As you may have heard, the Giants notched their 100th win of the season Friday night, maintaining a one-game lead over the division-rival Dodgers (winners of last year’s World Series) in the race for MLB’s top record. It marked quite a milestone for the Giants, who hadn’t reached the century mark in wins since 2003, when they hit 100 right on the button.
Not only are the Giants headed back to October for the first time in five years, but they’re making a mockery of Vegas, defying oddsmakers at every turn. How low were expectations heading into 2021? That depends on what sportsbook you place bets with, though virtually all had San Francisco winning 73-76 games, making them a playoff afterthought and a longshot to even reach .500. DraftKings pegged them for 75.5 wins, well below Washington (84.5) and Minnesota (88.5), both of whom were eliminated weeks ago. BetMGM was equally pessimistic about San Francisco’s chances (also 75.5) while the handicappers at William Hill (now Caesars Sportsbook) painted an even bleaker picture, setting the over/under for Giants wins at a pedestrian 74.5.
Even now, it’s easy to see why the Giants were slept on by so many. San Francisco’s lineup doesn’t offer much in the way of star power (especially compared to the deep-pocketed Dodgers, their chief competitor in the NL West), unless you count former MVPs Buster Posey and Kris Bryant (the latter acquired from Chicago mere minutes before the July 30th trade deadline), players both considered well past their prime. The rotation, at least to the naked eye, looked like a similar hodgepodge of misfits and hand-me-downs with journeyman Kevin Gausman joining the likes of Reds castoff Anthony DeSclafani and unheralded lefty Alex Wood. But the Giants, led by skipper Gabe Kapler (who has made the most of his opportunity in San Francisco after a failed stint in Philadelphia), got off to a hot start and never seemed to slow down, leading the National League in a wide range of categories including home runs (260), slugging percentage (.443) and OPS (.772).
The Rays, another club greater than the sum of its parts, have adopted a similar aesthetic, outsmarting teams by unearthing diamonds in the rough like Joey Wendle and Ryan Yarbrough. That’s why you never judge a book by its cover or a team by its Opening Day payroll. Who knows what will come of the Giants’ storybook season—they’re a stumble away from falling to second in their own division, which would pit them against the hot-as-can-be Cardinals (winners of 14 straight) in a win-or-go-home NL Wild Card game. But hopefully by now, Vegas has learned not to underestimate baseball’s unlikeliest juggernaut.