The San Francisco Giants were not expected to be in the position they are in at the end of September, battling for the best Major League Baseball record and approaching the team’s first 100-game season since 2003.
After finishing 29-31 in a shortened 2020 season, the Giants missed the playoffs by just one game. âIt will definitely be one of our goals to be a playoff team next year,â said Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi (September 2020). A year later, the Giants have become a powerhouse; no team has won more games this season.
At the start of the season, FanGraphs predicted that San Francisco would have a 5.7% chance of qualifying for the playoffs. Five months later, the Giants were the first Major League Baseball team to land a playoff berth. How did this team defy such low expectations?
Letâs not pretend that this team is something itâs not; the composition of the Giants roster was not supposed to compete with the Dodgers and Padres in an intimidating West Division of the National League (NL). A core of aging veterans consisting of Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, with unproven manager at the helm, Gabe Kapler, has had few questioning San Francisco’s modest preseason projections.
Nonetheless, there is a reason why baseball cannot be played on a computer. The Giants dominated their competition with an impressive 97-53 record, as well as the third best points differential (+181) in the majors.
With the Giants’ incredible record, one would assume the team would relax at the end of the regular season, bracing for a first-round playoff pass and looking for potential NL Wild Card teams. Alas, this is not the case.
The Los Angeles Dodgers sit in the rearview mirror of the Giants – neck and neck with a 96-54 record. If San Francisco was part of another baseball division, the Giants would pop bottles of champagne, lightening the regular season’s accelerator. With two weeks left in the regular season, the what-if scenarios don’t bring your team any closer to lifting a World Series trophy. The Giants need to stay focused and keep fighting for the division crown in order to prevent one winner from taking the entire Wild Card game.
After a series victory over the Atlanta Braves at the top of the NL East, the Giants look set to persist. Their schedule contains crucial playoffs against a team fighting to stay alive in the San Diego Padres (twice) and six games in total against bottom-feeders in Colorado and Arizona. The final two weeks of the regular season will be a big test for the team, and an even bigger test for manager Gabe Kapler in his quest to reverse his reputation. After failing to get his team above 0.500 in 2018 and 2019 with Philadelphia, the Phillies fired Kapler.
A few months later, Kapler was hired in San Francisco, inheriting the team from Hall of Fame director Bruce Bochy. The roster Kapler assumed wasn’t the abundance of talent Bochy had in the early 2010s, but since joining the Giants have done things the ârightâ way.
Players rave about Kapler’s interpersonal skills and his ability to build an egoless clubhouse. The manager is instrumental in the success of rookies and the resurgence of veterans, including the new reputation of pitchers like Kevin Gausman and Anthony DeScalfani.
Giants CEO Larry Baer called the communication between Kapler and team leaders “exceptional.”
” That relation [between Zaidi and Kapler] was A-plus, âBaer continued. “It’s important because no franchise in any sport succeeds without it.”
The Giants have yet to experience any extended losing streak this season, a true testament to the chemistry and morale of the teams, starting at the top with Kapler and Zaidi.
With such an impressive record, is this season a championship year or a loss for the Giants? Well, yes and no. In the short term, the Giants would like to take another ring in the World Series and let their older players soar into the sunset and become Giants for life. Long term, 2021 isn’t a championship or loss season for the Giants, and it marks a year of notable change for San Francisco baseball. The teams play has already exceeded the expectations of the fans, the media and the organization, while re-energizing the sold-out crowds at Oracle Park: a much better atmosphere compared to the lifeless crowds that attended the games. since 2016.
At the end of the regular season, the Giants are fighting tooth and nail to hold onto the top spot in the National League heading into the playoffs. While many well-deserved thanks went to Zaidi and Kapler, the main credit for the team’s success goes to the players. At the top and bottom of the Giants roster, players accept their roles and take on all the throws in a fight. Their relentless approaches and well-timed strikes generate excitement among Giants fans reminiscent of the team’s championship races in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
On paper, the Giants don’t possess the same high-level talents as other elite teams like the Dodgers, Rays and Brewers, but fans should be excited about the prospects for this team. While they contain some of the magic of previous teams, the improvement across the board shouldn’t go unnoticed. This Giant’s team may end up falling just short of previous championship teams over the past decade, but in the short term, this team has already made its mark with Giants fans across the country.
Contact Thomas Dunn at [email protected] or call (408) 554-4852.