The Greatest Players in San Francisco Giants History

And here we present the masterwork, the magnum opus, the big enchilada: our attempt to determine the greatest players in San Francisco Giants history. The overall greatest, the greatest by position, the biggest-bang-for-the-buck greatest, and so forth.  A massive undertaking, but one we've felt obliged to work on for some time now.  After cataloguing and evaluating every significant trade and free-agent signing, every player who started at every position, and charting each year's lineup, we figured we could get this one done, too. Eventually.   

As Giants fans over the years, we gradually developed our own opinionated lists of the greatest we'd seen, colored inevitably by faulty memory, affection, and circumstance. The genesis of this project really began when we started updating those historic pages-- the trades page, the teams page, the player register-- with data from those early days in San Francisco, the years from 1958 through 1964, before those faulty memories of ours even developed. Guys we'd heard about but never really known as Giants, such as Toothpick Sam Jones, Stu Miller, even Felipe Alou, for example-- to give these players their due, we needed to go to the record, to baseball-reference.com and Retrosheet. And as we started doing that, naturally we started doing the same for those familiar names we thought we knew well, for Chris Speier and Jack Clark and Mike Krukow and dozens of others. And we realized a lot of our assumptions were wrong, and so began the task of setting the record straight.

Determining the greatest players in Giants history, free of personal, "well, one time I saw him do this" bias, requires an objective standard, and over the last decade or so, thanks to the work of the ineffable Bill James and the sabermetric community at large, a viable common standard has been established. That standard, of course, is Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Given that the purpose of the game is to win, and that wins result from an effective combination of runs created and runs prevented, the single best determinant of a player's value, and thus his claim to greatness, is the number of wins he contributes to the team effort. WAR also establishes a baseline, "replacement  level," a shifting annual value based on league and park averages, below which a player is, presumably, subject to replacement by a candidate from Triple-A or such.  

WAR is a cumulative statistic, it is not a rate or average. It builds up over time. It is a second-generation statistic; that is, it is itself derived from raw statistics. And it is a relative statistic; the value of a run changes from year to year and park to park, while a win  is a binary constant. WAR ensures that a "win" in 1968 counts the same as a "win" in 2001, while acknowledging that the  relative value of runs to wins is decidedly different in those two seasons.

By no means is WAR a perfect statistic. It is the best we have, but it has its limitations. For instance, we are somewhat suspicious of the concept of "negative WAR." If a player's contribution is below replacement level, but he remains in the lineup-- and many do-- what's the reason for that? Of course, the cynics among us are already typing "stupidity" into their text boxes, but easy answers rarely suffice by themselves. Certainly we've all known, and seen, players who have outlived their usefulness (assuming they had any to begin with) but still are sent out there every day (hello there, Ken Reitz and Enos Cabell). But we must also consider that WAR, as with any statistic, can't quantify every measure of value. And what are we to make of players, and there are many, who post a "negative WAR" one year and a positive the next? At what point-- or after how many seasons-- does "below replacement level" play actually warrant replacement? We suspect no one knows the answer, because we suspect there is no one answer.

Accordingly, we chose to count any season with negative WAR as a zero in our evaluations. We believe this is a defensible tactic, especially since we are considering the very best players in San Francisco history. Candidates for greatness simply don't post "negative WAR" over seasons of 150 games, or 30 starts, or 60 appearances-- and those are the types of seasons that will determine whether or not a player is eligible to make the cut in the first place. 



Selection Criteria 

San Francisco Giants Only
Only seasons the player was in San Francisco Giants uniform are counted. Joe Morgan had MVP seasons in Cincinnati, and some fine years in Philadelphia, but only his two seasons as a Giant count here. Whatever Willie Mays or Johnny Antonelli may have done with the New York Giants is irrelevant to this evaluation; we count only what they did during their years in uniform as a member of the San Francisco Giants.

Regulars Only
We count only seasons in which the player was a regular starter, member of a regular platoon, member of the starting rotation, or a bullpen regular. While not hard and fast rules, the general indicators are something like this:
For position players, 100 games started and/or 300 plate appearances.
For starting pitchers, a solid majority of games must be starts, and the pitcher should rank among the team's top 4 (or, occasionally, 5) in games started.
For relief pitchers, he should rank among the team's top three in appearances.
We won't deny that occasionally a strong partial season might encourage us to boost the player's WAR up to the next highest integer, but in the main, we are evaluating full seasons' worth of contributions, and we are only counting full seasons.

Tenure
We have a strong bias toward those who played several seasons in Giants uniform. If you look carefully you may find some one-year Giants, but in the main, we're looking for players with three or more seasons in San Francisco. A combination of fewer than three full seasons and zero total WAR is grounds for automatic elimination (sorry about that, Kuip).


Using the above criteria, we selected a total of 212 Giants regulars for consideration, from Bob Schmidt to Will Smith. Given that the team has played 59 seasons in San Francisco, that's a turnover rate of about three and a half players per year. (OK, why would anyone want half a player?) More seriously, it's a turnover rate of about seven regulars every two seasons. We who make our living in IT and data sciences seem to encounter data "change rates" of about 30% every time we turn around; thus it's not surprising for us to see a "change rate" of about 27% here. Take a look at the lineups yourselves over the years, and tell us whether, on average, you see seven regulars come and go in the space of two seasons.

