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From Crawford to Webb: 107 reasons why Giants won 107 games originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
The number is staggering: 107.
It's a number that represents the most wins in Giants franchise history, and every single one was needed. Take any of them away -- the Mike Tauchman game, the LaMonte Wade Jr. heroics, all the games Brandon Crawford seemed to win by himself -- and the Giants aren't celebrating an NL West title on Sunday at Oracle Park.
But in 2021, everything came together. The Giants, a group picked to win somewhere between 75-80 games, had one of the best seasons in National League history. How did they do it?
"I don't think there was one secret ingredient," said Crawford, the team's best player. "We've done a good job of playing good baseball all year, whether it's the offensive side, the defensive side, the pitching side -- we've just done a good job of playing good, quality baseball all around. It doesn't really matter who is in the dugout, we feel like we can go out and win every night."
The Giants just kinda did everything right. That's the best way to explain it. Or, we could use the words of one member of the title teams, who smiled Sunday as he looked out at the best team in baseball.
"It's crazy what's happened," he whispered. "It's like when Hunter Pence hit the ball three times."
That's perhaps the best way of summing it up. This was six straight months of very, very good baseball but also moments where it was hard to believe what was happening. It all led to 107 wins. Here's how the Giants got here:
1. The Architect: Farhan Zaidi inherited a team that lost 187 games in 2017-18, but in his introductory press conference he said his goal was for the Giants to play competitive baseball as deep as they could in 2019. He also said they would stack one good baseball decision on top of the next as they built. It took just three seasons for that initial vision to result in an NL West title, with the Giants edging Zaidi's old boss, Andrew Friedman, by one game.
2. The General Manager: Scott Harris might have been the GM of the Chicago Cubs had he stayed in the Windy City, but Zaidi brought the Bay Area native back to help run his hometown team. Zaidi and Harris have led a deep front office that includes a lot of holdovers from the previous regime, and right now there might not be a better group in the game.
3. The Manager of the Year: Gabe Kapler was not a popular hire, but he should be a unanimous choice for NL Manager of the Year, and he has won over a fanbase that was initially skeptical. He has proven to be the right leader for this organization and clubhouse, and he ran circles around most opposing managers this year with his in-game moves.
4. The Staff: Kapler put together the largest staff in the big leagues, and perhaps the most innovative one in MLB history. It's a group full of people who did not play in the big leagues, but they squeezed every ounce out of this roster the last two seasons.
5. Age Is Just A Number: The average Giants hitter this year was 30 years, seven months old, the oldest in the NL by a year and a half. The Giants got 3,225 plate appearances from hitters who were 31-35 years old, nearly 800 more than the next closest team.
Those players combined for 132 homers, 52 more than the next closest team, and a .815 OPS. The Giants went all-in on experience, and it couldn't have worked out better.
6. Buster's Back: After opting out of the 2020 season, Buster Posey put up a .304/.390/.499 slash line. He hit 18 homers after totaling 12 the previous two seasons he played. His .889 OPS was his highest since he was NL MVP in 2012. To do all of that as a 34-year-old catcher should push him over the edge with Hall of Fame voters.
7. Keeping Buster On The Field: Throughout the spring and the first half of the season, Kapler took questions about Posey's schedule. He would sit down with Posey and map it out a couple of weeks at a time, but it drove fans nuts when Posey would play two games and then always take the third game off.
Well, it worked. Posey ended up with 454 plate appearances, his most in four years. His 892 innings were his most since 2016. His arm and bat looked fresh down the stretch, and he went 7-for-18 with six RBI while appearing in all six games of the final homestand.
8. The MVP? You could fill a lot of this list with Brandon Crawford facts, and we'll get to more. But you don't have to look hard to see that his best season came as the oldest everyday shortstop (34) in the Majors. Crawford set career-highs with a .298 average, 24 homers and 90 RBI. His OPS+ of 141 was 26 points higher than his previous best.
