San Francisco Giants Pitching Staff: How Does It Compare to the Best Ever?

Sam WestmorelandFeatured ColumnistSeptember 24, 2010

San Francisco Giants Pitching Staff: How Does It Compare to the Best Ever?

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    ST. LOUIS - AUGUST 21: Starter Tim Lincecum #55 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on August 21, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    The San Francisco Giants' pitching staff has been on an unprecedented tear in the last three weeks. The Giants have pitched in 17 consecutive games in which they've held an opponent to three runs or fewer, and 12 consecutive games in which they've limited them to 2 runs or fewer.

    Both of these streaks are records.

    Where does this feat place San Fran's rotation amongst the greatest pitching staffs of all time?

    Are they even the best staff in Giants' history? In honor of their feat, here are the 20 greatest pitching staffs of all time. 

20. 2003 Oakland Athletics

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    OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 1:  Tim Hudson #15 of the Oakland A's pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning of Game 1 of the 2003 American League Division Series on October 1, 2003 at Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland, California. (Photo b
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Who They Had 

    Barry Zito (14-12, 3.30 ERA), Tim Hudson (16-7, 2.70 ERA) Mark Mulder (15-9, 3.13 ERA), Ted Lilly (12-10 4.34 ERA), Rich Harden (6-5 4.46 ERA). 

    Why They Were Great

    The big three of Zito, Hudson and Mulder were at the height of their powers, dominating AL opponents. They were more dominant in 2002, but the staff was deeper in 2003, with the reliable Lilly and the young fireballer Harden taking the fourth and fifth slots in the rotation.

    As talented as they were, this team never quite seemed to fulfill its potential in the same season, which is why they're so far down this list. 


19. 1963 Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Who They Had

    Sandy Koufax (25-5, 1.88 ERA), Don Drysdale (19-17, 2.63 ERA), Johnny Podres (14-12, 3.54 ERA), Bob Miller (10-8, 2.89 ERA)

    Why They Were Great

    Koufax and Drysdale were dominant, Podres was good, and Miller pitched well. Three ERAs under 3.00 and none over 4.00; no wonder they won the 1963 World Series. 

18. 2010 San Francisco Giants

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    SAN FRANCISCO - SEPTEMBER 15:  Matt Cain #18 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers at AT&T Park on September 15, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Who They Have

    Matt Cain (13-10, 2.95 ERA), Tim Lincecum( 15-10 3.51 ERA), Barry Zito (9-13, 4.08 ERA), Jonathan Sanchez (11-9 3.16 ERA), Madison Bumgarner (6-6, 3.06 ERA)

    Why They Are Great

    Good and getting better with every passing day. Four guys under 28, all with #1 starter potential (and two who are already there). The streak of 17 games allowing 3 runs or less puts them in the top 20 all time. The Giants pitching 2010 staff also has the lowest ERA in the Major Leagues.


17. 1986 New York Mets

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    1988: Dwight Gooden of the New York Mets pitches during a game in the 1988 season. ( Photo by: Mike Powell/Getty Images)
    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    Who They Had

    Dwight Gooden (17-6, 2.84 ERA), Ron Darling (15-6, 2.81 ERA), Bob Ojeda (18-5, 2.57 ERA), Sid Fernandez (16-6, 3.52 ERA), Rick Aguilar (10-7, 3.88 ERA)

    Why They Were Great

    Ten wins apiece for each of the five starters. Three ERAs under 3.00, and no one over 4.00. With pitching this great, is it any wonder the Mets won the 1986 World Series?

16. 1927 New York Yankees

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    Who They Had

    Waite Hoyt (22-7, 2.63 ERA), Herb Pennock (19-8, 3.00 ERA), Urban Shocker (18-6 2.84 ERA), Dutch Ruether, (13-6, 3.38 ERA) George Pipgras (10-3, 4.11 ERA)

    Why They Were Great

    Dominant in an era of unprecedented offense. Pipgras’ ERA is kind of the turd in the punch bowl, but this staff was just as talented as the Yankees’ lineup. 

