By TED SILLANPAA
Beginning in 1960s with Mays, McCovey and Cepeda, the San Francisco Giants were known for hitting the long ball. By the 1990s, they became home to the all-time home run king Barry Bonds.
Times have changed and three World Series titles came with great starting pitching. Those starters — Lincecum, Cain and Bumgarner — headline this list of the 25 greatest pitchers in San Francisco Giants. The three starters wouldn’t have experienced such success without equally effective late-inning relievers. The Giants’ best pitchers of the 1970s and ’80s were relievers. It’s no surprise that the second half of the list of 25 feature relievers from Greg Minton (1975-86) to short relief workhorses Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla — stars for all three world championship teams.
For those with shorter attention spans, we’ll break the list of top 25 into two groups, two stories. We’ll get to the matter of Bumgarner, Cain and Lincecum vs. Marichal and Perry next time. This is a look at the pitchers who rank 13 through 25. There are surprises because some pitchers on some horrendous Giants’ teams of the 1970s and ’80s weren’t actually that effective — and some from better times were better than even old timers remember.
Here are the guys who anchor the list of 25 Giants’ greats four times and the top 10 in shutouts three more seasons.
13. Rod Beck (1991-97): “Shooter” averaged 33 saves in his seven seasons as a fan favorite in San Francisco. The three-time All-Star was the Rolaids Relief Pitcher of the Year in 1994, finishing in the top 10 in saves from 1992-1997, with a career WHIP of 1.03. He ushered in a series of great closers. Beck finished his Giants career with 149 saves. He died at 38 in 2004.
14. Mike Krukow (1983-1989): Krukow has become part of Giants’ folklore as a wildly popular TV analyst, but his 20-9 record in a banner 1984 campaign was one of the best by a starting pitcher in SF history. The tall righthander had a 3.05 ERA and 1.057 WHIP. Krukow was an All-Star in ’86 finishing third in the NL Cy Young vote. Krukow was 66-56 with a 3.84 for the Giants. He pitched a complete game in the NLCS, beating the St. Louis Cardinals.
15. Bob Bolin (1961-69): The best Giants’ pitcher most fans have forgotten, Bolin started his career as a reliever, starred as the third starter for years, then returned to the pen to finish his career. Bolin is largely overlooked despite going 7-3 with five saves for the 1962 NL champions. His Giants career ERA was just 3.26, highlighted by a 14-6 mark with a 2.76 ERA in his best year as a starter. Bolin, a 6-foot-4 righty, finished 73-56 with a 3.26 ERA in nine seasons in San Francisco. He struck out 977, finishing in the top 10 in ERA in the NL three times in his nine seasons.
16. Santiago Casilla, (2010-2016): After leaving the Oakland Athletics and the name Jairo Garcia on the passport he used to get to the United States, Casilla signed with the Giants and played a major role as a set-up man for the 2010 world championship team. Casilla has been a mainstay for all three title teams, appearing in 24 postseason games and going 1-0 with four saves and an ERA of 0.95. After becoming the closer in 2014, Casilla continued a string averaging 56 appearances per year. He saved 38 games in 2015.Casilla is 32-20 as a Giant for seven seasons with a 2.30 ERA ad 117 saves in 396 appearances.
17. John Burkett, (1987, 1990-1995): Burkett was 22-7 for the 1993 San Francisco club that won 103 games yet finished a game behind the NL West champion Atlanta Braves. Burkett had a 67-42 record in San Francisco in six years. He had two good years to go with the exceptional campaign, going 14-7 in ’90 and 13-9 in ’92. The Giants traded him to the Texas Rangers in 1994, receiving future star shortstop Rich Aurilia in return.
18. Frank Linzy (1963-1970): Linzy was a forerunner of the modern day closer, shutting things down for Giants teams that were always bridesmaids, but never the bride. Linzy appeared in 531 games, finishing 217 and working 217 for the Giants. He averaged roughly two innings per outing, but mixed in longer outings to save weaker pitching staffs when the club was built on power.The right hander had a 48-39 record in SF with 77 saves and an ERA of 2.71. He started a game in ’63, but made his other 530 games in relief. His best season was a 14-9 year with with 11 saves in 1969. He was in the top 10 in NL saves from 12965 to 1969. In 1965, Linzy was 9-3 with a 1.43 ERA and 20 saves.
