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Kapler excited for next step after Webb's breakout season

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SAN FRANCISCO -- It would be hard for a starting pitcher to give off a more relaxed vibe than Logan Webb did during press conferences before Game 1 and Game 5 of the National League Division Series. He talked of his commitment to pregame Red Bulls, his love of swinging the bat and the intensity of high school football, but in more serious moments, he also discussed the long road to being asked to start those important games. 

Webb had a 5.22 ERA as a rookie and a 5.47 ERA in 2020, and it took a lot of offseason and in-season work with the staff's pitching coaches to refine his repertoire to the point that he could reach his potential. In Webb's words, "it took a lot of, I would say, kind of sucking a little bit to really hone those in."

The next step won't be any easier. 

Webb will go into the 2022 season with the reputation as an ace and will surely draw more attention from opposing hitters, but the flip side of that is extremely positive for the Giants. They know that no matter where they go, whether it's opening day against the San Diego Padres' Yu Darvish or Blake Snell, or a potential postseason matchup with a Walker Buehler or Max Fried or Corbin Burnes, they have a pitcher who is capable of getting them on equal footing. That's a great starting point as they kick off a busy offseason. 

 

"From a talent perspective, from a maturity perspective, and from a development perspective, Logan Webb has come so far, and specifically I don't think it's a stretch to say he was one of the top five pitchers in baseball, or so, the second half of the year," manager Gabe Kapler said on Wednesday's Giants Talk Podcast. "As we entered into the final games where we had to match up against Walker Buehler and Max Scherzer and pitchers of that caliber, I think Logan Webb fit right into that conversation.

"Now the trick is doing the work this offseason, continuing to work on the mental side of the game, knowing that it's going to be even more challenging next year because teams are going to be making adjustments to what Logan did down the stretch, and then continuing to raise the bar."

There's no doubt about where Webb fits in after a stretch of dominance that began on May 11. From that point on, his 2.40 ERA was the second-lowest in baseball, and if you throw in the postseason he had a 2.20 ERA and 11-0 record in his final 22 starts. In those 131 innings, Webb struck out 142 batters and allowed just six homers. 

In Game 1, Webb became the fourth Giants starter to reach double-digit strikeouts in his first postseason start. Four games later, he nearly matched that effort, becoming just the fifth Giants starter to ever have two starts of at least seven innings and fewer than two earned runs in one postseason series. That's a list that includes Christy Mathewson and Madison Bumgarner. 

The Giants plan to build their rotation around Webb, who turns 25 in November, and Kapler isn't concerned about a letdown. Webb has shown that he can handle the pressure and that he wants the pressure that comes with being an ace. He also has shown repeatedly that he wants the bar raised.

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Kapler was tough on Webb in the first half of the season even after starts that looked good on paper. He often came into postgame press conferences after wins and insisted that Webb could do a better job of attacking hitters, and Webb responded. Kapler expects the same after Webb's breakout. 

"I don't think Logan is going to be satisfied with three-quarters of a season of that type of performance," he said. "I think he sees himself as one of the better athletes on the mound in baseball and that he has to continue to challenge himself to do that year in and year out. That's the beautiful part of this game, it forces you to make those types of commitments and I think Logan is prepared for that."

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