9. The Captain: The funniest moment of the year was Brandon Belt wearing a captain's 'C' at Wrigley Field, and then keeping a straight face as he dropped lines like, "You know, somebody has got to step up, and when you're the alpha male on the team it's got to be you." On a related note, the Giants are 17-5 since The Captain made his first appearance.
Brandon Belt, the captain, is going in the postgame press conference Hall of Fame for this one: pic.twitter.com/sLy7WSPNvO
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) September 10, 2021
10. The Captain's Career Year: At the age of 33, Belt blew past a lot of previous career highs. He hit 29 homers, 11 more than his previous best, and would have gotten to 30 pretty easily had he not gotten hit by a pitch. His .597 slugging percentage was a new high, and his OPS+ of 160 was second only to his breakout 2020 short season.
11. The Captain's September: Belt absolutely carried the Giants for a stretch before getting hurt. In 22 September appearances, he had a .349./.451/.721 slash line with nine homers in 86 at-bats. When the Giants needed him most, The Captain led the way.
12. The Dingers: The Giants hit 241 homers, the most in the NL and the most in franchise history. They broke a mark set by the 2001 team that got 73 homers from Barry Bonds.
13. The Pinch-Hit Dingers: The Giants had 18 pinch-hit homers, an MLB record. Kapler was particularly proud of this one.
14. Austin Slater: His four pinch-hit homers tied a franchise record. Slater had 12 homers overall and posted a .894 OPS against lefties.
15. Crawford Fun Fact: He also stole 11 bases, becoming the first Giants shortstop in 92 years to hit 20 homers and steal double-digit bags.
16. Cody Bellinger's throw: This was helpful.
17. The Kris Bryant Trade: His overall numbers don't jump off the page, but he has a 113 OPS+ as a Giant and has deepened the lineup. That deal also signaled to the clubhouse that the front office was all-in with this group.
18. The Tony Watson Trade: Bryant got all the attention, but the Giants quietly brought Watson, the leader of last year's bullpen, back from the Los Angeles Angels and just about immediately inserted him into the late-innings mix. Before straining his shoulder, Watson had a 2.96 ERA in 26 appearances.
19. Keep It On The Ground: Giants pitchers led the Majors with a groundball rate of 45.6 percent.
20. The Mike Tauchman Catch
MIKE TAUCHMAN WITH THE CATCH OF THE YEAR 😱 pic.twitter.com/PmGZbeV6oZ
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) May 29, 2021
21. The Other Mike Tauchman Catch
MIKE TAUCHMAN ROBS ANOTHER HOME RUN TO HOLD THE LEAD pic.twitter.com/jdTajefJRQ
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) June 12, 2021
22. The Mike Tauchman Grand Slam: Tauchman barely hit as a Giant, but with two outs and a two-run deficit in the eighth inning against the Texas Rangers on June 8, he smoked a grand slam right down the line. Seriously, Tauchman should throw out the first pitch Friday night.
23. The Deep Bullpen: The Giants had six relievers throw at least 50 innings with an ERA under 3.00, the most in MLB history.
24. Tyler Rogers: He led the NL with 80 appearances, and they were good ones. Rogers posted a 2.22 ERA and saved 13 games.
25. Jake McGee: Signed to an under-the-radar deal, the 35-year-old saved a career-high 31 games with a 2.72 ERA.
26. Dominic Leone: He became the designated "starter" for bullpen games when the Giants lost Alex Wood and Johnny Cueto on back-to-back days, and he got the Giants off to a scoreless start in three of his four starts. Overall, Leone had a 1.51 ERA in 57 appearances. Not bad for a guy who signed a minor league deal in December.
27. Jarlin Garcia: The veteran lefty had a 2.62 ERA in 58 appearances. In the three-batter-minimum era, it's noteworthy that Garcia held lefties to a .173 average and righties to .213.
28. Crawford Fun Fact: He ranked sixth in the NL with 5.5 Wins Above Replacement, per FanGraphs, the highest of his career. Baseball-Reference had him at 6.1, the most by an NL shortstop 34 years of age or older since Ozzie Smith in 1989.
