The San Francisco Giants are MLB’s biggest surprise of the 2021 season so far. Them being good? A bit unexpected. Having the second best record and run differential in the National League through 34 games? A down-right shock.
Is it sustainable? According to prognosticators like FiveThirtyEight, the answer is no, the data-driven website giving the orange and black a 21 percent chance to make the playoffs, and a four percent chance to win the division they currently lead.
That number is definitely a little insulting, but it’s not that unreasonable to assume that a team sharing a division with the Dodgers and Padres, who is relying on a roster full of 30+ veterans, might fall off at some point.
Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle was asked to give her opinion on the long-term outlook on the 2021 Giants when she joined KNBR Monday. She seems to think their success could be sustainable, but that there are two areas most likely due for a regression that should be watched carefully.
“The things that are surprising are the sort of things that potentially could catch up with them,” Slusser told Papa & Lund on Monday. “The rotation is so much better than expected. It was really a lot of question marks. So many guys who are coming up to the end of contracts, one-year deals, stuff like that, you just don’t know. Guys coming off pretty major injuries. They’ve been, I don’t want to use the word overperforming, I think they’ve been performing at their best let’s say, and that could change.”
The Giants’ 15 quality starts and 2.99 ERA among starters are the third most in the NL. That’s a rotation that’s costing the Giants just over $48 million combined, and features two starters (Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood) who had ERA’s last season greater than six, one who didn’t pitch last season (Aaron Sanchez) and Logan Webb, who struggled mightily with the big-league club in 2020.
But that’s not the only question mark.
“Also their best players by far, have been their older players. The long season after a short season nobody knows how anybody’s going to respond to that down the stretch. The Giants are doing a great job of making sure everybody gets enough rest. So, they might not wide up wearing out some of these older guys by the end of the season, but man, the way Buster Posey is playing, the temptation to use him every day is pretty great.
“I talked to a scout yesterday, a very respected scout who sees the Giants a lot, and he says he’s not worried. These are the Giants’ best players, they are playing their best, they look incredibly motivated and this is who they are. They’re showing who they are, and the Giants are going to be smart with their playing time.”
It’s the players who were supposed to be washed who are dominating for the Giants. The team’s top four leaders in OPS are Buster Posey (1.231), Evan Longoria (.890), Brandon Belt (.838) and Brandon Crawford (.823). If they can keep that up, it’s hard to see how the Giants’ as a whole won’t be able to.
“You know, cautious optimism I’d say on both sides of the Bay.”
Listen to the full interview below.