When I think about Steven Duggar’s 2021 season, my mind immediately goes to September 5th.
I’ve written about this game a lot because I’ve thought about this game a lot and I don’t really see myself stopping anytime soon. It was beautiful for so many reasons. It introduced Camilo Doval into my life and it brought Steven Duggar back into it after a month long absence.
I really like Steven Duggar. He’s my kind of player: defensive-first outfielder, can cover a lot of ground in center field, has speed coupled with base running intelligence, and has a really lovely swing. Is there anything prettier than a lefty slapping a liner into left-center field?
Steven Duggar stays , blasts a solo shot to give the Giants the lead— KNBR (@KNBR) May 29, 2021
September 5th: bottom of the second inning. The Los Angeles Dodgers had just tied the game up at 1 run a piece. Brandon Crawford led off the inning with a walk and Mike Yastrzemski doubled to put runners in scoring position with no outs against Walker Buehler. Curt Casali then flied out to center on the first pitch for an unproductive out. The energy in the crowd leveled out—it was a rally killing play. Buehler was somehow going to get out of this trouble unscathed. Duggar was up next, having just been called up from Sacramento and had not faced big league pitching in a month. We had seen Buehler enough to know that he was more likely than not to power his way through these situations. He just needed a toehold and a one pitch out to Casali just gave it to him.
Switch to present-tense.
Duggar, on a 1-1 count, pulls an inside cutter down the first base line. It’s sharp enough to scoot by Muncy and bury itself in the corner where Mookie Betts has to dig it out. Two runs score easily and off-screen (if you are watching it on TV like I am/was/*shrug*) I can only imagine Duggar is Tasmanian-Devilling into third. The stands in Oracle burst into flames, the ‘Beat LA’ chants rise.
September 5th was not going to be a typically stunted offensive showing against Buehler and the Dodgers because this was not a typical Giants team. Duggar’s triple turned into a pinch-hit Darin Ruf single, which turned into two more runs in the third, chasing Buehler from the game, which turned into clutch bullpen outings from players like Jose Quintana and Camilo Doval, which turned into a series win for the Giants.
Now I’m no expert in reading body language, but watching Duggar scream into the dugout after arriving safe at third base, fumbling with the bands on his shin guard, fuming as he slaps Wotus’s fist, smacks him on the arm, adrenaline temporarily relieving him of any hand-eye coordination, I’d say this hit was a cathartic one.
Of course it was.
Steven Duggar has spent his short career with the Giants trying to find himself at the plate. His natural athleticism has always been there, his speed and defense in the field are enviable, but his bat has struggled to link up with his glove. He does not typically hit lefties and has been unable to break past the role of platoon. But in the early months of the 2021 season, Duggar’s bat finally found its stroke.
In May and June, Steven Duggar was possibly the best hitter on a surging San Francisco Giants. In May, he hit .322/.365/.576. In June, he got even better: .324/ .422/ .563.
A favorite moment during that surge was on June 26th against the Oakland A’s. The Giants were down 5-4 in the bottom of the 10th with Crawford as the automatic runner at second. After Solano popped up for an unproductive out, Duggar, in a full-count, stroked a single to center to tie the game.
Switch to present tense.
With the winning run on first, Casali pulls a ball into the outfield that bounces to the angled wall out in left. The play develops slowly, the ball bounding towards foul territory. You know Duggar is running. But where is he? Did he get a good jump? He’ll get third, he’ll definitely get third...Tony Kemp doesn’t take a direct route to the ball, expecting a carom but instead it dies against the wall. Duggar’s got to be near third, right? He must be...Kemp rushes to make up ground and picks up the ball with his bare hand and we see Duggar gliding past third, teeth clenched, helmet boiling a-top his head. Kemp hits the cut-off on his glove side and the relay is on-line towards home. The camera zooms out following the throw as it chases Duggar, trails Duggar as he kicks out, hits the dirt and cleats home as the ball short hops the catcher. Game over. Duggar spikes his helmet, stumbles back towards the dugout, Giants players swarm around him.
Speed will always make things more exciting because with speed more things are possible. It’s funny and entertaining to watch Buster Posey leg out a single or roll towards home, but there’s nothing like seeing a player like Duggar just flat out haul around the bases.
I’m not sure what Steven Duggar’s role is going to be going forward into 2022. The Giants have a crowded outfield with plenty of talent that might get even more crowded with interest in players like Nick Castellanos or Chris Taylor or who knows. What I do know is that Duggar is an effective platoon, a great center fielder and cheap. He has run out of minor league options after this year, so the Giants would have to designate him for assignment if wasn’t playing. He deserves that stability after these past couple years bouncing back and forth between San Francisco and the farm.
I hope he can find the swing he had in May and June again—it made for some fun baseball.