The 212 names will all be familiar to most of you. While we expect there may be great disagreement over our ranking criteria-- not to mention the rankings themselves-- we are confident that no worthy San Francisco Giant has been excluded from evaluation. 

The full list of all 205 candidates may be found at the end of this screed. 



Evaluation Criteria


For position players:
1. Years. One point for each seasons as a regular in San Francisco.
2. WAR.  Accumulated WAR as a San Francisco Giant.
3. All-Star. One point for each All-Star Game appearance as a Giant.
4. MVP. Five points for winning the MVP Award, four points for finishing second, etc., down to one point for fifth in the voting. One point for winning Rookie of the Year.
5. Black Ink. One point each for leading the league in average, hits, runs, RBI, home runs, OBP, or slugging.  
6. Gold Glove. One point for winning the Gold Glove award.
7. Postseason. One point for each postseason appearance (not postseason series).

For starting pitchers:
Items (1) through (4) and Item (7), same as for position players. Additionally:
5. Black Ink. One point each for leading the league in wins, win percentage, ERA, innings pitched, strikeouts, or shutouts.
6. Cy Young Award. Same scale as for MVP award.

For relief pitchers:
Items (1) through (4) and Items (6 and 7), same as for starting pitchers. Additionally:
5. Black Ink. One point each for leading the league in games, saves, games finished, or ERA.


You may find these criteria rather familiar, especially if you're a Bill James aficionado. A lot of this is cribbed straight from James' "Hall of Fame monitor" method, first outlined in the 1986 Abstract ("Baseball's Big Honor").  What James was trying to do was not to determine who ought to be in the Hall of Fame but, by analyzing what common achievements existing Hall of Famers shared, determine who was likely to go into the Hall of Fame, assuming the same criteria remained consistent. 


You may also find these criteria rather annoying. Specifically, post-season accomplishments, in HOF voting, are notably less important than regular-season consistency and excellence, according to James' evaluation of the Hall's standards. Players who were regular contributors to pennant-winning (and, by extension, division- and wild-card-winning) teams received credit for it, but not for their postseason numbers or awards. We have kept that standard, even in the face of our recent giddiness over three world championships and super-duper postseason heroics by some of our favorites. Halls of Fame and moments of giddiness tend to be oppositional forces.

When pushed to defend, we fall back on our favorite old chestnut: "Don't like the standards we used? Make your own! We're just fans, like you, and there's every chance your methods will turn out to be better than ours. Go for it!"

So, in short, using the same standards that baseball has employed to determine Hall of Famers over the past eighty years, we herein rank the greatest San Francisco Giants. 


Okay, what are we waiting for? On to the rankings! 




THE GREATEST PLAYERS 
IN SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS HISTORY
BY POSITION


CATCHER 

1. Buster Posey, 7 years, 34 WAR, 60 total points 
2. Tom Haller, 6 years, 19 WAR, 28 total points 
3. Bob Brenly, 6 years, 13 WAR, 21 total points 
4. Dick Dietz, 4 years, 12 WAR, 18 total points 
5. Kirt Manwaring, 6 years, 8 WAR, 15 total points 


FIRST BASE

1. Willie McCovey, 13 years, 44 WAR, 79 total points 
2. Will Clark, 8 years, 36 WAR, 63 total points 
3. Orlando Cepeda, 7 years, 31 WAR, 51 total points 
4. J.T. Snow, 9 years, 12 WAR, 29 total points 
5. Brandon Belt, 5 years, 17 WAR, 26 total points 


SECOND BASE

1. Robbie Thompson, 9 years, 34 WAR, 48 total points 
    Jeff Kent, 6 years, 31 WAR, 48 total points 
3. Ray Durham, 6 years, 11 WAR, 18 total points 
4. Tito Fuentes, 6 years, 8 WAR,  15 total points 
5. Ron Hunt, 3 years, 10 WAR,  13 total points 
    Joe Panik, 3 years, 6 WAR, 13 total points


THIRD BASE

1. Matt Williams, 9 years, 34 WAR, 57 total points 
2. Jim Davenport, 12 years, 18 WAR, 33 total points
3. Jim Ray Hart, 6 years, 25 WAR, 32 total points    
    Pablo Sandoval, 6 years, 21 WAR, 32 total points 
5. Darrell Evans, 8 years, 21 WAR, 30 total points


SHORTSTOP

1. Chris Speier, 7 years, 20 WAR, 31 total points
    Brandon Crawford, 5 years, 19 WAR, 31 total points
3. Rich Aurilia, 6 years, 17 WAR, 26 total points
4. Jose Uribe, 7 years, 9 WAR, 18 total points
5. Royce Clayton, 4 years, 8 WAR, 12 total points