15. 1967 St. Louis Cardinals

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    Who They Had 

    Bob Gibson  (13-9, 2.98 ERA), Steve Carlton (14-9, 2.98 ERA), Ray Washburn (10-7 3.53 ERA), Dick Hughes (16-6, 2.67), Larry Jaster (9-7, 3.01 ERA).

    Why They Were Great 

    The World Series champs were so deep in their rotation, Bob Gibson was only the third best starter of the bunch.

14. 1967 San Francisco Giants

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    Who They Had

    Gaylord Perry (15-17, 2.61 ERA), Mike McCormick (22-10, 2.85 ERA), Juan Marichal (14-10, 2.76 ERA), Ray Sadecki (12-6 2.78 ERA)

    Why They Were Great 

    Four pitchers, four ERAs below 3.00. Utter dominance.

    It’s just a shame they couldn’t hit for Perry. 

13. 1974 Oakland A's

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    Who They Had 

    Catfish Hunter (25-12, 2.49 ERA), Vida Blue (17-15, 3.25 ERA), Ken Holtzman (19-17, 3.07 ERA), Dave Hamilton (7-4 3.15 ERA), Glenn Abott (5-7, 3.00 ERA)

    Why They Were Great

    Just look at all those ERAs under 4.00. This team could pitch, and it had Blue Moon Odom in the bullpen. 

12. 1966 Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Who They Had

    Sandy Koufax (27-9, 1.73 ERA), Don Drysdale (13-16, 3.42 ERA), Claude Osteen (17-14, 2.85 ERA), Don Sutton (12-12, 2.99 ERA)

    Why They Were Great

    Four excellent pitchers either on their way to the top, or at it already. If Drysdale hadn't had an off year, they could have been one of the top five teams ever. But hey, top 20's not too bad, right?

11. 1968 Detroit Tigers

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    Who They Had

    Denny McLain (31-7, 1.96 ERA), Earl Wilson (13-12, 2.85 ERA), Mickey Lolich (17-9, 3.19 ERA), Joe Sparma (10-10, 3.85 ERA)

    Why They Were Great

    Denny McLain won 31 games!  Earl Wilson and Lolich weren't half bad either, and Sparma actually pitched pretty well too. 

10. 1967 Detroit Tigers

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    Who They Had

    Wilson (22-11, 3.27 ERA), McLain (17-16, 3.79 ERA), Lolich (14-13, 3.04 ERA), Sparma (16-9, 3.76 ERA)

    Why They Were Great

    ERAs were higher, but more consistent, and no starter had fewer than 14 wins. The Tigers' '67 rotation flat out dominated. 

9. 1970 Baltimore Orioles

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    Who They Had

    Jim Palmer (20-10, 2.71 ERA), Mike Cuellar (24-8, 3.48 ERA), Dave McNally (24-9, 3.22 ERA), Jim Hardin (6-5, 3.53 ERA), Tom Phoebus (5-5, 3.07 ERA)

    Why They Were Great

    Palmer, Cuellar and McNally might be one of the best three man rotations ever. Hardin and Phoebus were decent, but it's the first three that vault this team into the top 10.

8. 1980 Houston Astros

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    Who They Had

    Joe Niekro (20-12, 3.55 ERA), Nolan Ryan (11-10, 3.35 ERA), Ken Forsch (12-13, 3.20 ERA), Verne Ruhle (12-4, 2.37 ERA), J.R. Richard (10-4 1.90 ERA)

    Why They Were So Great

    Look at those numbers. Richard and Ruhle were dominant when they were out there. The whole staff was dominant. But when your team can't score, you can't get many wins. 

7. 1965 Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Who They Had

    Koufax (26-8, 2.04 ERA), Drysdale (23-12, 2.77 ERA), Osteen (15-15, 2.79 ERA), Podres (7-6 3.43 ERA)

    Why They Were Great

    This team was throwing marbles all season long. From top to bottom, the rotation was unhittable, and had four elite pitchers at the height of their powers.