29. Jose Alvarez: The lefty was signed during spring training and he might have had the most underrated season of any Giant. Alvarez had a 1.31 ERA over his final 37 appearances and stranded 80.6 percent of the runners he inherited.
30. Zack Littell: His phalanges were working well down the stretch. Littell had a 2.28 ERA in 25 appearances after getting called back up in early August.
31. Better As They Went: The bullpen ranked 18th in ERA in April and 11th in May. The last four months, the group ranked first, ninth, third and first.
32. The Fill-Ins: Over a long season, the Giants needed a lot of pitching help, and most of the guys who came in and out did an effective job. Jay Jackson, Sammy Long and Caleb Baragar were among those who provided useful innings. Aaron Sanchez was ultimately DFA'd, but the Giants appreciated his 2.22 ERA in five April starts.
33. Kazmir's Comeback: One of the stories of the year, Kazmir returned to the big leagues after five years, and the Giants won three of his four starts. Oh, he also won a silver medal.
34. Keep Them In The Yard: The pitchers allowed 151 homers, the fewest in the Majors. Hitting the most homers in the NL and allowing the fewest seems like a strong strategy.
35. Crawford Fun Fact: Asked why Crawford should be an MVP candidate, Posey pointed to his durability. "Just the stability that he gives our team, going out there almost every single day, is probably as important as anything," he said. Crawford ranked third in the NL with 1,165 2/3 innings at shortstop. The only guys ahead of him, Dansby Swanson and Trevor Story, are 27 and 28 years old, respectively.
36. Crawford's Glove: He was third among NL shortstops in Outs Above Average and tied for fifth in Defensive Runs Saved. Throw in the durability and the highlights and he has a very strong shot at his fourth Gold Glove.
37. No, Seriously, Crawford's Glove:
BRANDON CRAWFORD'S DEFENSE IS UNREAL pic.twitter.com/lYJAM4zoat
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) August 18, 2021
38. One More ...
39. Fine. Last One ...
Brandon Crawford made this look way too easy pic.twitter.com/PL9z1ubrMQ
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) June 19, 2021
40. Yaz's Glove: Hey, Crawford's not the only one in Gold Glove contention. Mike Yastrzemski led NL right fielders in Outs Above Average and finished third in Defensive Runs Saved. He also was more than capable of handling center field.
41. The Overall Defense: The Giants prioritized slugging, but they ended up 11th in MLB in Defensive Runs Saved. According to Sports Info Solutions, they had the most effective infield shifting in baseball. Take a bow, Kai Correa.
42. Curt Casali: The Giants were 42-13 when their backup catcher started a game. He caught nine shutouts and led MLB with a 2.72 catcher's ERA.
43. Steven Duggar: Speaking of defense ... well, actually, let's talk about offense with Duggar, for once. After a subpar start to his career at the plate, he made some adjustments to his approach and hit eight homers, with a 107 OPS+. Duggar had six total homers in his first three seasons combined.
44. Everyone's Friend: Guess who tied Yaz for the team lead in appearances? That would be Wilmer Flores, who tied a career-high with 18 homers. Three of them came as a pinch-hitter.
45. Tommy La Stella: A left hamstring strain and right thumb fracture threatened to ruin his first year in San Francisco, but he was the leadoff hitter down the stretch and hit four homers in his final 21 games. Three of them were leadoff blasts.
46. Crawford Fun Fact: On August 25 in New York, Crawford hit a two-run double off Mets lefty Aaron Loup to give the Giants a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Why is that so notable? Loup, who had a 0.95 ERA, allowed just two extra-base hits to lefties all year.
47. The Line Change: It wasn't unusual for Kapler to use two or three pinch-hitters in a row, and the players didn't just get used to it, they embraced it. Kapler ended up using an MLB-record 406 pinch-hitters. He said his players never sulked when replaced.
"It's not who they are," he said. "It's obviously made it much easier to do my job. I'm really grateful for that."