LEFT FIELD

1. Barry Bonds, 14 years, 112 WAR, 198 total points
2. Kevin Mitchell, 3 years, 13 WAR, 27 total points
3. Willie McCovey, 5 years, 15 WAR, 23 total points
4. Gary Matthews, 4 years, 13 WAR, 18 total points
    Jeffrey Leonard, 7 years, 9 WAR, 18 total points        


CENTER FIELD

1. Willie Mays, 14 years, 114 WAR, 195 total points
2. Chili Davis, 6 years, 17 WAR, 26 total points     
3. Brett Butler, 3 years, 14 WAR, 20 total points       
4. Garry Maddox, 3 years, 8 WAR, 11 total points
    Dan Gladden, 3 years, 8 WAR, 11 total points


RIGHT FIELD

1. Bobby Bonds, 7 years, 38 WAR, 58 total points  
2. Jack Clark, 8 years, 31 WAR, 42 total points
3. Felipe Alou, 5 years, 17 WAR, 24 total points
4. Hunter Pence, 5 years, 11 WAR, 20 total points
5. Randy Winn, 5 years, 12 WAR, 17 total points



STARTING PITCHERS

1. Juan Marichal, 14 years, 63 WAR, 97 total points
2. Gaylord Perry, 8 years, 37 WAR, 56 total points
3. Tim Lincecum, 9 years, 23 WAR, 54 total points
4. Matt Cain, 12 years, 32 WAR, 49 total points   
5. Madison Bumgarner, 7 years, 26 WAR, 47 total points


RELIEF PITCHERS

1. Gary Lavelle, 10 years, 19 WAR, 31 total points
2. Robb Nen, 5 years, 10 WAR, 25 total points
3. Sergio Romo, 9 years,  10 WAR, 24 total points 
4. Greg Minton, 9 years, 12 WAR, 23 total points
5. Stu Miller, 5 years, 13 WAR, 22 total points 







THE GREATEST PLAYERS 
IN SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS HISTORY


1. Barry Bonds, 14 years, 112 WAR, 198 total points
2. Willie Mays, 14 years, 114 WAR, 195 total points 
3. Willie McCovey, 18 years, 59 WAR, 102 total points
4. Juan Marichal, 14 years,   63 WAR, 97 total points
5. Will Clark, 8 years, 36 WAR, 63 total points
6. Buster Posey, 7 years, 34 WAR, 60 total points 
7. Bobby Bonds, 7 years, 38 WAR, 58 total points     
8. Matt Williams, 9 years, 34 WAR, 57 total points
9. Gaylord Perry, 8 years, 37 WAR, 56 total points
10. Tim Lincecum, 9 years, 23 WAR, 54 total points
11. Orlando Cepeda, 7 years, 31 WAR, 51 total points
12. Matt Cain, 12 years, 32 WAR, 49 total points  
13. Robbie Thompson, 9 years, 34 WAR, 48 total points 
      Jeff Kent, 6 years, 31 WAR, 48 total points 
15. Madison Bumgarner, 7 years, 26 WAR, 47 total points    
16. Jason Schmidt, 6 years, 23 WAR, 44 total points
17. Jack Clark, 8 years, 31 WAR, 42 total points
18. Kevin Mitchell, 5 years, 19 WAR, 36 total points 
19. Jim Barr, 7 years, 28 WAR, 35 total points
20. Jim Davenport, 12 years, 18 WAR, 33 total points

   




THE GREATEST PLAYERS 
IN SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS HISTORY
AVERAGE WAR PER SEASON


1. Willie Mays, 8.14 WAR
2. Barry Bonds, 8.00 WAR
3. Johnny Cueto, 6.00 WAR
4. Bobby Bonds, 5.43 WAR
5. Jeff Kent, 5.17 WAR
6. 
Bob Shaw, 5.00 WAR
7. Buster Posey, 4.83 WAR
8. Brett Butler, 4.67 WAR
9. Gaylord Perry, 4.63 WAR
10. Juan Marichal, 4.50 WAR
     Will Clark, 4.50 WAR
12. Orlando Cepeda, 4.43 WAR
13. Jim Ray Hart, 4.17 WAR 
14. Jim Barr, 4.00 WAR
15. Reggie Sanders, 4.00 WAR
16. Jack Clark, 3.88 WAR
17. Jason Schmidt, 3.83 WAR
18. Kevin Mitchell, 3.80 WAR
      Brandon Crawford, 3.80 WAR
20. Matt Williams, 3.78 WAR 
      Robbie Thompson, 3.78 WAR






LEFT-HANDED STARTING PITCHERS

Until this past season (2016) the top five San Francisco Giants starting pitchers of all time were all right-handers. Not only that, the top six Giants starters were all righties, too-- Jim Barr being number six.  

That all changed in 2016 as Madison Bumgarner passed both Barr and Jason Schmidt, and moved into fifth place. Given that he's only 27 years old, and that he earned 6 WAR last year, another couple of seasons with the Giants will likely move "Bum" into second place all-time, behind only Juan Marichal. With no other Giants lefties anywhere near "Bum's" level, as something of a consolation prize, here we list the top five Giants southpaw starters since 1958.

