Earlier today, we examined the laughably improbable production of the San Francisco Giants hitters during the 2021 season in The House That Steroids Built. Now, it’s time to move on to the pitchers, and what we see is a pitching staff that makes you wonder how this team won 107 games when it was projected to win approximately 30 fewer games than that.
Without further explanation, let’s get to it … More Giants devil magic for ya!
Starter: Kevin Gausman—At age 30, he has shown drastic improvement from his first 8 MLB seasons, 7 of which came with other teams (4.22 ERA in 763-plus innings with Baltimore and 4.77 ERA in almost 140 innings with Atlanta, for example). But with the Giants this season, he has posted a 2.82 ERA in a career-high 192 innings pitched. We broke down this totally unrealistic improvement already elsewhere.
Starter: Anthony DeSclafani—At age 31, this guy also pulled a career year out of his ass with the San Francisco organization. In over 623 innings with the Cincinnati Reds, he posted a 4.19 ERA from 2015 to 2020, and he was out of the majors entirely in 2017. But in 167-plus innings with the Giants this year, he grooved to a 3.17 ERA. At the age when his prime (that he never had) should be all but over, he thrived.
Starter: Logan Webb—At age 24, he only has 242-plus career innings pitched, but in 148-plus frames he tossed in 2021, he did so to the tune of a 3.03 ERA when his prior 94 innings in 2019 and 2020 combined rated out at a 5.36 ERA. When his WHIP drops from 1.564 to 1.106 as well, and his K rate jumps 2 batters per 9 IP (not to mention his walk rate getting cut in half), there’s some mystery there.
Starter: Alex Wood—At age 30, he spent his prior 8 seasons with other NL teams (Atlanta, Cincinnati, Los Angeles). He’s always had potential, and his 3.83 ERA with the Giants this year is actually worse than his career mark (3.50). Surprise! His profile seems normal … except for that career-high K rate this season, of course. It’s the highest it’s ever been over a full season by 1 k per 9 IP. It’s always something.
Starter: Johnny Cueto—At age 35, this two-time All Star had a typical season one would expect from a guy his age, posting a 4.08 ERA and 1.369 WHIP in 121-plus innings. Cueto peaked with his age-30 season back in 2016, and he’s been pretty mediocre since then, and San Francisco has gotten stuck with his $110M price tag ever since then as well. That explains a lot about other things, in truth.
Closer: Jake McGee—At age 35, he had his best full season since 2014, when he was 27 years old. Sound familiar? His 2.72 ERA in almost 60 IP represents his best effort over that many innings since 2014 when he posted a 1.89 ERA with Tampa Bay, and his 31 saves in 2021 were the most he’s clocked in his career as well, a journey that has spanned 3 other teams over 11 seasons prior to this one.
Set-Up: Tyler Rogers—At age 30, this guy is another one of those late bloomers who didn’t show up in the majors until his late 20s. In 2020, in a career-best 28 innings, he posted a 4.50 ERA, but this year over 81 IP, he somehow cut that down to a 2.22 ERA. Over 7 seasons in the minors, his ERA wasn’t even that low. He also gave up 10 hits per 9 IP last year, but Rogers dropped that rate to 8.2 hits this season.
Set-Up: Jarlin García—At age 28 now, he put up a 4.29 ERA over three seasons with the Miami Marlins (2017-2019). His 2.17 ERA in San Francisco represents a drastic improvement for a cheap player, the kind that Miami likes to keep. But the Marlins waived him before the 2020 season, presumably because he stunk. His K rate this year was also 2 batters higher per 9 IP than ever before in his career. Surprise!
Reliever: José Álvarez—At age 32, this southpaw journeyman has spent his 9-year MLB career with four different teams. Guess which one he has the best ERA with? Yes, you got it: San Francisco. This year was his first with the Giants, and his 2.37 ERA dwarfed his career mark (3.40). He also pitched more innings than he had in any season since 2015 when he was with the Los Angeles Angels (at age 26). Ho hum.
Reliever: Zack Littell—At age 25, this is another player the Minnesota Twins gave up on, because he stunk (see utility player LaMonte Wade, Jr.). In three seasons in the Twin Cities, Littell posted a 4.52 ERA over almost 64 innings, and in almost 62 innings over one season in San Francisco, he put up a 2.92 ERA. The pattern is pretty obvious, isn’t it? Oh, and his K rate also jumped from 6.9 to 9.2 per 9 IP this year.
Reliever: Dominic Leone—At age 29, he spent the prior 7 seasons bouncing around with 5 teams to the tune of ERAs like 7.34 in 28 games with Arizona, 5.15 in 69 games with St Louis, and 8.38 in 12 games with Cleveland. But he came to S.F. this year and promptly posted a 1.51 ERA in almost 54 innings over 57 games. Leone also gave up a career-low 6.2 hits and 0.3 HR per 9 IP in the process.
Conclusion: Once again, we see a lot of career-best performances from pitchers that other teams didn’t want … and often at ages that they should not be able to do so, based on historical precedent and predictive algorithms. This is why the Giants were picked to finish 4th in the National League West this year.
We know S.F. Manager Gabe Kapler struggled in his first managerial stint with the Philadelphia Phillies despite a loaded roster. What did he learn in his transition from the East Coast to the West Coast? That the Pacific Ocean is a lot more sexy than the Atlantic Ocean? Seriously, this is a huge question, because he has some serious explaining to do if the lamestream media would actually do its job correctly.
The patterns are clear, both for the offense and the pitching on the Giants aging roster: Something fishy is going on in the City by the Bay, and it must have something to do with The House That Steroids Built. The coincidences are too frequent and similar for this team to not be doing something illicit—again, as always.
Great piece. Thanks for posting, and for all the work that went into it.
A few other items occurred to me to add to the “smoke” here:
(1) The spikes all seemed to coincide not just when they joined the Giants, but 2020, in particular. Fwiw. (Nothin from nothin but that’s also the yr after Kap arrived — whos a body builder and performance-enhancing nutrition maniac).
(2) I think SLG (or some derivative) plus #PAs/ABs would be the best metrics for Hitters. And K/IP (or some derivative) and IPs for Pitchers. And, just poking around on it some, the picture seems even more clear on the players you identified.
I’d love to see line graphs of these players’ SLG (and another w K/IP) over past few yrs which would clearly illustrate the sudden and unlikely spikes.
Also, I was wondering as I read this piece: In the event these players really did start to use PEDs of some kind under this SF regime (and assuming the PEDs were some sort of standard steroid used in the past) then there could be unusual/unnatural body changes. If so, what might be the most telling exhibit of this hypothesis is side-by-side images of the players prior to their time in SF as compared to now.