48. Interleague: The Giants went 13-7 against American League teams, their best winning percentage in Interleague Play since 2015.
49. Dick, Dick, Dick: It was a down year overall for Alex Dickerson, but he hit a career-high 13 homers in a platoon role, including three as a pinch-hitter.
50. Jean Segura's 200th Double: Just making sure you're still paying attention. We'll never forget that moment.
51. Year Three of Yaz: Yastrzemski was out of the spotlight a bit, and no longer hits in the heart of the order, but he still finished with 25 homers. It was huge that he could provide that while playing center field 34 times.
52. The Yaz Slam: With two outs, two strikes, and a three-run deficit in the eighth inning, Yastrzemski hit his first career grand slam. Yeah, it was that kind of season.
First career grand slam for Mike Yastrzemski. The man has great timing. pic.twitter.com/quWDA1zut3
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) June 16, 2021
53. Road Warriors: The Giants went 53-28 on the road and won 17 of their last 20. They finished one road win away from the franchise record for a season.
54. Loving Coors: How many teams swept the Rockies at Coors Field this season? Just one, the Giants. They did it twice in September.
55. The Colorado Rockies: The Giants went 15-3 against the Rockies overall, their best all-time record against them.
56. The Arizona Diamondbacks: The 15 wins against the Rockies were the Giants' most against a single opponent since 1965 ... until they swept the Diamondbacks to finish 17-2 against them.
57. The Perfect Fit: He's 35 and a bit of a journeyman, but you couldn't draw up a better fit for this hitting staff than Darin Ruf. He saw a team-high 4.42 pitches per plate appearance and ranked eighth in MLB in hard-hit percentage. Wait for a pitch you can drive and then hammer it -- that's what they teach here.
58. Wait, There's More: Ruf's season really was remarkable, and included a career-high 16 homers and a .904 OPS in 117 appearances. Among NL hitters with 300 plate appearances, he ranked ninth with a wRC+ of 144, putting him just ahead of Trea Turner and Posey.
59. Handling The Best: The season started with everyone projecting a Dodgers-Padres race in the division. The Giants went 10-9 against the Dodgers and 11-8 against the Padres, who proved to be a massive disappointment.
60. Consistency: Their winning percentages by month: .615, .643, .640, .600, .679, .778. They were the first NL team since the 1942 Brooklyn Dodgers to play .600 ball every month.
61. LaMonte Wade Jr.: The Willie Mac Award winner was acquired before spring training for Shaun Anderson, who ended up pitching for four teams in 2021. All Wade did was post a .808 OPS and hit 18 homers, becoming such a consistent threat that he bounced between the leadoff spot and cleanup spot late in the year.
62. Late Night LaMonte: There was nobody better in the ninth inning this year than Wade. In fact, he was historically good. Wade was 13-for-23 with 12 RBI in the ninth inning. He was also 3-for-5 in extra innings with two more RBI.
63. LaMonte Comes Through In The Ninth: On July 22 against the Dodgers, he had a go-ahead two-run single.
64. LaMonte Comes Through In the Ninth Again: On August 5 against the Diamondbacks, he tied it up with a two-run single.
65. LaMonte Comes Through In the Ninth Again: On August 21 against the A's, he had a go-ahead two-run homer.
66. LaMonte Comes Through In the Ninth Again: On September 9 against the Rockies, he had a go-ahead two-run single.
67.LaMonte Comes Through In the Ninth Again: On September 21 against the Padres, he had a go-ahead single.
68. LaMonte Comes Through In the Ninth Again: On September 28 against the Diamondbacks, he had a walk-off single. That gave Wade six go-ahead of game-tying hits, the most in MLB in 40 years.
69. More From The Captain: Brandon Belt's season really was pretty insane. Among hitters with 300 plate appearances, he ranked third in slugging (.597), behind only Bryce Harper and Fernando Tatis Jr. He was in the 94th percentile in both barrel rate and chase rate. Wait for your pitch, hit it hard.