    Only Podres was on the wrong side of 30, and he was still only 32 at the time. 

6. 1968 St. Louis Cardinals

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    Who They Had

    Bob Gibson (22-9 1.12 ERA), Nelson Briles (19-11, 2.81 ERA), Steve Carlton (13-11, 2.99 ERA) Ray Washburn (14-8, 2.26 ERA), Larry Jaster (9-13, 3.51 ERA)

    Why They Were Great

    Other than Jaster, no team has ever had this kind of rotational success before. This team should have won the World Series. It was better than the installment that won the title the following year. 

5. 1988 New York Mets

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    Who They Had

    Gooden (18-9, 3.14 ERA), Darling (17-9 3.25 ERA), David Cone (20-3 2.22 ERA), Bob Ojeda (10-13, 2.88 ERA), Sid Fernandez (12-10, 3.03 ERA)

    Why They Were So Great

    Five Starters. None with an ERA higher than 3.25. David Cone lost just three decisions all year. Gooden, Darling, Ojeda and Fernandez were all still dealing.

    That's right, this rotation is better than the one that won the Series in 1986, thanks to Cone. 

4. 1954 Cleveland Indians

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    Who They Had

    Bob Feller (13-3, 3.09 ERA), Early Wynn (23-11, 2.73 ERA), Mike Garcia (19-8, 2.64 ERA), Bob Lemon (23-7, 2.72 ERA), Art Houtteman (15-7, 3.35 ERA)

    Why They Were Great

    One of the first true five man rotations, the 1954 Indians featured four pitchers over 30, but still managed to put together one of the best seasons a rotation has ever had.

    If they'd won the World Series, more people would remember them. 

3. 1972 Oakland A's

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    e.g. 'Chicago Blackhawks', 'Chicago Cubs'
    e.g. 'Chicago Blackhawks', 'Chicago Cubs'

    Who They Had

    Catfish Hunter (21-7, 2.04 ERA), Ken Holtzman (19-11, 2.51 ERA), Blue Moon Odom (15-6, 2.50 ERA), Vida Blue (6-10, 2.80 ERA), Dave Hamilton (6-6, 2.93 ERA)

    Why They Were Great

    Five starters; Five ERAs under 3.00.

    This team could pitch.

    Plus, when you've got one guy named Blue Moon, and another named Vida Blue who can both pitch like that, your rotation deserves a top-five spot. 

2. 1998 Atlanta Braves

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    e.g. 'Chicago Blackhawks', 'Chicago Cubs'
    e.g. 'Chicago Blackhawks', 'Chicago Cubs'Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Who They Had

    Greg Maddux (18-9, 2.22 ERA), Tom Glavine (20-6, 2.47 ERA), John Smoltz (17-3, 2.90 ERA), Denny Neagle (16-11, 3.55 ERA), Kevin Milwood (17-8, 4.08 ERA)

    Why They Were Great

    Before you poo-poo Milwood's high ERA as a reason why this staff should be lower, remember that this season happened in 1998, aka the height of the steroid era in baseball.

    Run totals were climbing, pitchers were watching their ERAs rise more and more. Except in Atlanta, where three of their starters finished with ERA under 3.00.

    Easily the most dominant rotation in the last 20 years. 

1. 1971 Baltimore Orioles

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    e.g. 'Chicago Blackhawks', 'Chicago Cubs'
    e.g. 'Chicago Blackhawks', 'Chicago Cubs'

    Who They Had

    Cuellar (20-9, 3.08 ERA), Pat Dobson (20-8, 2.90 ERA), Jim Palmer (20-9, 2.68 ERA), Dave McNally (21-5, 2.89 ERA)

    Why They Were Great

    The most dominant staff in baseball history.

    All four starters won 20 games, and none lost more than nine. They didn't win the World Series, but it doesn't matter. The 1971 Orioles were talented and deep, making them the best staff in history.