1. Madison Bumgarner (7 seasons, 26 WAR, 47 total points). 

2. Mike McCormick (8 seasons, 15 WAR, 31 total points). No doubt a surprise to many of you, as he was to us. Mac, a 1950s "bonus baby," was starting regularly in the National League at age 20. After five good seasons he was dealt away, then returned in 1967 to win 22 games and an out-of-nowhere Cy Young Award, which really boosted his totals. He added two more years after that. In this group, only Kirk Rueter had a longer career in SF.

3. Vida Blue (6 seasons, 14 WAR, 26 total points), and, 4. Kirk Rueter (9 seasons, 12 WAR, 25 total points). Polar opposites-- ebullient, mercurial Vida and quiet, consistent "Woody." Vida had two seasons better than any of Rueter's; Kirk never had a season as bad as Vida's '79. We love 'em both.

5. Atlee Hammaker (4 seasons, 11 WAR, 18 total points) and Shawn Estes (6 seasons, 9 WAR, 18 total points). Two guys, one great season each, both probably remembered more for postseason struggles than anything else. Hammaker missed three full years with injuries; Estes lasted five more years after the Giants traded him away.  Bob Knepper (5, 11, 16) just missed the cut.

   



GREAT SEASONS OFF THE BENCH

San Francisco fans of a certain age are sure to remember two of the greatest seasons ever by players coming off the bench-- Mike Ivie's incredible 1978 and Candy Maldonado's 1986. Both players won full-time jobs as a result, Maldonado right away and Ivie eventually, but neither worked out as expected and both left the Giants under a cloud.  

This isn't about that. This is about those two seasons and others like them, or others we may have thought were like them, but weren't.

Ivie first. By midseason, the Giants were desperately trying to work him in wherever they could-- first base when Willie McCovey needed rest, and left field, which he couldn't play at all, for a few games. And pinch hitting. Good golly, pinch hitting. Without question, Ivie's 1978 was the greatest pinch-hitting season in San Francisco history, and might be the greatest of all time. 

In 31 at-bats as pinch hitter, Ivie hit four home runs with a OPS of 1.358 and drove in twenty runs. Memorably, two of those pinch hits were grand-slam home runs, one of them off LA's Don Sutton before a packed Candlestick house, resulting in one of the late Lon Simmons' most frenetic in-game calls. Both those pinch-hit grand slams came during KNBR radio's promotional "Giants Payoff" inning, in which listeners whose mail-in card had been picked won prizes when the Giants got hits or scored runs. A grand slam won the contestant a new Chevrolet Chevette. Not much of a car, but hey, a free car, or, more properly, two free cars.

For the season Ivie was .308/.363/.475 with 11 homers and 55 RBI over 117 games, 76 of them starts. How longingly the Giants management must have looked at the American League, with its DH rule.

Candy Maldonado couldn't break into the LA outfield, and Al Rosen pried him loose for a third-string catcher. In the wonderful Renaissance year of 1986, Candy started out by "pulling an Ivie": in 40 pinch-hit at-bats he belted 4 homers and drove in 20 runs while batting .425 with a 1.264 OPS.  Then, when Jeffrey Leonard was sidelined by injury, Candy stepped right into the starting lineup. He started 88 games in the outfield and drove in 60 runs, with 13 homers and 28 doubles, numbers similar to Leonard's. But as a sub, he batted .462 with a 1.366 OPS and five homers in 52 at-bats.

Willie McCovey, who was spelled by Mike Ivie for 54 games in 1978, had a season a lot like Ivie's back in 1962. The Giants had picked up Harvey Kuenn the previous year to share left field with "Mac," and Kuenn had 487 at-bats in '62 compared to McCovey's 229. But has anyone ever gotten more out of 229 at-bats? "Stretch" slugged .590 with 20 homers and 54 RBI. In 17 pinch-hit ABs he hit 2 homers.  At home he hit 12 home runs in only 91 ABs.  That's a Barry-Bonds-in-2001 pace. 

Rick Leach, the former University of Michigan quarterback, joined the Giants in 1990 as a backup outfielder. After Kevin Bass was injured, Leach got into the starting lineup on July 2 with the club at 38-38, nine and a half games behind Cincinnati. With Leach batting second behind Brett Butler, the Giants went 21-11, swept Cincinnati four straight at the 'Stick, and cut the Reds' lead in half. Leach then failed a drug test and was suspended, effectively ending his career. The Giants immediately took a 9-17 nosedive and fell ten and a half back, effectively ending their season. 

Memory jogs us to remember F.P. Santangelo, another journeyman outfielder, who got some starts in 1999 when both Barry Bonds and Marvin Benard battled injuries. We remember the versatile Santangelo-- who played six different positions that year-- as a "breath of fresh air." And indeed he was. Mostly batting leadoff in place of Benard, Santangelo got on base: a .401 OBP with 45 walks in 272 PAs, which resulted in 49 runs scored in only 58 games. Dusty Baker couldn't see the value, so Benard, whose .359 OBP wasn't leadoff-worthy (but certainly wasn't bad), returned to the lineup, and the top spot, as soon as he was healthy. 

