By Jonas Shladovsky
This past March, an old, very good friend of this newspaper’s editor, Bruce Riordan, drove from Berkeley to Reno and made a slightly dicey bet: he put his money down on the San Francisco Giants winning more than 74 games this season, a slightly smaller proportion of wins than they had during last year’s shortened, 60 game schedule.
However, at the midseason All-Star Game, the Giants are flying high, with 57 wins and only 32 losses, a record telling us Bruce will be collecting his winnings soon. Having won 64 percent of their games, the best won/
loss ratio in Major League Baseball, the Giants now sit first in the National League West, outperforming the
astounding starpower of the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers with a squad of overachievers.
Foundational to the San Francisco ballclub’s success has been the return of three-time World Series winning catcher Buster Posey. Coming into the season, the impact Posey would have was unknown; the three-
time champ was approaching his 34th birthday and hadn’t swung a bat in over a year, having opted out of the 2020 season after he and his wife adopted newborn twins.
The time off didn’t spell an end to Posey’s prime. It revitalized his game, perhaps because it allowed him to
fully recover from his 2018 hip surgery. He’s enjoyed his first double-digit homer season since 2017, and at the
All-Star break, he’s 2nd in the MLB in on-base percentage, getting on base over 4.2 times per 10 at-bats. Posey’s mentality fits in perfectly with the Giants organization’s current transition into a Gabe Kapler
led, analytics-informed era, according to President of Baseball Operations for the Giants, Farzan Zaidi.
“He’s very open-minded, but he holds new concepts or thoughts on the acquisition of players to a high standard.
You want that. Things should be vetted. For someone who has accomplished a lot, he’s very forward-thinking,” said Zaidi in an ESPN interview.
Just as integral to the Giants as Posey’s revitalization has been the transformation of Kevin Gausman into an elite
starting pitcher. Gausman experienced spotty success during stints with the Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds, underutilizing the top-drawer fastball and splitter pitches in his arsenal.
San Francisco signed Gausman as a free agent in 2019 with one condition: they wanted him to throw his two best pitches 90 percent of the time, upping his splitter to 50 percent of his repertoir. Calling on his best moves, Gausman is one of the top three starters in baseball by several statistical measures. He’s limited opponents to .163 and .136 batting averages against his fastball and splitter, and has bored proponents of offense to death, only allowing 3 or more runs on two occassions.
Beyond Posey and Gausman, the offensive resurgence of veteran shortstop Brandon Crawford, the depenable pitching of Anthony DeScalfani, and the versatility of outfielder Mike Tauchman, cannot be underestimated in their roles in the Giants’ success.
When a team like this, built on overlooked, undervalued pieces, begins to lose momentum, one can only
assume a definitive return to Earth will occur during the second half of the season. However, a May 28 moment
might be an omen favoring the Giants ability to keep on rolling throughout the 2021 season. On a Friday night
at Dodger Stadium, Albert Pujols began jogging to first after hitting a game-winning home run that spelled the
Giants’ fifth loss in seven games, a worrisome streak of regression. But it wasn’t a game-winning dinger; it
was a monster, wall-climbing catch by Tauchman that kept a night that eventually led to a Giants victory going, that turned the tide for the Giants to take three straight from the star-studded Dodgers.