Last week, the Giants very quietly passed a milestone, one nobody could have seen coming. They have now spent more than 100 days this season in first place in the National League West, including every day since May 31.
They have spent an entire summer ahead of the heavily favored Dodgers and Padres, and a national audience is slowly starting to catch up. That's only going to ramp up in the coming weeks, as the Giants try to hold off the Dodgers and win what would be a very surprising NL West title.
You will hear Farhan Zaidi and Gabe Kapler mentioned as locks for executive of the year and manager of the year, respectively. Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford should get some MVP buzz, and Kevin Gausman will continue to get mentioned in the Cy Young race.
As the postseason starts, people who haven't watched all summer will try and figure out how the Giants have done this, but perhaps it's really not that complicated. The level of success is surprising, but on this week's Giants Talk podcast, Zaidi, the Giants' president of baseball operations, explained why it really shouldn't be a shock that the Giants are in position to make the playoffs.
"I think part of the Giants story over the last three years is we were kind of a stealthily good team last year, and I think some of the national baseball media is just catching up and we were a little bit under the radar because we didn't make the playoffs, even though we all know we were about as close as you can get," Zaidi said. "If we had made it, I think the entire narrative around us in the offseason and coming into this year would be different and it wouldn't be so much, 'Where did these guys come from? How is this happening?'"
The Giants did, in fact, start all of this last year. Zaidi and Scott Harris got their handpicked manager and Kapler got his handpicked staff, and together they immediately started to turn things around. After winning just 44 percent of their games from 2017-19, they finished one win shy of .500, which would have gotten them into an expanded postseason.
Before this season's breakout for LaMonte Wade Jr., there was Mike Yastrzemski's 2020 season. Wilmer Flores and Darin Ruf and others showed last year what they were capable of. Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt started to see the benefits of working with the new staff, and this year they have taken off, along with Buster Posey, who has returned.
On the pitching side, the Giants have watched a bunch of veterans on one-year deals get dramatically better in San Francisco. But that started last year, when Gausman took the leap and Drew Smyly pitched well enough to earn $11 million from the Braves.
Much of what is going right for the Giants this year was on display last season, but they didn't quite have enough talent, and they came up short in some big spots, most notably that last week when they fell one win short. Had they gotten to October, the Giants would have matched up with the Dodgers, and even before this season's success they fully believed they had a shot of taking down the eventual champions last postseason.
One more win would have changed the narrative and none of this would be nearly as surprising. Zaidi did admit, though, that nobody could have seen this level of domination coming. He was confident in this group and the direction the Giants were going, but even the most optimistic people at Oracle Park couldn't have expected to be this good, this fast.
"Look, you don't expect to be 30 games over .500 at this point in the season but we expected to be a good team," Zaidi said. "That part of it has not really been a surprise to any of us."