island of misfit pitchers that president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has put together, has been turning heads.
Giants First Half Studs You Know
Kevin Gausman: Gausman has started the first half 8-2 with a 1.68 ERA. Only Jacob DeGrom of the New York Mets has him beat with an absurd 0.95 ERA. Kevin Gausman was drafted fourth overall in 2012. And, after seven seasons of not meeting expectations, he has officially found his stride in a Giants uniform. Gausman is a two-pitch pitcher, throwing his fastball and splitter nearly 90% of the time. This is for a good reason too. Gausman’s splitter is the definition of fall off the table. The pitch comes out of his hand appearing identical to his fastball until it’s in the dirt, and the opposition has already swung at air.
Buster Posey: Raise your hand if you’re guilty of assuming the years of Buster Posey being an all-star talent were behind him. If you’re reaching for the sky, you’re not alone. Posey’s body had been devastated with injury over the years. This lead to 2019 being arguably the worst statistical year of his career. Well, toss that out the window because Buster Posey is batting .328 and has hit 12 homers. Posey last hit 12 home runs in 2017. The difference is, it took him 140 games to do it. Posey’s 2021 performance has earned him his seventh All-Start Game appearance.
These two studs are a big reason that the Giants’ first half concludes with the club in first place. However, there are a lot of other players that deserve mention. Brandon Crawford is having the best year of his career and leads the club in home runs with 17. He also leads the team in RBI, OBP, Runs, and OPS. Not bad. Starter Anthony DeSclafani turned his 7.22 ERA in 2020, into a 2.91 ERA this season. He has pitched two complete-game shutouts and holds a record of 8-3.
The Giants First Half Stud You Don’t Know
Steven Duggar: It is time to start talking about Steven Duggar. The narrative has officially changed from, he’s hot right now, to,” he’s figured it out.” Duggar is the best defensive center-field option on the team. Really, he has been since 2018. Kudos to the Giants for holding onto him for so long. It’s been years of trying to let him work out his offensive struggles. He’s had a giant hole in his swing. He couldn’t hit the high pitch. The opposition could tell him that it’s coming, and he would still miss it. And, he couldn’t refrain from swinging at it. His timing was poor, and he had six home runs in three years. Simply, not a big leaguer.
In 2021, Steven Duggar has become a stud with a capital S, T, U, and D. He’s recorded 45 hits in 54 games and has matched his career home run total of six in this season alone. How is he doing it? Obviously, to not give some credit to the coaching staff would be an abomination. However, let’s take a look at what happens when Duggy, as his buddies call him, puts the ball in play. His LD% is 30.3%, a career-high. His GB% is 34.8%, a career-low. And, he is hitting the ball up the middle of the field at a clip of 55.7%.
A Little Competition
The Giants started the season and played a bit of musical center fielder. Mauricio Dubon started the season as the team’s starting centerfielder. Although extremely versatile, being able to play multiple positions at a high level, his offensive production has landed him in AAA. Austin Slater had a shot. However, he has proven to be much too streaky, and the hole in his swing is ironically right down the middle. Mike Tauchman was acquired in a trade with the New York Yankees early in the season. Much like Duggar, he is an outstanding outfielder, but he’s also not hitting. For now, and what appears to be the foreseeable future, center field belongs to Steven Duggar.
A Winning Culture
Whether it be the resurgence of Buster Posey or Brandon Crawford, perhaps the studs in the rotation, an additional factor in the Giants’ first-half success has been the bullpen. Tyler Rogers and his 1.40 ERA in 38 and 2/3 innings of work is deserving of an article all to himself. The coaching staff and their ability to make hitters comfortable at the plate, along with their knack for turning over-the-hill pitchers into front-line starters, have had a major impact. Skipper Gabe Kapler might be the biggest stud of them all. He could probably deadlift more iron than anyone else on the team, and he could do it in blue jeans.
However, it’s the culture that has been created in San Francisco that takes the cake. The unexpected Giants is a roster, from top to bottom, of men that expect to win. Newcomers to the big-league club come in with the expectation to perform. If they don’t, then no big deal. They can have their spot in the Minor Leagues back. A great example of this is infielder Thairo Estrada. Estrada made his first start as a member of the Giants in game number 81. He went 3 for 5 with five RBI. He was a triple shy of the cycle, and not only did he hit his first home run as a member of the Giants, but he hit his first career grand slam. After a first half full of injuries, victories, and studs, the Giants are for real, and they are here to stay.
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