MLB April takeaways: The Giants built a rotation from scratch – and may be creating a juggernaut

They will finish April in first place or within a whisper of it, the definition of a Nice Little Story if ever there was one.

Yet while the San Francisco Giants’ 16-9 start has a nifty narrative of reclamation projects and old vets locating their mojo, the undertone might be a little darker for their rivals.

Is another superpower rising in the west?

That was the presumption when the club in November 2018 handed over its baseball operations to Farhan Zaidi, the well-regarded aide-de-camp to Billy Beane in Oakland and then Andrew Friedman with the Dodgers.

It was in L.A. where Friedman and Zaidi built out a death star still wreaking havoc on the major leagues, from its star-studded acquisitions to fringy pickups and longshot draft picks that turn into gold.

Now, two years after his rapid-fire waiver-wire machinations were greeted with befuddlement by Giants fans accustomed to the more linear movements of the three-title era, Zaidi now has his own fans and surely rivals alike asking a familiar question.

Just how is he doing that?

Sure, the revivals of Evan Longoria and a refreshed Buster Posey have helped, but it is a cobbled-together starting rotation that indicates Zaidi has assembled a coaching and development staff that uncannily draws out the best version of a player.

Kind of like the team down south Zaidi used to work for.

The Giants lead the major leagues with a 2.20 starting-pitcher ERA, only a portion of that achieved with $22 million man Johnny Cueto, who made two starts and a portion of a third before a lat strain shelved him.

No, the bulk of the lifting has been done by a quartet that shares one characteristic:

Anybody could have had them, and for cheap, this off-season.

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