Perhaps, the biggest surprise of the first half of the season is that the SF Giants have the best record in baseball at 57-32. However, that would be too easy of a choice. It is not just the record, but how they got to that record that stands out.
SF Giants: Three biggest surprises from the first half of 2021
1. The starting rotation has the third-best ERA in baseball
When the 2020 season ended, the front office was tasked with rebuilding the starting rotation on the fly. Johnny Cueto and Logan Webb were the only incumbents and both were coming off of disastrous seasons. To put it differently, there was a lot of work to be done.
The Giants got started by issuing a one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer to Kevin Gausman, which he accepted. Then, they dished out a trio of one-year, pillow contracts to Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, and Aaron Sanchez. On top of this, Sammy Long was reeled in on a minor-league pact with an invite to spring training.
There was plenty of risk with this approach. DeSclafani and Wood battled ineffectiveness as well as injuries in 2020, whereas Sanchez missed the entire year as he recovered from shoulder surgery.
This was a strategy that could have fell flat on its face. Some of that risk came to fruition as many Giants starters have spent time on the shelf in 2021, but as a unit, they have been one of the best in baseball. The starting rotation has combined to post the third-best ERA in baseball at 3.18, behind only the New York Mets (2.98 ERA) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (2.94 ERA).
Kevin Gausman was the ace of the rotation in 2020 and he has elevated his status in 2021 to one of the best pitchers in baseball. On the year, he has registered a 1.73 ERA and a 4.43 SO/W ratio across 114.2 frames while earning a National League All-Star bid.
Behind Gausman, DeSclafani has emerged as a formidable No. 2 option, pitching to the tune of a 2.68 ERA in 107.1 innings. The right-handed hurler did not earn an all-star bid and that decision remains questionable.
Aside from these two pitchers, Wood, Sanchez, and Cueto have all put together quality innings when healthy. In the case of Sanchez, he has not pitched since the beginning of May as he has battled bicep tightness and a blister. In comparison to Sanchez, Wood and Cueto have been more durable, giving the Giants 15 and 14 starts, respectively.
Like the three mentioned above, Webb has spent time on the injured list. That said, it does feel like he has taken the next step in his development. When healthy, the 24-year-old has racked up high strikeout totals, induced plenty of weak contact, and he has demonstrated improved command. It has been a really encouraging first half for Webb.
As a whole, the starting rotation has performed well and that is probably the most surprising part of this season. However, it is far from the only surprising part.