The 2021 MLB regular season was an unexpected joyous ride for the San Francisco Giants, as they won a league-best 107 games. At the same time, them losing in the National League Division Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers squandered that storybook regular season.
Blowing a 2-1 series lead in a matchup where they struggled to manufacture runs, the Giants failed to carry their regular-season momentum into the postseason. Where do they go from here?
The memory of losing to the rival Dodgers will sting the Giants’ faithful for eternity. On the other hand, the team has a foundation that should keep them in the NL pennant race for the foreseeable future. Here’s why the Giants will return to the MLB Playoffs in 2022.
Starting pitching is San Francisco Giants’ bedrock
The featured part of the 2021 Giants was their starting rotation, which dazzled from start to finish.
Manager Gabe Kapler had a presumed makeshift rotation, as many of the team’s starters previously struggled to stick on teams and/or were inconsistent. On the contrary, Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani and Logan Webb headlined an elite rotation this season.
- Kevin Gausman stats (2021): 2.81 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, .210 opponent batting average and 227 strikeouts across 192.0 innings (33 starts)
Gausman was one of the best pitchers in MLB. He logged strikeouts at a high rate, pitched deep into games and established himself as the team’s ace, picking up where he left off after an encouraging 2020 campaign. For most of the season, DeSclafani did an exceptional job of keeping runners off the basepaths and inducing weak contact with his off-speed pitches. The right-hander posted a superb 3.17 ERA.
Webb had a breakout season on the hill, highlighted by a 3.03 ERA. He grinded out at-bats, was efficient and came into his own as a power pitcher. Webb was money in the postseason, as he surrendered a mere run over 14.2 innings (two starts) against the Dodgers.
These pitchers can only improve, and they now have invaluable postseason experience. Meanwhile, veterans Alex Wood and Johnny Cueto were sturdy fixtures who worked out of trouble and complement the aforementioned budding arms. This combination works for the Giants moving forward.
San Francisco Giants have well-rounded offense
Yes, the Giants scored just 10 runs in the NLDS. That said, their offense was a well-oiled machine in the regular season and can build on its 2021 success. San Francisco finished the regular season second in MLB in home runs (241), fourth in OPS (.769), sixth in runs (804) and hits (1,360) and seventh in batting average (.249).
Now, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt had All-Star-caliber seasons. It’s unrealistic to expect all three of them to duplicate their individual success given that their 2021 production went against career tendencies.
Posey’s batting average was gradually dropping by the year. Crawford had far and away the best season of his MLB career at the plate. Belt has typically been a respectable hitter but not someone who’s knocking on the door of 30 home runs in a single season. Let’s say one of the three repeat their 2021 heroics, another takes a step back and the other has a rough season: the Giants should still have a top-10 offense.
San Francisco’s veterans can regress in production because the team’s outfield, which was once the best thing the franchise had going for itself, is capable of better performance. Mike Yastrzemski considerably slugs and is an electric hitter from the left side. Alex Dickerson and Austin Slater are a year removed from posting individual OPS’ above .900.
Furthermore, the San Francisco Giants’ positional depth chart is still in thumbs-up shape if Kris Bryant and Donovan Solano depart the Bay Area in free agency. LaMonte Wade Jr. and Darin Ruf are power threats and versatile fielders. Wilmer Flores, Mauricio Dubon and Thairo Estrada put the ball in play with frequency.
San Francisco Giants have a playoff roster
In all likelihood, the Giants will not win 107 games next season, nor will they crack 100 wins. They may not even win the NL West given the Dodgers’ continued dominance and the San Diego Padres having the talent to win the World Series; they’re an enigma but one that can compete for the pennant if they get back on track.
At the end of the day, though, the Padres were 28 games worse than the Giants, and the latter lost a grueling series to a team that knew them well in the Dodgers; San Francisco can beat anyone in the NL. The up-and-down nature of the NL Central and ineptitude of the NL East further enhance the Giants’ chances of at least attaining one of the two NL Wild Card seeds.
Kapler and friends have a balanced offense, which is accompanied by a dynamite rotation and a deep bullpen with a mix of proven and developing arms. That aspect of their ballclub was also one of the elite units in the sport. In short: the Giants are good in basically all aspects of the game (hitting, fielding, starting pitching and bullpen).
Nothing is a given, but the Giants are a safe bet to return to the playoffs. They have some room for error and a team that’s built for October.