Andres Galarraga started 36 games at first base for the Giants in 2001, mostly against left-handers as J.T. Snow struggled with his abandonment of switch-hitting. "The Big Cat" went .288/.351/.513 and by all accounts lifted everyone's spirits with his positive attitude; it doesn't please us at all to note his defense at first base was so awful it reduced his overall value by about half a win.
   
The following year, the Giants were desperate for a center fielder and grabbed veteran Kenny Lofton at midseason. Batting leadoff, Lofton scored 30 runs in 46 games, still had decent range in center, and delivered the hit that won the NLCS and sent the Giants to the 2002 World Series.  OK, granted; he was a midseason pickup, not a player coming off the bench. But his role was the same-- a fill-in at a position that needed immediate help, and got it.

Along with a dizzying series of concussions and other injuries, the Giants' 2015 season is remembered for two players who stepped into the breach. Veteran Marlon Byrd replaced injured Nori Aoki in left field and drove in 31 runs in 39 games, exactly what the club had asked him to do. Youngster Kelby Tomlinson replaced Joe Panik at second, and went .303/.358/.404 in 46 starts, scoring 23 runs, driving in 20, and earning the nickname "Clark Kent."

Of all these worthies, Mike Ivie in 1978 delivered the most WAR at 2.5.  McCovey in 1962 was at 1.9, Lofton in 2002 was 1.7, and Maldonado earned 1.5 in 1986. Chris Stewart, who replaced Buster Posey at catcher in 2011 after that nightmarish injury, also delivered 1.5 WAR-- all of it on defense.  Tomlinson (1.0), Leach and Santangelo (0.8), Byrd (0.6), and Galarraga (0.2) round out the rest of the group.  

Two players who are less than fondly remembered in San Francisco are Carlos Beltran, who finished the 2011 season with the Giants, and Melky Cabrera, who opened the 2012 season here. Neither of those players count as "off the bench," but we'll briefly note their contributions anyway. The defending champion Giants tumbled out of contention almost from the moment Beltran arrived; does it do anyone any good to note he put up a .323/.369/.551 and finished fourth in the team in WAR with 1.0, despite playing only 44 games? Cabrera, as we noted elsewhere, was having a MVP-quality season (4.7 WAR in 117 games) when he failed a midseason drug test and was suspended, which hurt the 2012 Giants not one bit. 

Perhaps we should have included them in the following segment, but we didn't. 





ONE-YEAR WONDERS

Johnny Cueto currently ranks third all-time on the "WAR per Season" list, behind only Willie Mays and Barry Bonds. This is, of course, because Johnny's pitched only one season for the Giants, and that was last season, and it was a good one.  He tacks on a few more like that and he'll stay up on the list. He has even one average year, and he won't. 

The per-season rate is something of a cheat; you have to be a miraculously great superstar to play a decade or more and still rank near the top. All-timers like Juan Marichal, Will Clark, and Orlando Cepeda are down in the relatively pedestrian four-plus range; Willie McCovey is especially hurt by this as his record 18 years in Giants uniform drag his average down to 3.28. 

And while we have already admitted our bias toward players who spend more than a few years with the Giants, here we take time to note those relative few who wrote their name large for one year, and then moved, or were moved, on.

Bob Shaw, 1965: 5.0 WAR
Shaw came over in the Felipe Alou trade in 1964, and Alvin Dark assigned him to the bullpen. Herman Franks gave him 33 starts in '65, and Shaw, 32, went 16-9, 2.46, pitching 235 innings. Shaw and Juan Marichal ate up over a third of the team's innings by themselves, and their two-man rotation came within two games of the NL pennant. Shaw struck out only 148 men in his 235 innings. We'd suspect, if we had the numbers, that his ground-ball and double-play ratios were very high; one of his top similarity scores is with Bill Swift. In any case, he was sure effective, and the following spring Horace Stoneham sold him to the New York Mets, where he went 11-10, 3.92 (for a team that lost 95 games) and finished 28th in the MVP voting.

Reggie Sanders, 2002: 3.5 WAR
Yeah, we were a bit surprised, too. Numbers good across the board, defensive as well as offensive. A little surprising they didn't try harder to sign him for 2003, although the guy that replaced him, Jose Cruz, gave the Giants a 3.0 during the regular season (we won't discuss that postseason).

Aubrey Huff, 2010: 5.7 WAR
What a great year this was: .290/.385/.506, 83 walks against 91 Ks, and 7 stolen bases without being caught once. Add in the Giants' first-ever ring and this is definitely the best one-year wonder the team has ever had-- except Huff hung around for two more un-wonderful years.

Matt Duffy, 2015: 5.0 WAR
One of our closest and dearest family members called this one in spring training 2015, and said beloved was deeply upset when "Duffman" was traded last summer. Playing four positions and settling in at third, Duffy's offensive and defensive WAR both were positive. He ht .295 with 28 doubles, 6 triples and 12 homers; his 245 total bases were second to Buster Posey's. Of course, his unhappy, injury-plagued 2016 dropped his per-season WAR average into a deep well, and we can only hope he'll revive his career in Tampa.    