19. Scott Garrelts (1982-1991): His statistics leave Garrelts in the company of championship starters Cain, Bumgarner and Lincecum. Sadly, Garrelts played for some of the worst Giants’ teams in San Francisco history before twice appearing in the postseason. Garrelts was 69-53 with a Giants’ ERA of 3.29. a 1.28 WHIP. He was an All-Star in 1983, then won the NL ERA title and the media vote to earn the NL Pitching Title. Garrelts was 14-5 in ’89, first in the league with a .737 won-loss percentage. He finished with double digit wins four times late in his career after getting double-digit saves four times early in his career as a fireballer out of the pen.
20. Greg Minton (1975-1986): “The Moon Man” averaged 47.2 appearances as one of the Giants’ first modern-day closer. In an era when the Giants lacked talent almost everywhere, Minton was a most valuable pitcher, saving 125 games before the closers who pitched just the last inning starting running up amazing numbers. Minton was an NL All-Star in 1982, finishing sixth in the NL Cy Young Award voting. His best season came in ’82 when he was 10-4. He finished 49-52 with a 3.23 ERA before signing with the California Angels in 1984.
21. Gary Lavelle (1974-1984): The hard-throwing southpaw would join Minton in what now would be a dream lefty-right late-inning bullpen duo. Like Minton, Lavelle’s numbers are as impressive as his stuff was while pitching through some dark years in San Francisco. He finished 73-67 with a 2.82 ERA and 122 saves — good for the generation where he starred. Lavelle was an All-Star in 1977 and 1983. The southpaw finished in the top 10 in saves five times in his 11 years with the Giants.
22. Jim Barr (1971-1979): John Montefusco and Ed Halicki got more attention, but Barr was far and away the best starting pitcher that the Giants had through most of the 1970s. His ERA was a creditable 3.41 in 899 innings pitcher, but he still finished with a career record of 90-96 for teams that let go of such stars as Gary Matthews, Garry Maddox, Dave Kingman and Bobby Bonds. Barr finished in the top 10 in complete games times. He was a bulldog, a fan favorite always among the leaders in innings pitched.
23. John Montefusco (1974-1980): He’s remembered as a Giants ace in the ’70s, but actually gained noteriety for being called “The Count of Montefusco” with a braggadocious nature on teams with no real reason to boast about anything. After winning his debut against the Dodgers, pitching nine innings in relief and hitting a home run in his first at bat — “The Count” won fans by proclaiming he hated the Dodgers. He was the 1975 NL Rookie of the Year and an All-Star in 1976, but gained fame for taking every opportunity to detail his hatred of the Dodgers. Montefusco finished 59-62 in SF with an ERA of 3.47 and 869 strikeouts. Not that impressive, but he gave Giants’ fans reason for hope.
24. Stu Miller (1958-1962): The Candlestick Park winds knocked him off-balance resulting in an 1961 All-Star game balk that made the 165-pounder part of Giants’ history. Major League Baseball had two All-Star games in ’61 and Miller was on both NL squads. Miller won the 1958 NL Pitching Title. Doubling as a starter and a reliever, Miller was the top pitcher in the club’s first two seasons in San Francisco before helping the Giants to the 1962 NL title and finishing his time in San Francisco with a 3.16 ERA.
25. Billy Swift (1992-1994): The injury-plagued young right-hander won the NL ERA crown with a 2.08 mark in 1992. He had a magnificent 21-8 season in 1993, finishing with a 2.82 ERA in 232 innings pitched. He dominated for the Giants who won 103 games without earning a playoff spot. Swift’s arm trouble got the best of him in 1994 and he quickly left for Colorado before sliding out of baseball after once being a first round draft pick by the Seattle Mariners in 1984. If he’d stayed healthy, Swift would be well up this list. He was still so magnificent that one amazing campaign for an amazing ’93 team merits him a spot among the 25 greatest pitchers of all time in Giants’ history.
NEXT: The top 12 pitchers, representing each era, in San Francisco Giants’ history. Marichal? Lincecum? Bumgarner? Or, Jack Sanford?