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Giants rotation poses a test for Dodgers in NLDS

The Giants may not have the big names but the results do all the talking

MLB: San Diego Padres at San Francisco Giants Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Dodgers now get set to face the San Francisco Giants for the first time ever in postseason play, and the stakes couldn’t be higher with the teams combining for a whopping 213 regular season wins in 2021.

The Dodgers pitching staff has been on a historic run since the beginning of 2020, and it took every single one of those 107 wins for San Francisco to dethrone its rival and take the National League West.

Gabe Kapler’s offense certainly did much more than just its part with 17 hitters hitting at least five long balls in Oracle Park of all places, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a team that gets to this point without elite pitching, and that’s what we’ll cover here. More specifically, the starting staff.

Let’s have a look at how Giants pitchers ranked in some of the key stats for the 2021 regular season:

WHIP: 1.148 (2nd)

K rate: 23.7 percent (14th)

BB rate: 6.9 percent (1st)

ERA: 3.24 (2nd)

FIP: 3.55 (2nd)

A few points to be made right off the bat:

  1. In those three particular stats that San Francisco is in second place, it is trailing the Dodgers. Proof, if you need any, that this is the ultimate matchup.
  2. As you can see by that strikeout rate, the Giants are somewhat middle of the pack in punching people out but two key elements completely suppress any negative impact that it could generate: the staff is unmatched in terms of walks and home run suppression. It ultimately leads in both categories, and San Francisco ranks seventh in K-BB% (16.8 percent).
  3. It’s understandable that a little of that outstanding, league-leading 0.93 HR/9 comes from the home ballpark but at the same time it wasn’t a problem when the offense was at that plate with 241 home runs, leading the NL and second-best in the majors. The Giants allowed 151 homers.

There is some uncertainty as to what Dave Roberts will do what that fourth game now that Clayton Kershaw is out. He could do a straight-up bullpen game. Tony Gonsolin could be the starter, but would he get a normal leash or is it a one-time-through-the-order sort of deal? That remains to be seen, but on the other side the picture is clearer.

Raise your hand if the term big four was on your mind to describe the following group back in April:

  • Logan Webb
  • Kevin Gausman
  • Alex Wood
  • Anthony Desclafani

Those four were the staple of the Giants, and each one had a memorable season in their own right.

Wood had his best season since 2017 with the Dodgers, finally staying healthy after two extremely difficult years with the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles.

Desclafani is one of those arms that always flashed but lacked the consistency to really stand out. Not a lot of people may have noticed this but in two of his last three full seasons with the Cincinnati Reds — not counting 2020 — Desclafani was almost as effective with a ERA+ of 130 and 120 in 2016 and 2019 respectively. Not so different from his 129 mark in 2021. That ‘16 season was very limited since he failed to reach even 130 innings pitched though, which shows that it all clicked for the former Red this season.

Webb, who the Dodgers will see in Game 1 of what should be a magnificent series, fell into the arms of Giants fans, breaking out as one of the better young arms in the National League.

After a rough beginning to his career in ‘19 and ‘20, Webb made some adjustments, decreasing his changeup usage and switching from a traditional four-seam fastball to a sinker as his main matchup, and it paid off. He’s now the Game 1 starter for the team with the best record in baseball, after a season with a 2.72 FIP and a chase rate in the 91st percentile.

Gausman was a bit of a wild card coming into the season as it’s shown by his one-year deal after he accepted the Giants’ qualifying offer. The former Oriole is now in line to break the bank come off-season time having mystified hitters all season long with that four-seamer, split-finger combo that made him a part of the Cy Young conversation for a significant period.

Gausman struck out 227 men in 192 innings and had a 1.042 WHIP with a 2.81 ERA

The Dodgers might be heavy favorites, especially when you factor in the proximity in records but make no mistake, this is a duel of titans. Whoever comes out on top will be looked at as the favorite to win it all.