After 149 games, Giants manager Gabe Kapler is on track to do something his predecessor never did. Despite winning more than 1,000 games and three titles in San Francisco, Bruce Bochy was never honored as National League Manager of the Year, an award he last won in 1996 while with the San Diego Padres.
The voters, probably incorrectly, tend to reward managers who "come out of nowhere" to have a successful season. Bochy came in third in the voting in 2010 -- behind San Diego's Bud Black and Cincinnati's Dusty Baker -- and he was never the underdog again after beating those two and others to win his first title.
Kapler was supposed to finish third in his own division this year, at best, so barring a complete collapse in the second half, he should run away with the award. He won't be alone, either. At the halfway point, there's nobody with a better argument than Farhan Zaidi when it comes to the Executive of the Year Award.
There is a lot of baseball left and anything can happen. But the All-Star break is a great time to stop and take stock of what we've seen, so on Monday's Giants Talk Podcast we handed out some first half awards. You should listen to the podcast for our full picks, but here's a look at some of the awards we handed out:
Cole Kuiper: Kevin Gausman
Alex Pavlovic: Brandon Crawford
San Francisco Giants
You really can't go wrong here. Gausman ranks first (4.9) and Crawford is second (4.1) in bWAR and they're tied at the top of FanGraphs' version, just ahead of Buster Posey. All three of those players are All-Stars, and you could make the argument that any of the three is the team MVP. Gausman is 9-3 with a 1.73 ERA. Crawford is batting .289 with 18 homers and has a .921 OPS, along with Gold Glove-caliber defense.
Cole: Jacob deGrom
Alex: Fernando Tatis Jr.
Again, you really can't go wrong. Tatis Jr. has a 1.020 OPS and leads the NL with 28 homers and 20 stolen bases, while deGrom is on track to have one of the best pitching seasons in MLB history. He hits the break with a 1.08 ERA in 15 starts and he leads the NL in strikeouts. Some might give Tatis Jr. the edge because he plays every day, but deGrom is having such a dominant run that he might be the rare pitcher to break through during voting time.
Biggest Giants Surprise
Cole: Buster Posey
Alex: Steven Duggar
Posey missed the final week of the first half and was placed on the IL on Friday, but he'll take a .328 average, .968 OPS and 12 homers into the second half. By OPS+, this is the second-best season of his career at the plate, narrowly trailing his MVP run of 2012. He's back to being an absolute force, which is pretty incredible after two down seasons, hip surgery and a missed season.
Duggar has developed into a force, and his story is equally incredible. It's not a surprise that he has become the everyday center fielder -- he has always had the tools to do this. But what's so cool about Duggar's story is how he has gotten here. Injuries cost him a real shot before the new regime took over, and the Giants have spent plenty of time over the past two years looking for other answers in center field.
Duggar got just 34 scattered at-bats last season and posted a .458 OPS, but he kept grinding, kept working on tweaks to his game, and has emerged as one of Kapler's better players over the past month. Duggar has six homers, matching his three previous seasons combined, and his .485 slugging percentage is 12 in the NL among outfielders with at least 150 at-bats, just ahead of Mookie Betts and teammate Mike Yastrzemski.
Best First Half Moment
Cole: Walking off the A's to become first team to 50 wins
Alex: The Mike Tauchman catch that robbed Albert Pujols of a walk-off
To be fair, we both originally chose Tauchman, but Cole gave a shout out to a huge Saturday night win, too. You don't need an explanation of the Tauchman catch. Just watch it:
The Giants would have dropped to 0-5 against the Dodgers. Instead they won seven of their next eight games, including three straight at Dodger Stadium, and they haven't looked back since.
Worst First Half Moment
Cole: The opening night loss to the Mariners
Alex: Getting swept by the Dodgers at home
The loss in the opener wasn't the worst in recent memory -- it was just four years ago that Mark Melancon blew the save after Madison Bumgarner hit two homers on opening day. But it still stung quite a bit to give up six runs in the eighth and fall in extra innings. This team has a short memory, though, and that was proven after another low point.
The Dodgers came into Oracle Park in May and took the first two behind a sword-wielding Trevor Bauer and dominant Walker Buehler, and then they blew Anthony DeSclafani out in the finale. It would have been totally fair to think, "Yep, here we go -- the Giants got exposed and the Dodgers are going to run away with the division again." That's not what happened, though. The Giants got right against the Diamondbacks and then went to Dodger Stadium and took off, in part because of the Tauchman catch.
Next Man Up Award
Cole: LaMonte Wade Jr.
Alex: LaMonte Wade Jr.
It's been the motto of the first half, and nobody is a better example of "Next Man Up" than Wade, who took over at first base when Brandon Belt, Darin Ruf and Tommy La Stella were on the IL and proved he belongs. Wade has a .819 OPS and seven homers after hitting just two homers in 95 at-bats with the Twins, and he has been a revelation defensively at first base. As all of this was happening, Shaun Anderson -- the pitcher shipped to Minnesota in that deal -- was twice DFA'd and ended up with the Baltimore Orioles.
Cole: Steven Duggar
Alex: Alex Wood
You know what, you're going to have to listen to the podcast to hear the winning words, but here are a couple of honorable mention choices:
Best Player 25-and-Under
Cole: Joey Bart (24)
Alex: Marco Luciano (19)
The Giants have just seven players who have been in the big leagues this season who even qualify for this, and Logan Webb is pretty much the winner by default at their highest level. So we went deeper with a couple of top prospects. Bart was hitting .338 with eight homers when he was called up for a couple of games over the weekend (the Giants optioned him back to Triple-A on Sunday night). Luciano has a .896 OPS in San Jose and 14 homers in 206 at-bats. It won't be long before he earns a promotion to High-A Eugene.