SINGLE SEASON

It will surprise none of you to hear that the greatest single season in Giants history was turned in by Barry Bonds in 2001-- unless it was Barry Bonds in 2002. In both seasons he put up 11.8 WAR. It's a choice between 73 homers and a .370 average, and we believe the latter was the more remarkable achievement, especially coming one year after the former. There is no two-season performance like it in major league history.

Willie Mays put up five seasons of ten-plus WAR in San Francisco with a peak of 11.2 in 1965. That same season, 1965, was Juan Marichal's zenith; though he lost 13 games against 22 wins, his WAR was 10.5 (Sandy Koufax, who won 26 games, the Cy Young Award, and the world championship, was at 8.1). The "Dominican Dandy" also posted a 9.8 WAR the following year when he went 25-6 with a 2.23.

Tim Lincecum's 8.1 WAR in his Cy Young season of 2008 was the highest by any Giants pitcher since Marichal in 1966. Jason Schmidt had put up a 7.0 in 2004, the previous high. No one has come close since.

A few notes... Jeff Kent's 7.2 WAR in his MVP season of 2000 was fourth in the NL, behind Todd Helton, Chipper Jones, and teammate Bonds... Will Clark's zenith was 8.6 in 1989, almost two WAR more than MVP teammate Kevin Mitchell... Rich Aurilia's epochal 2001 season stands at 6.7, by far the best of any Giants shortstop... Willie McCovey's 1969 MVP year was 8.1 WAR, his best.... Of the current Giants, Buster Posey's 7.3 WAR in 2012 is tops... Melky Cabrera was at 4.7 after 113 games that same year, on pace for a 6.7 over a full season... The subtle strength of the Bruce Bochy Giants is revealed by that injury-riddled 2015 team, where the top four players (Posey, Bumgarner, Crawford, Duffy) averaged just under 6 WAR... By that standard, the 1966 Giants may have been the strongest of all. Their top five-- Marichal, Mays, McCovey, Gaylord Perry, and Jim Ray Hart-- averaged over 7 WAR, which is MVP territory.    






MULTI-POSITION PLAYERS


Two of the Giants' most colorful players made major contributions to the team at two different positions: Willie McCovey and Kevin Mitchell. We'll start with "Mitch" since his is the easier story to tell. 

Originally a shortstop, Mitchell was holding down third for San Diego when the Giants traded for him in 1987. He responded with a breakout year: .306./.376/.530 with 142 total bases in 69 games; he may have been the real difference-maker for that pennant-winning team. Average down, power steady the next year, but his range at third reached the microscopic level and the Giants determined to put him in left. That,  of course, resulted in his MVP season and a good followup year in '90 before ennui set in.

Mitch's left-field totals swamp his third-base totals, 27-9; in WAR it's LF 13, 3B 6. Winning the MVP and the home run, RBI, and slugging titles in 1989 made a big difference, of course. His overall contribution at third is 'way back in the pack-- dead even, as a matter of fact,with Chris Brown, for whom he was traded-- but as a left fielder he is second only to Barry Bonds in San Francisco. 

In the late fifties the Giants had one of the greatest concentrations of talent at one position in the history of the game: Orlando Cepeda, Bill White, and Willie McCovey, all on the same team at the same time, all young, all with tremendous potential. Two future Hall of Famers plus a five-time All-Star, six-time Gold Glover, two-time world champion, and National League president. 

In 1959, Cepeda was the star and White was the odd man out; he was traded before the season began. McCovey broke in spectacularly four months later; how many other teams have had the Rookie of the Year two seasons in a row at the same position?

In retrospect, it's clear the Giants should have been more forceful in persuading Cepeda to stay in left field from 1960 on, with McCovey taking over first base. Much has already been made over Cepeda's selfishness regarding that situation; we won't rehash it here. The result of it all was that for three years, McCovey was a player without a position, and for three after that he was a left fielder. He had a great year in left in 1963: .280/.350/.566 with a league-leading 44 homers. But 275 games in the outfield also led to repeated leg and foot injuries that would dog him throughout his career.

In 1965, with Cepeda injured, "Mac" took over at first and remained there for the rest of his career. 395 of his 521 homers were hit from 1965 on, and he won the 1969 MVP at first as well as the Comeback Player award in 1977 at age 39.  

As a left fielder, despite everything, McCovey still ranks as the third-greatest of all time in San Francisco, with 15 WAR and 23 total points. Only Barry Bonds and Kevin Mitchell outrank him. But at first base, "Big Mac" sets the gold standard with 44-- yes, 44-- WAR and 79 total points. Number two, Will Clark, is well behind.  


We also have a few Giants pitchers who fit the bill. No one really uses them any more, but back in the day most teams depended on what we called "swingmen." These were guys who started some, but less than half the time, and relieved regularly the rest of the time. They were flexible, and they got a lot of work. 

