This time last year the Giants didn't have a whole lot to cheer about. The team was 17 games under .500 and looking pretty lost.
A huge deal to a mechanically unsound Barry Zito proved to be a giant mistake, and outside of a phenomenal performance by young ace Tim Lincecum, there didn't appear to be a whole lot of hope for the club.
Flash forward to 2009. The Giants have the best team ERA in baseball, a winning record, and are right in the middle of the NL wild-card race. No, Zito has not reemerged as a dominant pitcher, so how did the staff do it?
The Giants have risen out of baseball's cellar on the arms of the best pitching duo in baseball, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.
That statement sounds fun, but what does it have to do with history's greatest pitching duos? Not much at all, actually. I just wanted to point out how good Lincecum and Cain were playing.
Maybe good isn't the word, though. Great is probably closer.
As it stands, Lincecum is 12-3 and leading the league in strikeouts and ERA with 205 and 2.19 respectively. His partner, Cain, has also posted 12 wins and an ERA of 2.49.
History buffs, don't skip to the comments yet. I realize what this piece is titled, and I can tell you that Lincecum and Cain will not be appearing in this slideshow. It's been a great year, but 1) it's not over yet, and 2) it's been just one year.
The duos on the following pages had multiple seasons together and were often the faces of their respective franchises for that period.
Lincecum and Cain are certainly on their way to that level of distinction though. Maybe we'll have to revisit this piece in 2011 or 2012 to see if I need to amend it.
Note that I use a few sabermetrics in my analysis. Here's a quick rundown in case you are not familiar with them.
ERA+: ERA+ adjusts a pitcher's ERA to the league average for the particular year and can be used for comparative analysis across different years/generations. A league average ERA+ is 100; players who pitch better than average have an ERA+ over 100, and players who pitch worse have ERA+ less than 100.
WHIP: Walks plus Hits per Inning Pitched. Could also be called average baserunners per inning.