The Bay Bridge Series commencing Friday from Oracle Park not only will feature two of the best teams in baseball, but also two of the league's most valuable individual players.
The Giants have the best record in baseball, and while the dominant starting pitching staff has been the headline, Brandon Crawford's consistency at the plate and in the field has been the bedrock of one of MLB's top offenses as we near the end of June.
The Athletics, who were out front in the AL West for much of the season before ceding ground to the Houston Astros after a recent skid, have seen Matt Olson recapture his 2019 form after a down year in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Crawford's team-leading 16 home runs are more than any full season of his career outside of 2015 (he hit 21), and the shortstop stands atop the NL in Win Probability Added (WPA) through 74 games (2.4).
Olson's 20 home runs rank in a tie for fifth among MLB hitters, and the slugger also is one of just 17 qualified players in baseball with at least a .300 batting average. Olson ranks third in MLB in WPA (2.7).
WPA was a stat created to estimate a player's individual impact on his team's chances of winning. By this formula, Crawford and Olson have added more wins to their respective teams than players like Ronald Acuna Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., and Jesse Winker.
The Giants have shocked the league by having the most home runs of any team (111) and scoring the third-most runs per game in MLB.
The A's, meanwhile, have Olson to thank for over 20 percent of the roster's big flies.
Olson struggled during the 60-game 2020 season. Only hitting .195 with a .310 OBP, his 14 home runs also weren't anywhere near the top of the leaderboards. After homering in 7.4 percent of his at-bats in 2019, that number dipped to 6.6 percent in 2020. So far this season, Olson is back to that pre-pandemic form and has knocked one out of the ballpark in 7.7 percent of his at-bats.
Despite both teams in playing in what are generally considered to be pitcher-friendly home ballparks, the Giants and A's have been mashing the ball in 2021.
As the league shifts toward a singular focus on hitting the ball over the fence, the Bay Area's baseball teams have adapted better than most of MLB.
Both Crawford and Olson are overshadowed at their positions by players with more mass appeal like Tatis Jr. and Vladimir Guererro Jr., but make no mistake about it, both of these guys belong in the MVP conversation. Guerrero Jr. and Shohei Ohtani admittedly will make it difficult in the AL, but Olson's combination of power and contact along with his ability in the field should keep him in that group.
Expect to see some balls landing in the water at Oracle Park this weekend, as these two powerful lefties lead two of the best teams in baseball into a crosstown clash.