In the Giants' case, as late as 1970 the team had two, maybe three, only occasionally as many as four, starting pitchers on a regular rotation. In 1958, their first season in San Francisco, three guys-- Johnny Antonelli, Ruben Gomez, and rookie Mike McCormick-- started 92 of the team's 154 games.  Four other guys (including Stu Miller) started the rest, but most of their appearances were in relief. In 1965, Juan Marichal and Bob Shaw took their regular turns, accounting for 70 starts out of 162; five other guys, including Ron Herbel and Bobby Bolin, started the rest. But only 34 of Herbel and Bolin's 92 appearances that year were starts. As late as 1970, the field was wide open behind Marichal and Gaylord Perry; a group of five swingmen such as Rich Robertson and Frank Reberger started 88 games.

Of all these guys, only one made a measurable contribution as both starter and reliever, and that would be Bobby Bolin. He was a fine pitcher, there's no doubt about that. After nine years with the Giants he was stupidly traded away in December 1969; he went on to pitch four more years in the A.L., though not as well.

In 1964, 1966, 1968, and 1969, Bolin was a starter; 98 of his 138 appearances were starts, and he posted ERAs of 3.25, 2.89, 1.99 (!) and 4.43, with a overall record of 34-31. 

Used primarily as a reliever (1961-1963, 1965, 1967) he was good, too; in '63 he struck out 8.8 men per 9 innings with a 2.4 K/W; his best year was 1965 when he went 14-6, 2.76 with a 1.0 WHIP, primarily in relief.

Overall Bolin contributed 11 WAR in 4 years as a starter; compare with Jack Sanford's 12 WAR in 7 years or Mike McCormick's 15 in 8.  As reliever he earned 3 WAR in 5 years, which is about average. Why the team didn't just make him a full-time starter after 1964 is a mystery. Ray Sadecki, for instance, contributed a total of 3 WAR in his four-year stint; Bolin exceeded that in both 1966 and 1968. 

While not exactly reviving the "swingman," Roger Craig in his early years with the Giants became famous, or notorious, for switching guys between starting and relieving from year to year. Scott Garrelts was a starter in 1986, 1989, and 1990; he had been the team's closer in 1985, and would be again in 1987 and 1988. Mark Davis, a reliever in 1986, went back to the rotation in 1987 and then was traded. Don Robinson arrived as a reliever in 1987 but made his mark as a starter from 1988-1991. Then we have the short-lived but infamous "Mike LaCoss-as-closer" experiment from early 1989, which occasioned the desperation trade for Steve Bedrosian.

Garrelts and Davis contributed in both roles. Davis arrived on the scene in 1983, making 20 starts. He started 27 more in 1984, then spent 1985 and 1986 in the bullpen, where he appeared in 144 games but saved only 11 working ahead of Garrelts. Craig perhaps believed Davis was wasted in relief and made him a starter for '87. He was 4-5, 4.71 when traded. 

As both starter and reliever, Davis made a small impact: one WAR in 3 years as starter, one WAR in two years as reliever. His greatest value to the Giants remains the players he brought in trade.

Garrelts had a bigger footprint. He arrived as a reliever in 1984, and saved 48 games over the next four years, including 1986 when Craig jerked him back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen. Made a full-time starter in 1989, he had his greatest season: 14-5, 2.29, 1.0 WHIP, 20th in MVP voting. He fell off drastically in 1990, walking 70 men in 182 innings while his strikeout total fell to 80 and his WHIP increased by 50%. Clearly he was pitching hurt, because he never recovered after that season.

As a starter, Garrelts contributed 7 WAR in his two-plus years. As a reliever, he added 3 in 4 years, most of that in his All-Star 20-save season of 1985.    









THE STARTING LINEUP

"Aaaand now... the starting lineup, in that land beyond time... for OUR San Francisco Giiiiiiiaaaaannnnts...

"Leading off, and playing right field...  the premier power/speed player of his day, and perhaps any day... the first real '40-40' man in major league history... Bobby Bonds!

"And batting second... the greatest first baseman ever to play in the National League... our beloved 'Stretch'... Willie McCovey!

"Batting third... in center field... the man who needs no introduction... the game's greatest all-around player... 'Say Hey'... it's Willie Mays!

"Batting fourth and playing left field... we know him as the game's all-time and single-season home run champion, the only four-time MVP, the greatest pure hitter since Williams... son of Bobby, godson of Willie... love him or hate him, you can't ignore him. Barry Bonds!

"And batting fifth... at third base... with power at the plate and a Gold Glove in the field... a class act all the way... Matt Williams!

"Batting sixth... the 2010 Rookie of the Year and 2012 MVP... a three-time world champion... catcher Buster Posey!

"Batting seventh and playing second base... one of the most popular Giants of all time... Mister Consistency... Robbie Thompson!

"And batting eighth... a fine player for a long time on some not-so-fine teams... shortstop Chris Speier!

"Batting ninth, and warming up on the mound... the six-time twenty-game winner, the Hall of Famer, the legendary 'Dominican Dandy' himself... Juan Antonio Sanchez Maaaaariiiiiichaaaaal!

