We find ourselves at the All-Star break, the annual midseason pause. Take a deep breath, stretch your legs, and take stock of what has been. And when you’re ready, prepare yourself for what will be.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s assess where we are – where do the San Francisco Giants find themselves? In a pretty nice spot, it turns out.
The Giants have a 57-32 record, good enough for the best record in baseball. That’s right, the “has-been” Giants that many predicted to finish behind the Arizona Diamondbacks are the best team in the entire league.
It’s safe to say the Giants have surpassed all expectations thus far. They’ve spent most of the year at the top of the vaunted NL West, ahead of the preseason darlings in Los Angeles and San Diego. Those senior citizens in San Francisco have made the Dodgers, Padres, and the entire league stand up and take notice. “Let The Old Guys Play” indeed, as those t-shirts so wisely put it.
How did they get here? A combination of potent pitching and premium power have propelled the Giants into the playoff race, when many doubted it was possible. They lead all of MLB with 132 home runs and their 3.26 ERA puts them only behind the Dodgers. San Francisco is on course to host their first postseason games since 2016. Very few Giants fans could have dreamed of a first half this successful.
Today we’ll recap a handful of the key performers that have led the Giants to glory in the first half, with the hope this can continue all the way to October.
MVP – Brandon Crawford
The 34-year-old shortstop, selected to his third All-Star game, has been the foundation for the Giants’ success in 2021. He leads the team in almost every major hitting category: homers, hits, RBI, walks, appearances – pick a stat and Crawford is likely the guy at the top.
What Crawford has done this season is nothing short of miraculous. We’re halfway through the year and he’s only a few home runs shy of his career-high when he crushed 21 in his 2015 Silver Slugger season. Chances are he’ll soon surpass that total if he keeps swinging the bat like he has been.
His prodigious production at the plate has been accompanied by his always stellar defence. On a daily basis, he makes the impossible look easy. Fernando Tatis Jr. may be the star shortstop garnering all of the media spotlight but he can’t hold a candle to Crawford’s defensive prowess. Look up elite shortstop in the dictionary and you’ll see a photo of Crawford and his majestic locks staring back at you. I would argue Crawford has been playing some of his best defence ever in 2021, and he’s on course for a fourth Gold Glove award, at baseball’s most demanding position nonetheless.
HOW?! 🤯 pic.twitter.com/Wjhyjp6Q3a
— SFGiants (@SFGiants) July 10, 2021
Crawford is San Francisco’s rock. He has carried this team on his back on multiple occasions during the first half. With free agency on the horizon, many expected this to be Crawford’s final year with his hometown club, especially with some high profile shortstops on the market this winter. In my opinion he’s done more than enough to warrant another contract. It’s only right that Crawford enters the history books as a one-club man, a Forever Giant. Let’s hope the Giants find a way to keep Crawford at home a while longer.
Cy Young – Kevin Gausman
Gausman has been exemplary in 2021. He has been the true ace this Giants’ rotation has been calling out for. That $18.9 million qualifying offer to keep him in town is looking like seriously good business now. The next challenge the front office face will be keeping him in San Francisco beyond this year; Gausman will be a free agent come 2022.
Selected to his first ever All-Star game, Gausman has put on a show with each and every appearance. At the break he has a very pleasing 1.73 ERA over 18 starts and 114 ⅔ innings. His 10.44 K/9 rate is outstanding, as is his 0.63 HR/9 (per Fangraphs). I was hopeful the Giants were going to see the best of Gausman but I could never have foreseen what a star he has become.
The Giants have been blessed with an excellent rotation, headed by the dominant Gausman but supported by Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood and Johnny Cueto. As a group, they have been superb, and together, they will ultimately determine how far this Giants team can go.
Comeback Player of the Year – Buster Posey
Perhaps my favourite Giants player ever, Posey’s incredible return to action has warmed the hearts of Giants fans across the world. Few of us could have predicted the veteran catcher would come back in such style and be so reminiscent of the prime Posey we saw win MVP, Silver Sluggers, and three championships.
At 34 years old and still mindful of his significant 2018 hip surgery, Posey hasn’t played every day but his impact has still been felt. Posey retains that commanding presence behind the plate, managing a pitching staff that have surprised and delighted fans all year long. He proves daily that he is still among the elite catchers in the game.
You could argue Posey has been even more effective with the bat. He’s already hit 12 home runs, matching his tally for the 2018 and 2019 seasons combined. To see Posey hitting bombs with such ease has truly been one of the many highlights this year. Throughout his career, Posey has always hit well for average and 2021 has been no different; he sits comfortably with a .328 batting average, .421 OBP and .968 OPS. He’s a difficult out for any pitcher and Posey exemplifies the Giants’ strategy to wear down their opposition with every at-bat.
— SFGiants (@SFGiants) July 2, 2021
Selected to his seventh All-Star game after comprehensively winning the fan vote as the National League’s starting catcher, Posey’s 2021 season has been remarkable in every sense. It’s a shame his recent injury will see him miss the trip to Denver to represent the Giants. Nevertheless, this is the type of year he needed to push his Hall of Fame credentials up a notch, to show there is life in the old dog yet.
Ultimately it has been a hugely entertaining season for the Giants. Their performance so far has fans dreaming of a potential title run, a return to the glory days of ticker-tape parades down Market Street.
Injuries have taken their toll, as they have on many teams across the league. Brandon Belt, Evan Longoria, Tommy La Stella, Aaron Sanchez and Logan Webb have all missed large chunks of the campaign. Seemingly undeterred, the Giants’ astounding depth has kept the club competitive, a next-man-up mentality.
Huge credit must go to manager Gabe Kapler and his coaching staff. They have regularly displayed what an exceptional group they are, with a firm grasp on what they want this Giants team to do, and most importantly, how to achieve their goal. Kapler had his fair share of sceptics when he arrived in the city, and keyboard managers will always pick faults with his decision making (as sports fans are wont to do). More often than not, Kapler has proven them wrong, and his leadership of this team has been first-class.
Enjoy this All-Star break Giants fans. There’s been a lot to celebrate so far but we have even more to look forward to.
Ash Day is covering the San Francisco Giants as part of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @AshDay29
With Italy in the news, just a reminder to get you to download the awesome podcast with John McGee in conversation with Team Italy legend and former Blue Jays and Twins slugger, Chris Colabello.