After a long and uncertain offseason, the SF Giants regular season has finally gotten underway. Returning from a disappointing conclusion to the 2020 season, when the Giants finished a tie-breaker away from reaching the postseason, the franchise hopes to crack the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Of course, in the same division as the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers, the team faces an uphill battle to contention.
Before the season got underway, I made five bold predictions for the Giants roster. However, with several roster moves and Opening Day coverage on my plate, I was unable to finish my write-up before the start of the regular season. Still, I wanted to make sure to return to it and explain my predictions.
SF Giants: 5 bold predictions for the 2021 season
1. Jake McGee amasses 20 saves for the first time
It may seem obvious after the first two games of the season, but I did write these predictions before Opening Day. Jake McGee has never recorded more than 19 saves in a season and entered the year with only 45 career saves across his 11-year MLB career. Given manager Gabe Kapler’s aversion to naming any reliever a “closer,” it was not out of the question that McGee could serve as a band-aid across high-leverage situations.
Statistically-inclined analysts have consistently vouched for this approach. Rather than limiting an elite reliever to one particular situation, a more flexible usage could help them more. While the Giants have solid depth in their bullpen, there’s no denying the lack of lockdown arms. At this point, McGee seems like their only true “shutdown” option.
For all of Kapler’s talk about innovative bullpen management, he’s actually stuck to a pretty consistent closer routine in San Francisco. Even though he never named a closer last season, Trevor Gott received almost every save opportunity until he imploded in consecutive outings. At that point, Tony Watson took over, receiving every save opportunity unless he had pitched the day before. McGee is easily the most proven arm in the Giants’ pen, and after just two games, most fans understand why he’ll probably receive the lion’s share of save opportunities this season.