"And introducing the rest of the Giants' greats... Jeff Kent, Brandon Crawford, Will Clark, Jack Clark-- and down in the bullpen, Gary Lavelle and Robb Nen!

"Let's hear it for the greatest San Francisco Giants of all time!" 







THE MASTER LIST

1958
Bob Schmidt
Jim Davenport
Johnny Antonelli
Mike McCormick
Orlando Cepeda
Ruben Gomez
Willie Kirkland
Willie Mays

1959
Jack Sanford
Sam Jones
Stu Miller
Willie McCovey 

1960
Bill O'Dell
Ed Bailey
Felipe Alou
Harvey Kuenn
Jim Duffalo
Juan Marichal

1961
Jose Pagan

1962
Billy Pierce
Don Larsen
Chuck Hiller
Tom Haller

1963
Bob Bolin
Frank Linzy
Gaylord Perry
Matty Alou
Ron Herbel

1964
Bob Hendley
Jesus Alou
Jim Ray Hart
Masanori Murakami
Bob Shaw

1965
Hal Lanier
Tito Fuentes

1966
Joe Gibbon
Lindy McDaniel
Ray Sadecki

1968
Bobby Bonds
Dick Dietz
Ron Hunt

1969
Ken Henderson

1970
Al Gallagher
Ron Bryant

1971
Chris Speier
Dave Kingman
Don McMahon

1972
Dave Rader
Garry Maddox
Jim Barr

1973
Elias Sosa
Gary Matthews
Randy Moffitt

1974
Gary Lavelle
Mike Caldwell

1975
Bobby Murcer
Ed Halicki
John Montefusco
Von Joshua

1976
Darrell Evans
Greg Minton
Larry Herndon

1977
Bill Madlock
Bob Knepper
Jack Clark
Johnnie LeMaster
Marc Hill

1978
Mike Ivie
Vida Blue

1979
Al Holland
Bill North
Ed Whitson
Milt May

1981
Doyle Alexander
Joe Morgan

1982
Atlee Hammaker
Bill Laskey
Chili Davis
Jeffrey Leonard

1983
Bob Brenly
Mark Davis 
Mike Krukow

1984
Dan Gladden
Manny Trillo

1985
Chris Brown
Dave LaPoint
Jim Gott
Jose Uribe
Scott Garrelts

1986
Candy Maldonado
Kelly Downs
Mike LaCoss
Robbie Thompson
Will Clark

1987
Craig Lefferts
Dave Dravecky
Don Robinson
Kevin Mitchell
Rick Reuschel

1988
Brett Butler
Terry Mulholland
Matt Williams

1989
Steve Bedrosian
Terry Kennedy
Jeff Brantley

1990
John Burkett
Trevor Wilson

1991
Bud Black
Darren Lewis
Dave Righetti
Kirt Manwaring
Willie McGee

1992
Bill Swift
Bryan Hickerson 
Dave Burba
Mike Jackson
Rod Beck
Royce Clayton

1993
Barry Bonds

1994
Mark Portugal
William Van Landingham

1995
Glenallen Hill
Mark Leiter

1996
Stan Javier
Bill Mueller
Kirk Rueter
Mark Gardner
Marvin Benard
Shawn Estes

1997
Darryl Hamilton
J.T. Snow
Jeff Kent
Julian Tavarez
Rich Aurilia
Russ Ortiz

1998
Brent Mayne
Ellis Burks
John Johnstone
Robb Nen

1999
Felix Rodriguez
Joe Nathan
Livan Hernandez
Rich Rodriguez

2000
Scott Eyre

2001
Benito Santiago
Chad Zerbe
Jason Schmidt
Pedro Feliz
Tim Worrell

2002
Reggie Sanders

2003
Dustin Hermanson
Jason Christiansen
Jerome Williams
Jose Cruz
Marquis Grissom
Ray Durham

2004
Brad Hennessey
Brett Tomko
Noah Lowry

2005
Armando Benitez
Matt Cain
Moises Alou
Omar Vizquel 
Randy Winn

2006
Matt Morris

2007
Barry Zito
Bengie Molina
Brian Wilson
Fred Lewis
Pablo Sandoval
Tim Lincecum

2008
Aaron Rowand
Jonathan Sanchez
Sergio Romo

2009
Edgar Renteria
Freddy Sanchez
Jeremy Affeldt
Javier Lopez
Juan Uribe
Nate Schierholz

2010
Andres Torres
Aubrey Huff
Buster Posey
Cody Ross
Madison Bumgarner
Pat Burrell
Ramon Ramirez

2011
Gregor Blanco
Ryan Vogelsong
Santiago Casilla

2012
Angel Pagan
Brandon Belt
Brandon Crawford
Hunter Pence
Marco Scutaro
Yusmeiro Petit

2014
George Kontos
Hunter Strickland
Jake Peavy
Joe Panik
Mike Morse
Tim Hudson

2015
Chris Heston
Matt Duffy
Nori Aoki

2016
Denard Span
Derek Law
Eduardo Nunez
Jeff Samardzija
Johnny Cueto
Matt Moore
Will Smith


















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