Since the dawn of the 2021 season, every major figure in the baseball world has, at some point, uttered some semblance of these seven words: “The Giants aren’t really World Series contenders.” Whether it be by saying “The Dodgers will easily overtake them. It’s just a matter of time,” or “Just look at them. I don’t know how they’ve won so many games,” the consensus surrounding San Fran has been “Just you wait. They’ll show their true colors soon enough.” I, the resident Giants fan at Deadspin, would merely shake my head at those predictions. Clearly, those “experts” just couldn’t see how positive Posey’s absence from the team in 2020 was for his health. Clearly, they couldn’t comprehend that a rotation led by Kevin Gausman could be so dominant. CLEARLY, they just didn’t believe enough.
Okay…maybe they had a point.
Everybody knew this upcoming stretch was going to be difficult for the Giants. Three of their last four series have been against Oakland, Atlanta, and Milwaukee, and the Giants still have four games against the Dodgers and nine against the Padres remaining on their schedule. It’s going to be a tough final 30 games for San Francisco. However, nobody expected the Giants to be playing this poorly. They’ve scored five runs in their last four games. They have a -14 run differential over their last six. I can understand the losses to Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff, but I mean come on, at least put up a decent fight.
These hideous performances against other projected playoff teams this late in the season don’t give me much hope for the Giants’ World Series chances moving forward. Sure, they’ll do fine in the Wild Card Game, should they need to play it. Since its inception in 2012, that game has more or less come down to which team has the better starting pitching. If you have a legitimate ace on your staff, your chances go through the roof. I know Yu Darvish is great, and Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, or whoever Cincinnati would choose to throw out there have been wildly underrated, but in 2021, I’ll take Gausman every day of the week.
However, the next legs of the postseason are where things start to get questionable. With how many injuries the Giants pitching staff has suffered over the course of the season, who’s to say that DeSclafani, Wood, Cueto, and company will or won’t be ready by the time the NLCS rolls around. Even if they are ready, who’s to say they won’t get hurt again? Each of them has taken multiple trips to the IL this season. While the Giants have done a nice job of filling in for these injured guys with other pitchers capable of getting outs, the postseason is going to be much less forgiving. You’re telling me that fill-ins are going to have to compete with Scherzer, Buehler, and Urias or Burnes, Woodruff, and Peralta. I don’t like those odds one bit.
Let’s not forget that the Giants are also the oldest team in Major League Baseball. They’re the only team with an average player age over 30 (the Oakland A’s sit at exactly 30.0). The core members of their offense — Posey, Belt, Crawford — are all 33 or older. Yes, Bryant is young, but he hasn’t been there all season. The fact that the 2020 season was so short (Posey didn’t even play in 2020) probably played a major factor in how each of these three old men were able to put together career years in 2021, so far past their primes. They were well-rested.
However, as the season has progressed, each of them has cooled off tremendously. Don’t get me wrong, the three of them are all still threats when they step up to the plate, but there was a time earlier in the season where Brandon Crawford was playing better than Trea Turner. There was a time where Buster Posey was the runaway best catcher in the National League. That’s not the case anymore. They just haven’t been able to keep up that elite level of play for the entire season, and the fact that each of the Big 3 B’s (Brandon, Brandon, and Buster) has spent substantial time on the IL, only furthers that point.
Frankly, the Giants are not and have never been the team to beat in the National League. As great as their record is, this has always been Milwaukee’s and Los Angeles’ pennant to lose. I say this as a Giants fan, fully aware that this may be blasphemy by the Bay, but throughout the entirety of the season, we’ve all had that nagging voice in the back of our heads “What if this team isn’t as good as their record indicates?” We like to pretend it isn’t there. We brush it aside as nonsense. Otherwise, how would they have been able to hold off the Dodgers for so long? But the voice lingers. It doesn’t matter how well you do in the regular season.
All that matters is October, just ask the 2001 Mariners, and the Giants just aren’t cut out for it. Geez, that hurt to write.
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