Giants' Top 5 relievers: Guardado's take

June 8th, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO -- No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans. With that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only.

Giants' All-Time Team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | UTL | RHP | LHP

Here is Maria Guardado’s ranking of the top five relief pitchers in Giants history:

1. Robb Nen, 1998-2002
Key fact: Nen is the Giants’ all-time saves leader with 206.

Searching for a new closer to replace Rod Beck, the Giants sent Minor Leaguers Mick Pageler, Mike Villano and Joe Fontenot to the Marlins for ahead of the 1998 season. The trade ended up being one of the best in franchise history. With a fastball that reached the upper 90s and a filthy slider, Nen recorded a 2.43 ERA over five seasons in San Francisco and saved at least 40 games in four of those seasons.

A three-time All-Star, Nen logged a 1.50 ERA with 92 strikeouts over 66 innings in 2000, placing fourth in National League Cy Young Award voting, behind future Hall of Famers Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux.

In 2002, Nen willingly put his career on the line by pitching through a torn rotator cuff and torn labrum as the Giants made a push for their first World Series title in San Francisco. Refusing to succumb to surgery, Nen helped the Giants reach the Fall Classic, though the team ultimately fell short of its championship aspirations after falling to the Angels in seven games. Nen, who surrendered a go-ahead double to Troy Glaus in Game 6, never pitched again.

With his right shoulder damaged beyond repair, Nen was forced to retire at 32 despite a 2.98 ERA and 314 career saves over 10 Major League seasons.

"He was one of the best players, people and teammates I've ever seen," former Giants assistant general manager Ned Colletti told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2005. "He really died on the sword for the club and his teammates.”

2. Gary Lavelle, 1974-84
Key fact: Lavelle logged a franchise-record 647 pitching appearances for the Giants.

A 20th-round Draft pick of the Giants out of Liberty High School in Bethlehem, Pa., reached the Majors in 1974 and became a fixture in the club’s bullpen over the next 11 seasons, posting a 2.82 ERA over 980 1/3 innings. The left-hander delivered his finest campaign in 1977, when he logged a 2.05 ERA over 118 1/3 innings and earned the first of two career All-Star nods.

At the 1977 Midsummer Classic, Lavelle enjoyed one of the highlights of his career by retiring future Hall of Famers George Brett, Carl Yastrzemski, Reggie Jackson and Carlton Fisk during his two-inning appearance. Lavelle’s tenure with the Giants came to an end after he was traded to the Blue Jays in 1985, though he later returned to the Bay Area and spent the end of the final season of his career with the A’s.

3. Rod Beck, 1991-97
Key fact: Beck set the Giants’ single-season saves record with 48 in 1993, which was later matched by Brian Wilson in 2010.

began his career with the A’s, who selected him in the 13th round of the 1986 Draft out of Grant High School in Van Nuys, Calif. Beck spent two years primarily as a starter in the Oakland organization before being traded to the Giants for pitcher Charlie Corbell in 1988.

The Giants wanted to use Beck as a full-time reliever, and while he initially resented the transition to the bullpen, it wound up being a career-altering move for the mustachioed right-hander. Armed with a devastating splitter, Beck reached the Majors in 1991 and became one of the greatest relievers in team history, compiling a 2.97 ERA with 199 saves over seven seasons with the Giants.

Nicknamed “Shooter,” Beck was named to three All-Star teams and drew NL MVP votes in 1993, when he racked up a franchise-record 48 saves for the Giants. The following year, he was named the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year in the strike-shortened '94 season. Beck departed as a free agent following the '97 season and signed with the Cubs, saving 51 games in his debut season in Chicago.

4. Sergio Romo, 2008-16
Key fact: Romo recorded the final out of the 2012 World Series against the Tigers.

A 28th-round pick of the Giants in the 2005 Draft, spent the first nine years of his career in San Francisco, logging a 2.58 ERA over 439 2/3 innings and winning three World Series rings as a key cog in the bullpen. He earned an All-Star nod in '13, when he posted a 2.54 ERA and compiled 38 saves as the Giants’ closer.

In Game 4 of the 2012 World Series in Detroit, Romo was summoned to pitch the bottom of the 10th inning and protect the Giants’ 4-3 lead. After recording the first two outs, the undersized right-hander found himself up against Miguel Cabrera, the presumptive American League MVP and Triple Crown winner. With a 2-2 count, Romo shook off a call for his vaunted slider and instead pumped an 89 mph fastball down the middle for a called third strike, capping the Giants’ four-game sweep and securing the club’s second title in three years.

5. Brian Wilson, 2006-12
Key fact: Wilson became the first Giants reliever to lead the league in saves in 2010, when he converted 48 to tie Beck for the single-season franchise record.

threw perhaps the biggest pitch in San Francisco history, a fastball that struck out Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz in Game 5 of the 2010 World Series and secured the Giants’ first championship since they moved west in 1958.

A 24th-round pick of the Giants out of LSU in 2003, the hard-throwing Wilson reached the Majors three years later and ascended to the closer role in 2008. From '08 to '11, Wilson earned three All-Star selections and saved 163 games for the Giants, the most in the Majors during that four-year span. He showcased his dominance during the 2010 postseason, logging 11 2/3 innings without an earned run while converting six save opportunities.

Wilson made only two appearances for the Giants in 2012 before undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery in April. The following year, he signed a free-agent deal with the Dodgers, ending his seven-season run with the Giants.

Honorable mentions
Marv Grissom served as the closer for the 1954 World Series champion Giants and logged a 2.88 ERA with 57 saves over his seven seasons with the club.

spent the first five seasons of his Hall of Fame career with the Giants, winning the ERA title as a rookie with a 2.43 mark in 1952.

Stu Miller earned two All-Star nods and captured the 1958 ERA crown during his six-year tenure with the Giants.