Imagine you are responsible to select an all-time starting rotation for the San Francisco Giants in a fantasy league. Your team would then have to compete against all other selected teams. Who would make your team? Who would you select for back up?
The rules for eligibility are simple. Pitchers selected must have pitched 1000 innings for the Giants. Relief pitchers considered must have logged 250 games for the team.
You may draw from any era the team was in existence.
The Giants have a long and storied history. They began in 1883 as the Gothams, but soon after in 1885 they attained the name we know the team by today, the Giants.
Many of the players for the Giants are the most revered the game has produced. This is true for the pitchers as well as the position players.
Even the casual Giants fan could probably name two of the pitchers making the starting rotation for the team if not more. Because they were located in the hub of baseball (and baseball writers) for much of the team’s history, the best Giants players have been quite celebrated over the years, and deservedly so.
So there probably won’t be too many surprises here. But let’s take a look at Giants' history and the pitchers who have signaled the team’s greatest success.
The National League originated in 1876. Pitching went through many developing stages over the next ten years, but I think most historians would concede that the pre-modern era of baseball pitching was at its peak from 1886-1892.
This was when unrestricted overhand pitching was first allowed (1886), up until the mound was moved to 60’ 6” (1892). Between the Player’s League (1890), which drew many of the top pitchers from the national league teams, and the mound being moved, the level of quality in pitching took a severe nose dive during the 1890s after the rule change.
The Giants of the late 1880s and early 1890s had one of the best teams in baseball. This was largely due to one of the great pitching tandems ever put together.
Tim Keefe and Mickey Welch, both HOF 300 game winners, led those teams to their success. Welch had the great curve ball of the era, and Keefe was simply the best pitcher.
Amos Rusie shone in the 1890s for the Giants until he self destructed over a salary dispute.
The advent of the modern era found John McGraw applying the pitching tandem theme for his teams. Christy Mathewson and Joe McGinnity formed a fearsome combination. The rest of their pitching staff (Hooks Wiltse and Dummy Taylor) wasn’t bad either.
Mathewson again teamed up with another, Rube Marquard, to lead the Giants to three pennants (1911-1913).
In the 30s, Carl Hubbell led the team, which included Bill Terry and Mel Ott, to three more pennants (1933, 1936, 1937).
This covers the more distant history of the team.
The Early Years Rotation
1- Christy Mathewson – 1900-16; 372 W; 79 SHO; ERA+ 136
2- Carl Hubbell – 1928-43; 253 W; 36 SHO; ERA+ 130
3- Mickey Welch – 1883-92; 238W; 28 SHO; ERA+120
4- Amos Rusie – 1890-98; 234 W; 29 SHO; ERA+ 137
5- Tim Keefe – 1883-91; 174 W; 22 SHO; ERA+ 130
Spot starter– Joe McGinnity – 1902-08; 151 W; 26 SHO; ERA+ 118
Today’s fans are probably more familiar with the Giants' history after they moved to San Francisco in 1958. The team has continued to have intermittent success, winning pennants and divisional titles, but they have no World Series titles since 1954.
On the 1954 World Series title team, the Giants had a trio of effective pitchers, whose careers for the team overlapped that year. Johnny Antonelli, Sal Maglie, and a young Hoyt Wilhelm spearheaded the Giants pitching staff.
The Giants tied the Dodgers for the pennant in 1962, resulting in a three game playoff. The Giants beat Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers behind veteran Billy Pierce, who had gone 12-0 at home for the team that season. Pierce then came in and saved Game Three for the Giants in Los Angeles.
On that staff was the new phenom Juan Marichal, who became the winningest pitcher of the decade, and a youngster, Gaylord Perry. They led the team to five consecutive second place finishes from ’65 to ’69.
More recently, the team finished first or second in their division from 1997 to 2004. Jason Schmidt was the leading pitcher from these teams.
Two-time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum is on his way to great things and a role on the modern rotation, but has yet to reach 1000 innings for the team. (He has 598 innings and 40 wins to date).
The modern rotation
1- Juan Marichal – 1960-73; 238 W; 52 SHO; ERA+ 125
2- Gaylord Perry – 1962-71; 134 W; 21 SHO; ERA+ 119
3- Sal Maglie – 1945-55; 95W; 20 SHO; ERA+ 128
4- Johnny Antonelli – 1954-60; 108 W; 21 SHO; ERA+ 124
5- Jason Schmidt – 2001-06; 78 W; 9 SHO; ERA+ 126
The Giants all-time rotation
1 – Christy Mathewson
2 – Juan Marichal
3 – Carl Hubbell
4 – Tim Keefe
5 – Gaylord Perry
Spot starters – Mickey Welch, Joe McGinnity, Sal Maglie
Spot knockdown specialist – Amos Rusie
Relievers – Rob Nenn, Rod Beck, Frank Linzy
Notes – this is one of the great pitching staffs to be put together by one team. The first four pitchers on the rotation were simply the best of their respective eras. All five in the rotation are among the top 25 pitchers of all-time.
The list features two screwball specialists, Hubbell and Mathewson. Marichal and Keefe were the master of everything they threw, and Perry of course was the master of the spitball.
Welch, McGinnity, and Rusie are HOF pitchers. (It was Rusie’s beaning of Hugh Jennings in 1892 that led to the rule change of pitching from 60’ 6”—hence the reference above).
Sal Maglie was only allowed to pitch in the major leagues after an appeal because of playing in the Mexican League. He was banned until the later part of his career. His body of work for the Giants shows a tough-as-nails pitcher still at the top of his game 1950-1954. At the age of 33 and 34 in 1950 and 1951, Maglie led the league in wins, win%, ERA, ERA+ twice, shutouts and H/9.
Between Gaylord Perry and Juan Marichal until the current trend of fine pitching, there really has been little for the team to hang their hat on as far as strong pitching. But things are looking up for the current staff.
The near future may hold more names to add to the rotation as the Giants continue to make history.