The 10 Greatest Individual Pitching Seasons in San Francisco Giants History
Is Tim Lincecum's second Cy Young Award-winning season a better performance than Juan Marichal's 1965 masterpiece? It's never easy to compare pitchers across eras and decades given the changes in the game, but here is my best attempt.
In 1908, Mathewson won 37 games with a 1.43 ERA and 11 shutouts. Hubble's 1933 season was almost as impressive, as he won the first of his two MVPs with 23 wins and 1.66 ERA.
Giants relievers were left off the list as well, even though over the last 20 years, the Orange and Black have had some great closers. In 1993, Rod Beck had 48 saves and 2.16 ERA, while in 2000, Robb Nen finished fourth in the Cy Young voting with 41 saves and a 1.50 ERA.
How can we forget Brian Wilson, who during 2010 saved a league-high 48 games in 70 appearances?
The last but most important formality is that only the pitchers' best season was chosen for the list. So even though many pitchers had multiple amazing years, only one of them cracked the top 10.
Here are the 10 greatest single-season Giants pitching performances.
10. Jack Sanford, 1962
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1962 was a magical year not only for the San Francisco Giants, but Jack Sanford as well. The Giants won the National League pennant and lost to the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series.
Sanford was the horse of the staff that year, finishing second in the Cy Young to Don Drysdale. He posted a 24-7 mark with a 3.43 ERA and 13 complete games.
The 33-year-old struck out 147 batters and threw two shutouts, not including the one he pitched in Game 2 of the World Series. Although Sanford was the losing pitcher in Game 7, he pitched well, giving up only one run in seven innings of work.
Sanford would only pitch two-and-a-half more years for the Giants, but the 1962 season will always be one to remember.
9. Rick Reuschel, 1989
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After successful seasons with the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates, Rick Reuschel was traded to the Giants in the summer of 1987. By 1989, Reuschel was 39 years old, but he went on to have one of the best seasons of his career.
The big right-handed pitcher was 17-8 with a 2.94 ERA in 208 innings of work. After jumping out to a 12-2 record, Reuschel missed some time with injuries—though he was effective, he never really was the same.
Still, Reuschel played a big role in the Giants' success in 1989, even though his postseason performances weren't as memorable.
The Giants let Reuschel go in 1991, but Giants fans can always remember how a man old enough to be their uncle was pitching like a man half his age.
8. Bill Swift, 1993
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Not only was 1993 a coming-out party for the Giants, but for Bill Swift as well. The former Seattle Mariners reliever finished second only to Greg Maddux for the NL Cy Young Award as a Giants starter.
Swift went 21-8 with a 2.82 ERA in a career-high 232.2 innings. He also posted career bests in WHIP (1.07) and SO/9 (6.1.)
Swift was the Giants' best pitcher down the stretch. In his last four starts he only gave up two runs, and the Giants won all four games. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to top the Atlanta Braves, and the Giants settled for second place.
Swift spent one more year before going to the Colorado Rockies, but like many pitchers who pitch in the thin air of Coors Field, he never found his groove.
7. John Montefusco, 1975
Not many rookie pitchers make as big a statement as John Montefusco in 1975. "The Count" won NL Rookie of the Year and finished fourth in the Cy Young voting.
His numbers were impressive, posting a 15-9 record with a 2.88 ERA and four shutouts. He was second in the NL in strikeouts and ranked third among NL pitchers in WAR (6.6.)
Although he was an All-Star and pitched a no-hitter in 1976, his rookie performance is more impressive. He ranked first in the league in SO/9 (7.9), a total which dropped the following season to 6.1.
Montefusco could never really recapture the magic of the first two seasons, and finally finished his career with the Yankees.
Even though he doesn't own the most impressive pitching season in Giants history, he may have the best nickname.
6. Scott Garrelts, 1989
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After leading the Giants in saves in 1988, Scott Garrelts moved into the starting rotation and was an immediate impact. The long-time reliever was the Giants' best pitcher in 1989, even though he missed time with injuries.
Garrelts was dominant that year, going 14-5 with a league-best 2.28 ERA. Despite holding the best winning percentage (.737) and WHIP (1.009) in the National League, he finished sixth in the Cy Young voting.