70. Mustache May: It had to have added at least a win or two.
NEWS: Austin Slater has a mustache. pic.twitter.com/5eBn9VCI4r
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) May 8, 2021
71. The Oakland Weekend: We already touched on Wade, but a day later in Oakland, Donovan Solano hit a go-ahead homer in the eighth. The Giants became the first team in MLB history to get pinch-hit homers in the eighth or later to turn a deficit into a lead in back-to-back games.
72. Avisail Garcia Dropped A Fly Ball: This should have been a loss.
73. Sheldon Neuse Didn't Stretch: That wild game in July is remembered for the umps blowing a check-swing call on Darin Ruf, but if Sheldon Neuse stretches at second base to catch a throw from the shortstop, that game is over before Ruf can come to the plate and tie it.
74. Torey Lovullo Removed Merrill Kelly: The right-hander allowed just three hits over eight innings and had the Giants looking like they were ready for a flight out of town on August 5, but he was removed after 102 pitches. The Giants immediately came to life and overcame a four-run deficit to win 5-4.
75. Chemistry: There's no way to quantify it, but this group had it. Belt, Crawford and Posey have seen some outstanding clubhouses, and they all said this one was as good as any they've been in.
76. The Training Staff: Coming off a 60-game season, teams dealt with an absurd number of injuries this season, but the Giants ended the year with only two regulars -- Belt and Watson -- on the IL, and there was nothing they could do about Belt getting drilled. A tip of the cap to Dave Groeschner and his staff.
77. The Clubhouse Staff: You could make a list of way more than 107 things that Abe Silvestri, Brad Grems, James Uroz and their crew do for players every afternoon. They are instrumental in keeping things running smoothly.
78. The Cy Young candidate: The qualifying offer to Kevin Gausman ended up being one of the steals of the offseason. In 192 innings, he posted a 2.81 ERA and struck out 227.
79. Kevin Gausman's splitter: How did Gausman finally live up to the potential that made him the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft? The Giants essentially made him a two-pitch guy: elevated fastball and diving splitter. The split is one of the best pitches in the game. Gausman threw it 1,062 times and opposing hitters batted just .133 against it.
Hello. First Half Kevin Gausman is back. pic.twitter.com/bTsBXSpH4L
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) September 2, 2021
80. Kevin Gausman's Sac Fly: Yes, Gausman, the man with 12 singles in 110 career at-bats, helped win a game with his bat.
81. Logan Webb's Development: Webb was the best starter in camp, but he was coming off a 5.47 ERA so it was hard to know what the Giants would get. Starting May 11, Webb had a 2.40 ERA in 20 starts, second-best in MLB to Walker Buehler.
82. More Webby: A young pitcher turning into an ace is welcome at any time, but Webb's surge was particularly well-timed. The rest of the rotation was inconsistent in the second half, but Webb carried a heavy load while his older teammates worked to find their form. His streak of 20 consecutive starts without a loss is tied for second in franchise history. Starting May 11, the Giants went 18-2 with Webb on the mound. They were 12-0 when he started at Oracle Park.
83. Alex Wood: Signed to a one-year, $3 million deal, Wood made 26 starts after making just nine the previous two seasons. He was 10-4 with a 3.83 ERA and 3.48 FIP.
84. Anthony DeSclafani: Signed to a one-year, $6 million contract, DeSclafani posted a 3.17 ERA in 31 starts. He threw 167 2/3 innings, the second-most of his career.
85. Gausman, Wood and DeSclafani In The First Half: Part of the reason the Giants went hard on one-year contracts was they knew they could clean up at the deadline if they fell out of the race. Instead, three veterans helped lead them to first. Gausman had a 1.73 ERA in the first half and made the All-Star team. DeSclafani was at 2.68 and Wood at 3.67.
86. Johnny Cueto: The 4.08 ERA isn't up to his past expectations, but Cueto gave Kapler at least five innings 16 times, which was crucial during a season where bullpen games became the norm for some contenders, including the Giants in September.
87. Crawford Fun Fact: He was particularly good in big spots, hitting .353 with runners in scoring position. That was third in the NL behind Juan Soto and Tatis.
