The San Francisco Giants have great pitchers. They have a "Big Five" of former Cy Young winners and current Cy Young candidates, and it's very tough to rank them.
How do you say that a Cy Young candidate is the No. 4 pitcher on a team?
I just don't know.
However, the Giants' staff is that deep. They've always been known for winning low-scoring games and grinding out tight wins thanks to their pitching staff.
So, without further ado, here are the rankings for the Giants' five starting pitchers.
2012 Stats: 9-8, 4.42 ERA
Any knowledgeable Giants fan would tell you that Barry Zito is the worst starter on the team. And they'd be right.
Zito's ERA has been north of 4.00 in each of his six seasons with the Giants, and his record hasn't been too pretty either. For a No. 5 pitcher, his 2012 stats are respectable, but he was signed to a 126-million dollar contract in 2007. Has he lived up to the expectations set for him?
Not at all.
When Zito hits his spots, he's dominant. His fastball sets up his curveball, and he freezes hitters by placing a sinking pitch right on the corner for strike three. He's pitched like that at times this season, with four shutouts of seven-plus innings.
But his inconsistency has really hurt San Francisco. Zito sometimes falls behind counts and hangs pitches over the plate, which is every hitter's dream. Because of this, his stats haven't been pretty during his time with the Giants.
This makes him the obvious choice for the worst starting pitcher on the team.
Stats: 10-7, 2.85 ERA
Before I get a bunch of angry comments, hear me out.
Vogelsong was 10-5 with a 2.27 ERA on the morning of August 13. On the afternoon of August 19, he was 10-7 with a 2.85 ERA. What happened, you may ask? The hittable pitches Vogelsong threw finally turned into hits, and lots of pitches were fouled off (which ran up his pitch count).
Against the Padres, one of baseball's worst offensive teams, Vogelsong threw multiple pitches in every inning and was yanked after three terrible frames. In the first two innings, Vogelsong threw an astounding 66 pitches.
He won't be getting that kind of luck consistently. Vogelsong hasn't been able to miss bats, but he's done a nice job forcing weak contact. He's gotten away with some mistakes, but hitters have made him pay for leaving curveballs and fastballs up in the zone.
His stats have been a lot better than Tim Lincecum's and near Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner's, but if I could choose one to start Game 7 of the World Series, it wouldn't be Vogelsong. He's been great this season, but a lot of luck has factored into his success, and lately, he hasn't been able to keep his pitch count down and get out of jams.
2012 Stats: 7-13, 5.30 ERA
While Lincecum hasn't been good in 2012, he has put up some great numbers over the course of his career.
Lincecum has won two Cy Young awards and was the winning pitcher in the clinching game of the 2010 World Series. He has been known as a great strikeout pitcher who has nasty stuff, and a terrific athlete with a crazy windup.
Timmy has a good fastball, a hard slider, a curveball that can freeze hitters and a deceptive changeup. Even if he completely misses his target, Lincecum can make a hitter look foolish. That's how good his stuff is.
However, Lincecum, who was always able to get out of jams, has struggled to slam the door with runners on base. His confidence was low in June, and he wasn't able to perform at all. However, he's been better now.
Lincecum is 4-3 with a 3.10 ERA after the All-Star break, and he's been able to pitch better with runners on base. The old Lincecum almost always slammed the door in those situations, limiting the damage. We're seeing that Lincecum now, which is why he's not lower in my rankings.
And even though I seriously considered putting Lincecum higher, the next two guys are just a tad better (in my opinion).
2012 Stats: 14-7, 2.83 ERA
Bumgarner has a funky delivery, some good stuff and a very high level of maturity. If you add that up, you get a great pitcher.
Right now, Bumgarner is the No. 2 pitcher on the Giants. However, he's only 23 and will only get better. He can pitch well in any situation and isn't fazed by anything. His cutter and breaking ball are nasty, and his fastballs gets him ahead of the count.
Hitters have trouble seeing the ball because of his release, and the movement doesn't help. He can fool top hitters with breaking balls in the dirt, but he can also place his pitches on the corner. Bumgarner's craftiness and pitch selection has enabled him to strike out a lot of hitters over the last two seasons.
This year he's held opposing batters to a .218 batting average and has an astounding 0.99 WHIP. Though he's shown some signs of inconsistency throughout the year, particularly on the road, Bumgarner has been magnificent for the Giants this season.
Every team has had trouble with Bumgarner. He's allowed a lot of home runs, but he knows how to work his way out of jams and get all kinds of outs. Bumgarner would be the ace on most teams, but the Giants aren't like most teams.
Because most teams don't have Matt Cain.
2012 Stats: 13-5, 2.83 ERA
Matt Cain used to be the most underrated pitcher in baseball. Then he threw a perfect game.
Now his incredible feats are being recognized.
Cain has a spectacular win-loss record, ERA and WHIP (1.01) this year, and is now recognized as the Giants' ace.
He can get all kinds of outs and can pitch his way out of jams.
Although he doesn't throw many shutouts, quality starts are common for him. Cain keeps his pitch count down and is able to log a lot of innings. It's very rare that he doesn't go more than six innings in a game.
Cain has an effective slider and changeup, as well as a fastball that gets him ahead of the count. When he's on, hitters whiff at his off-speed pitches and watch fastballs fly in on the corners for first and second-pitch strikes. Usually he's on, so hitters have trouble hitting him.
Even though Bumgarner and Lincecum are great, I had to go with The Horse here. Cain's always been consistent, but he's finally being recognized as an ace. He performs the best with pressure on and he's always going to give you his maximum effort.
Final verdict: Mr. Perfect is No. 1.