Over the last 25 years, few baseball teams have been as randomly good as this year's San Francisco Giants have been. That's not to take anything away from what they've done. But generally, when teams "come out of nowhere," that often comes with a bit of an asterisk. A team with a 2008 Rays technically came out of nowhere because it was the first time they ever made the postseason and, therefore, the first time they ever went to the World Series. But for several years, the Tampa Bay Rays had built up an excellent system with guys like Carl Crawford, David Price, and Evan Longoria. All of them came into their own in 2008. You can say the same about teams like the 2015 Astros or the 2015 Cubs, who spent years rebuilding to the point of legitimate competition then came into their own one year. This year's Giants aren't filled with many upstart youngsters that they drafted into their farm system. It's one of the oldest lineups in baseball. Of the Giants' top 8 hitters, one of them (Steve Duggar) is under 30. It's a team made up of crafty veterans, and let's be honest, has-beens. They've seen resurgent seasons from almost every veteran in the lineup.
Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, and Evan Longoria have all had outstanding seasons. And while it is surprising that the players I just mentioned have all seen a resurgence in 2021, it's not necessarily shocking. Buster Posey and Evan Longoria have had borderline Hall of Fame careers since coming into the league over a decade ago. Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt have always been steady, and of course, they acquired Kris Bryant at the deadline, who has been an excellent acquisition for them. So the production from the lineup is not shocking. What is astonishing is the production they've gotten out of the pitching staff. Good luck finding a person who had Kevin Gausman putting up a 5 WAR season on their 2021 baseball bingo card. If you would've told me that he would be the head of a rotation that was going to be one of baseball's best, I would've laughed. Pitching coach Andrew Bailey deserves a ton of credit for getting the most out of a staff full of pitchers that most of the league had forgotten.
The other person I feel has been in the midst of a bit of a revenge tour throughout the 2021 season has been Giants manager Gabe Kapler. I was all-in on the idea of the Tigers getting Gabe Kappler after Brad Ausmus got fired following the 2017 season. Kapler ended up going to the Phillies, and in his two-year tenure, there was essentially a disaster. I don't know what changed. Maybe the Phillies never fully bought in. Maybe Kapler learned from the experience, but he has come to San Francisco and has done a marvelous job. He's handled his lineup, the media, and the bullpen incredibly well. He is going to run away with the National League Manager of the Year, as he should. Gabe Kapler's tenure in Philadelphia may be one of those tenures that we look back on the same way as AJ Hinch's tenure in Arizona, a great manager who maybe just never got a fair shot.
If you would've asked me before the season if it was more likely that the Giants would finish in last place or first place, I would've bet the farm on last. There is still a ways to go. Maybe the Giants end up coughing up this division, but quite frankly, they've already proven me wrong. I've been waiting all year for the other shoe to drop with them, and it never had. They've won 94 games, and unless they lose out, they will win more games this season than they did in any of the years that they won the World Series in the early to mid-2010s. It's just one of those incredible "only in baseball" kinds of stories.