He was even more impressive at Candlestick Park, going 10-2 with a minuscule 1.57 ERA.
Although he struggled during the World Series against the Oakland A's, going 0-2 with a ERA over 9.00, Garrelts was a key pierce to the Giants' success that season.
5. Gaylord Perry, 1970
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Gaylord Perry was an absolute horse for the Giants in 1970. Not only did he lead the league in wins with 23, but in games started, shutouts and innings pitched as well.
The All-Star spitballer threw 23 complete games, posting a 3.20 ERA, and finished second in the Cy Young voting to fellow Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.
Perry carried the Giants to an 86-76 record, including a stretch of four consecutive shutouts in September. In one game he went 13 innings, and the Giants won 6-5 in extra innings.
In an age before pitch counts and inning plateaus, Perry reigned supreme. He would win the first of two Cy Young Awards in 1972 with the Cleveland Indians, finally retiring in 1984.
4. Mike McCormick, 1967
The return to San Francisco in 1967 meant a return to form for Mike McCormick. After a losing record with the Washington Senators, McCormick would respond with a Cy Young season.
The two-time All-Star would lead the league in wins with 22 and post an ERA of 2.85. McCormick would also throw 14 complete games and five shutouts.
His best performance that year was against the rival Dodgers. On July 9, McCormick would go 10 innings, giving up only five hits in the 1-0 shutout at Candlestick Park.
Even though the Giants would finish 10.5 games back of the eventual World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, McCormick placed his mark on Giants history and was the last Giant to win the Cy Young until Tim Lincecum.
3. Tim Lincecum, 2009
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After winning the Cy Young in his first full season in 2008, Lincecum won it again in 2009, in impressive fashion. The dynamic right-hander led the National League in strikeouts, SO/9, complete games and shutouts.
Although his 15-7 seems pedestrian compared to his 2.48 ERA and 1.047 WHIP, during the season he struck out 10-plus batters, eight times during the year.
Considering his slow start (0-1 7.56 ERA) in his first two starts, his 2009 campaign is all that more impressive.
His ultimate moment was a nine-inning gem against the Pirates, where he gave up zero earned runs and struck out 15 in a 4-2 win.
He also had a two-hit shutout of the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
So even though Lincecum may have been more exciting and electric in 2008, his 2009 performance is the one that makes the list.
2. Jason Schmidt, 2003
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Even though many Giants fans may never forgive Jason Schimdt for leaving to join the Dodgers, in 2003, the hard-throwing right-hander had a season to remember.
Schimdt came over to the Giants in 2001 and made an immediate impact, going 7-1 as the Giants pushed for the playoffs. After a solid year in 2002 (13-9, 3.45 ERA), Schimdt solidified himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Schimdt went 17-5 in 2003, leading the league in winning percentage and ERA (2.34.) He was masterful on the mound, holding opposing batters to a .200 batting average while posting an NL-best WHIP (.953.) The only reason Schimdt didn't win the Cy Young was that Eric Gagne had a season for the ages.
In June, Schimdt would face the Dodgers on back-to-back starts, not allowing a single earned run while recording two complete games.
Although Schimdt could never recreate the magic of the Giants' 2003 season and their wire-to-wire NL West title, his spectacular season goes down as the second best in Giants history.
1. Juan Marichal, 1965
With a Hall of Fame career like that of Juan Marichal, it's hard to choose only one season.
In 1968, he won 26 games and had a league-best 30 complete games. In 1966, he led the league in winning percentage and posted an outrageous WHIP of .859. He walked only 36 batters in 307.1 innings pitched—talk about control.
Yet the best pitching performance of his career was in 1965 when the Dominican Dandy had 24 complete games and a career-high 10 shutouts. Though his 22-13 record isn't close to his best, he had an ERA of 2.13, which was good enough for second in the league behind Cy Young winner Sandy Koufax.
That year Marichal was second in the league in WAR (10.1) and first among pitchers (9.9.) The 10-time All-Star was also named the All-Star Game MVP after pitching three shutout innings.
During June of 1965, Marichal went 5-2 with a .74 ERA, tossing five complete games and three shutouts.
Although he never won a Cy Young Award, Marichal goes down as the greatest San Francisco Giants pitcher of all time.