The San Francisco Giants are far and away the biggest surprise of the 2021 MLB season. Sitting atop the baseball world with a 57-32 record, nobody expected this level of success from the Giants, except maybe ... the Giants themselves.
With the All-Star Game in the rearview mirror and the second half of the season in front of them, the Giants are set up for a run at the playoffs due to their overwhelming success in the first half.
Surpassing pretty much everybody's expectations, it should be no surprise that the Giants received a very good grade for their first-half performance.
If this were the classroom, the Giants would be passing the class with flying colors. An "A+" grade was given by ESPN for their first-half performance, and the Giants absolutely deserve it.
"Heading into 2021, the Giants looked old and mediocre," ESPN's David Schoenfield wrote. "FanGraphs gave them a 0.2% chance of winning the division and 5.7% to make the playoffs. Now the Giants look like a savvy veteran club that just knows how to win and those playoffs odds are above 90%.
"Riding big seasons from All-Stars Kevin Gausman, Buster Posey, and Brandon Crawford and Gabe Kapler's lineup machinations, they begin the second half with the best record in baseball -- but the Dodgers are breathing down their necks."
As much as they've already had to prove themselves, the Giants will face a big test coming out of the All-Star break. Scheduled to face the Los Angeles Dodgers for seven games, St. Louis Cardinals for three, Houston Astros for three, and the Milwaukee Brewers for three games, the Giants will face a gauntlet of a schedule over the next two and a half weeks.
The Giants "A+" grade speaks volumes when compared to powerhouse division rivals such as the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres, who were expected to run away with the division in some order.
Los Angeles was given a "B" grade for their first-half performance, while the Padres were given a "B-".
"We're grading them against the preseason expectations," ESPN said of the Dodgers' first half. "So this is a friendly reminder that they're still on pace for 100 wins -- which is great, except they're in second place...It should also be pointed out that they're 15-2 against the Diamondbacks and Rockies. Yes, that's taking care of business, but their 20-21 record against winning team suggests this isn't -- yet -- the powerhouse team we saw heading into the season."
"We're grading them against their preseason expectations," ESPN said of the Padres' first half. "So this is a friendly reminder that they're still on pace for 92 wins -- which is fine, except they're in third place and six games behind the Giants. The inconsistency has been frustrating -- 8-3 to start the season, a 12-1 stretch in May, a 10-1 stretch to close out June, but then several stretches of mediocre play"
The Giants built their roster with expectations of competing late into the season. They've done their homework and it shows.
They crushed the midterm, and now they'll prepare for the final exam.