88. Evan Longoria: He missed a lot of the season with a shoulder injury and struggled down the stretch, but at 35 years old he was 24 points above league average as a hitter and played strong defense at third base.
89. Ron Wotus: He's going out on top of his game. How many times this year did you even notice Wotus, who almost always makes the right call at third base. In a huge spot in the third inning Sunday -- his final regular-season game on staff -- Wotus held Webb at third base because he didn't want to risk it with a red-hot starting pitcher. He trusted the guys behind Webb, and Posey's two-run single got the Giants going.
90. Never Out Of It: The Giants had 43 comeback wins, including six when they trailed after eight innings.
91. Closing It Out: They were 75-9 when leading after six innings and 80-6 when they led after seven. Getting a lead to Rogers and McGee was pretty effective.
92. Thairo Estrada: Acquired for cash considerations, he had a .813 OPS and seven homers and provided a trusted backup for Crawford.
93. Short Memory: The Giants went 38-17 after a loss. The .690 winning percentage was easily the best in the big leagues.
94. Power From Everyone: An MLB-record 17 different Giants hit at least five homers. Every position player who got at least 10 at-bats for them in 2021 hit at least one homer.
95. Homer-Dependent: People say it like it's a bad thing, but it certainly worked for the Giants. They got 49.9 percent of their runs from homers, the highest in franchise history by 5.8 percent. The two highest rates in Giants history have come under this new staff the last two seasons.
96. Better Than Average: It sounds simple, but it was remarkably effective to just fill the roster with above-average players. Thirteen different Giants hitters had an OPS+ over 100.
97. Better Than Average, Part II: The same held true on the pitching side. Fourteen pitchers made double-digit appearances and had an ERA+ over 100.
98. Time of Possession: This was a key for Kapler in the spring, and at the plate that meant working long plate appearances. The Giants led the NL with 3.99 pitches per plate appearance.
99. Time of Possession Part II: On the other side, they ranked second in fewest pitches thrown, trailing just the Mets. A lot of that was because they issued the fewest walks in the Majors.
100. Co-Captains: Belt was great, but a knee injury and the fractured thumb limited him to 97 games. The Giants still led the NL with a .969 OPS from first basemen and led the big leagues with 48 homers. Ruf (1.019 OPS) and Wade (.976) were particularly good filling in for Belt.
101. Good Starts: Remember that year when it seemed the Giants trailed 3-0 in the first inning every night. This wasn't that. The Giants ranked second in MLB with 116 runs in the first inning.
102. Camilo Doval: The rookie right-hander was NL Reliever of the Month after throwing 14 1/3 scoreless innings. He recorded his first big league save on the final homestand, becoming the youngest Giant since Rod Beck to get one. The 24-year-old saved three games during the final week.
103. Bringing The Heat: Doval's fastball ranked in the 99th percentile in velocity and 98th percentile in spin rate. Is that good? He backed it with a nasty slider that opponents hit just .167 against.
First career MLB save for Camilo Doval, who hit 101.7 mph to Josh Rojas and then finished him off with this slider: pic.twitter.com/VUBn9D3xlM
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) September 29, 2021
104. Kervin Castro: Doval wasn't the only rookie to come up huge down the stretch. Castro made 10 scoreless appearances after getting called up in early September, striking out a batter per inning.
105. Hit Them In Bunches: The Giants had 17 four-homer games, the most in the big leagues. That's as many as they had from 2012-2020.
106. Crawford Fun Fact: In his 11th big league season, Crawford ranked seventh in the NL in Win Probability Added. That wasn't tops on the Giants, though. In his first full big league season, Wade ranked fifth. A veteran having his best year and a young player taking the leap. Kind of sums it all up, huh?
107. Toughness, Grit, Vision: Those are the intangibles Kapler cited during a speech after the 107th win of the regular season. There are a lot of numbers that sum up how this group set a franchise record for wins, but the character traits that allowed them to come and stay together were just as important.