The Los Angeles Dodgers came into the 2021 season as the clear favorites to win the NL West. The San Diego Padres expected to push the Dodgers and emerge as World Series contenders as well. But one month into the season, it’s the San Francisco Giants who sit atop the NL West standings.

San Francisco Giants odds
The San Francisco Giants have taken the early lead in the NL West, though sportsbooks remain skeptical of their long-term chances. (Image: Daniel Shirey/Getty)

The Giants have compiled an 18-12 record, putting themselves 1.5 games ahead of both the Dodgers and the Padres in early May.

Veterans Showing Vintage Form

San Francisco came into the year with some hope of overperforming, but also with plenty of question marks. The front office stuck with much of an aging roster, even with a likely rebuild on the horizon.

But some of that veteran talent has performed brilliantly in the early going. Catcher Buster Posey is hitting .382 with seven home runs, suggesting that the 34-year-old might be recapturing his six-time All-Star form.

“I think Buster’s bat speed and the way his lower half is working right now is what I’m keeping an eye on,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler told MLB.com’s Maria Guardado last week. “His bat speed is great, and his hips and his lower half are working well. His body is moving well.”

Meanwhile, third baseman Evan Longoria is hitting .284 with a .925 OPS to start the year. The 35-year-old Longoria hasn’t his this well since his three All-Star Game appearances, the last of which came in 2010.

That hasn’t been enough to make the Giants an offensive powerhouse. But for a team that came in expecting to be one of the weaker run producing teams in the league, those rejuvenations have given the San Francisco lineup some pop. The Giants are averaging 4.43 runs per game, just over the league average of 4.36.

Starting Pitching Propels Giants

But San Francisco has truly excelled in terms of run prevention. The Giants are allowing just 3.40 runs per game, second best in the league, behind only the Padres (3.39). Alex Wood is off to a 3-0 start with a 1.96 ERA to lead the staff. But Johnny Cueto (2-0, 1.80 ERA), Anthony DeSclafani (2-1, 2.00 ERA), and Kevin Gausman (2-0, 2.04 ERA) have all pitched brilliantly as well. Only the bullpen has shown some signs of shakiness, with closer Jake mcGree posting a 5.54 ERA while collecting seven saves in the early going.

The big question is whether the hot start can last. So far, sportsbooks are skeptical. FanDuel Sportsbook still lists the Giants as a +2500 pick to win the NL West behind the Dodgers (-400) and Padres (+300). The oddsmaker also posts San Francisco as a +7000 longshot to win the World Series. The Giants have yet to play the Dodgers, and have only faced the Padres three times, meaning their schedule will get tougher as the year goes on.

But some analytics sites do see hope for San Francisco. As of Wednesday, FanGraphs projects the Giants to have an 18.1 percent chance to make the playoffs – hardly stellar, but far above the 5.7 percent chance they had at the start of the season.

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