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SF Giants: Can the rotation sustain a deep playoff run?

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 21: Starting pitcher Kevin Gausman #34 of the San Francisco Giants talks to home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi #10 before pitching in the bottom of the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum on August 21, 2021 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 21: Starting pitcher Kevin Gausman #34 of the San Francisco Giants talks to home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi #10 before pitching in the bottom of the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum on August 21, 2021 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
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SF Giants, Anthony DeSclafani
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 18: Starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani #26 of the San Francisco Giants exits the game in the top of the second inning against the New York Mets at Oracle Park on August 18, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

It is a fair question to ask at this point. After all, the SF Giants posted a 57-32 record in the first half of the season due in part to a strong starting rotation headlined by Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, and Logan Webb. However, the rotation has taken a slight step back in the second half, so is there cause for concern?

SF Giants: Can the rotation sustain a deep playoff run?

Four months ago, not many people were putting the Giants and the playoffs in the same sentence. However, four months later, the Giants have the best record in baseball at 80-44 and maintain a 2.5-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the NL West.

So, the narrative has shifted. Barring a major collapse, the Giants have a good shot at making the playoffs for the first time since 2016. But, how deep into the playoffs they go will likely depend on one key area: the starting rotation.

The 2021 Giants are similar to the Giants teams that won three championships in that they have a strong bullpen, play solid defense, and execute timely hitting. That said, this year’s team may not have the dominant performances that Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner authored during those three postseason runs.

Up until this point, the starting rotation has posted a 3.40 ERA, which is the third-best mark in baseball. Not bad, right? Well, they are behind both the Dodgers (2.90 ERA) and the Milwaukee Brewers (3.11 ERA). The SF Giants are going to have to get through either team if they are to make a deep playoff push.

The overall numbers look good on paper, but it is impossible to ignore that the rotation has not performed as well as it did earlier in the year. In the second half of the season, the Giants rotation has registered a 4.02 ERA in 35 games. It is still a decent mark in a relatively large sample, which is becoming a concerning trend.

Gausman, DeSclafani, and Webb have led the way for the Giants and they have combined to produce mixed results in the second half:

  • Gausman: 3-2 record, 5.17 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, 11.8 K/9, and a 2.56 SO/W ratio across 31.1 innings.
  • DeSclafani: 1-2 record, 5.68 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, and a 3.43 SO/W ratio across 25.1 innings.
  • Webb: 3-0 record, 1.94 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, and a 4.27 SO/W ratio in 46.1 innings.

Gausman has struggled to regain the command that he demonstrated in the first half, whereas DeSclafani has given up the long ball at too high of a frequency. On the other hand, Webb has emerged as the ace of the rotation while facing off against some of the best teams in baseball including the Dodgers, the Oakland A’s, and the Houston Astros.

Of course, Johnny Cueto and Alex Wood have been involved as well and both have had bright moments mixed with some rough starts. If the Giants make it to the playoffs, they are going to rely on Gausman, DeSclafani, and Webb.

At moments throughout the year, all three have looked like the ace of the SF Giants rotation. However, the playoffs tend to be determined by which team is playing better at that point in time. Gausman and DeSclafani could rebound nicely to finish the season and Webb might be turning into a top-of-the-rotation arm.

The question is, is it enough? Recent history does not paint too favorable of a picture of the Giants’ starting rotation. There is time left. Six weeks between now and the start of the playoffs to right the ship.

Related Story. SF Giants pitching prospects week in review

That said, this year’s team is built differently than the teams that won three championships in five years. They might have to win differently, too. The offense has been one of the best in baseball and they might have to rely on their bats, rather than their pitching, for a deep postseason run.

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