Next up in the San Francisco Giants season reviews is right-handed starting pitcher Kevin Gausman.
12 games (10 starts), 59.2 innings, 50 hits, 16 walks, 0 hit by pitch, 8 home runs, 79 strikeouts, 1.106 WHIP
3.62 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 1.3 rWAR, 1.5 fWAR
Status throughout the season
Gausman was on the Opening Day roster, and stayed on the active roster all season long.
It’s kind of funny to look back on Gausman’s first appearance with the Giants with the benefit of hindsight. Because that first appearance was in relief.
Admittedly it was just the second game of the season, and the Giants were using pitchers in bizarre ways. But it’s still funny to think of Gausman starting the season in relief for Tyler Anderson, and ending the season as the Giants best pitcher.
Drew Smyly might have wrestled that title from him had he stayed healthy, but availability is the best ability.
Gausman was the Giants ace, which is both praise for his work and criticism of the Giants rotation as a whole. He finished second on the team in innings pitched, yet also finished second in FIP. Not just among starters, or pitchers with a qualified number of innings. He finished second in FIP among all 23 Giants who threw a pitch in 2020, despite carrying a heavy workload as a starter.
On top of that, he was perhaps their most fun pitcher to watch. He seemed to strike nearly every batter out, and his 11.9 punchouts per nine innings was a number that Giants fans haven’t seen from a starting pitcher; not even Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, or Jason Schmidt matched that mark.
He didn’t have an astonishing array of pitches, but his two-pitch combo worked wonders, and he was able to run up the strikeout totals without walking many batters.
In all, Gausman was a breath of fresh air. In the past few years it’s seemed like the Giants were strongly trailing a lot of modern baseball trends. Gausman — with his high-90s fastball and his towering strikeout rate — felt like the Giants finally got to dish out some modern baseball instead of get beat by it.
It wasn’t all great. Despite the high strikeout numbers, Gausman was rarely dominant. It felt like after each start I wrote that Gausman pitched better than the result, and at some point that trend has to be respected as meaningful. Excluding his one-inning relief appearance on the final day of the season, Gausman allowed a run in every single game he appeared in.
Most of those starts were still quite good, but they weren’t fully dominant. I kept waiting for that seven-inning shutout, and it never came around. The flip side is that he did a good job limiting damaging, only allowing four earned runs once, and never allowing more.
But all in all he was really good, and it’s scary to think of the Giants rotation without him.
Role in 2021
All signs point to Gausman being retained for next year. The Giants already extended the qualifying offer to Gausman, which seems to be evidence that the two sides are already negotiating a multi-year deal.
Depending on what else happens in the offseason, Gausman looks poised to open 2021 as either the number one or two starter in the rotation.
He was better than I expected, and more importantly, just quite good.
How would you grade Kevin Gausman’s season?
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