The exciting San Francisco Giants shouldn’t be considered a surprise anymore, as tempting as the use of the term is when we refer to them.
They took control of the National League West division early in the season and never relinquished it, topping the Los Angeles Dodgers by one game.
Part of the reason the Giants were able to have so much success this year – they won 107 games, tops in the league – is their ability to transform flawed players, has-beens, failed prospects, and veterans that seemed done into valuable contributors.
That is much easier said than done.
One of the players “rescued” by San Francisco was Logan Webb.
A Breakout Season For Webb
The 24-year-old right hander, selected in the fourth round of the 2014 MLB Draft, always had some potential, but had flopped in two MLB cameos in 2019 and 2020 with the Giants.
But he had a 3.37 ERA in 304.1 career minor league innings, with 276 strikeouts.
San Francisco knew that he had lots of room to improve and become a viable contributor in the majors someday.
What they didn’t envision was him becoming a borderline ace on a playoff-caliber pitching staff in 2021.
Webb had a 5.22 ERA in 39.2 frames in 2019, and a 5.47 ERA in 54.1 innings last season.
What did he do this year?
Of course, he went off for a 3.03 ERA in 148.1 frames.
I used my new tool to find the most improved pitch quality between 2020 and the first few weeks of 2021
Logan Webb's pitching grade improved by almost 30 points (a lot). This could have been used to predict his breakout season, he had a FIP of 4.99 and xFIP of 3.60 at the time. pic.twitter.com/hape1vHYUH
— Cameron Grove (@Pitching_Bot) September 29, 2021
Webb struck out more than a hitter per inning (9.59 per nine, to be exact) and limited walks (a very good 2.18 bases on balls per nine frames) and homers (0.55 per nine).
His statistical profile is that of an ace, and that is validated by his impressive 4.1 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in less than 150 innings.
He could have approached six if his health fully cooperated, but San Francisco can’t, and won’t, complain.
Now, the whole country will be able to see what Webb can do when he shows off his skills on a national stage.
He is set to toe the rubber in the NLDS’ first game, on Friday against the Dodgers at home.
Vastly Improved Stuff
The Dodgers certainly know him well, but it’s a perfect occasion for fans all over the country, and the world, who are not familiarized with Webb to get to know him better.
His improvements in 2021 aren’t associated with a bump in velocity or a different pitch mix.
Instead, his slider and changeup are both vastly improved, and that increased the effectiveness of his fastball (9.0 pitch value, according to FanGraphs).
The slider had an outstanding 11.3 pitch value, also according to FanGraphs.
Logan Webb, 84mph Frisbee Slider. 🥏 pic.twitter.com/GU4aNNaihn
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 12, 2021
As a result, Webb, who hovered around 8.0 and 9.0 swinging strike percentage in 2019 and 2020, upped that number to 12.4 percent in 2021.
Long story short, he started missing more bats, earning more strikes, and collecting more punchouts.
More strikeouts are always a good outcome for pitchers, and Webb is no exception.
The Giants and Dodgers are very close in talent level, and that says a lot about San Francisco’s player development staff.
Webb has been one of their biggest works of art.