Here’s a fun thought experiment: What would a Giants team constructed of the best individual seasons by hitters and pitchers in the New York and San Francisco eras look like? The end result produced an all-time roster stacked with five Hall of Famers, three National League MVPs and seven All-Stars.
Let’s break it down:
C: 2012 Buster Posey
Key stats: .336/.408/.549, 24 HR, 103 RBI, 171 OPS+, 10.1 fWAR
Posey was limited to only 45 games in 2011 after a home-plate collision left him with a fractured fibula and torn ligaments in his left ankle, but he came back to deliver a career season in 2012, leading the Giants to their second World Series title in three years. Posey captured NL MVP honors while setting career highs in batting average, home runs and RBIs and became the first catcher to win the NL batting title in 70 years.
1B: 1989 Will Clark
Key stats: .333/.407/.546, 23 HR, 111 RBI, 175 OPS+, 8.1 fWAR
Clark finished second in NL MVP voting to Giants teammate Kevin Mitchell in 1989, when the two sluggers teamed up to carry San Francisco to its first World Series appearance in nearly three decades. Clark, the second overall pick of the 1985 MLB Draft, emerged as the Giants’ best all-around player, earning the second of six career All-Star selections and narrowly losing the batting crown to the Padres’ Tony Gwynn.
2B: 1927 Rogers Hornsby
Key stats: .361/.448/.586, 26 HR, 125 RBI, 175 OPS+, 10.4 fWAR
Hornsby’s tenure with the New York Giants lasted only one year, but the Hall of Fame second baseman certainly left his mark. Acquired from the Cardinals in exchange for second baseman Frankie Frisch and pitcher Jimmy Ring, Hornsby ranked first in the NL in on-base percentage, second in batting average and third in home runs, placing third in MVP voting.
SS: 2001 Rich Aurilia
Key stats: .324/.369/.572, 37 HR, 97 RBI, 146 OPS+, 7.1 fWAR
Aurilia produced his first and only All-Star campaign in 2001, when he set the Giants’ single-season home run record for shortstops and led the NL with 206 hits. He became only the third San Francisco-era player to tally 200 hits in a single season, joining Willie Mays and Bobby Bonds.
3B: 1930 Freddie Lindstrom
Key stats: .379/.425/.575, 22 HR, 106 RBI, 141 OPS+, 6.9 fWAR
A boy wonder who reached the Majors at 18 and became the youngest player to appear in the World Series in 1924, Lindstrom peaked with the New York Giants six years later, when he established career highs in batting average, on-base percentage and home runs. The Hall of Famer became the first third baseman in the 20th century to hit 20 homers in a single season.
LF: 2001 Barry Bonds
Key stats: .328/.515/.863, 73 HR, 137 RBI, 259 OPS+, 12.5 fWAR
Bonds delivered one of the greatest seasons by a position player in Giants history in 2001, when he set single-season MLB records for home runs and slugging percentage. He entered the record books on Oct. 5, when he took the Dodgers’ Chan Ho Park deep for his 71st home run of the year, breaking Mark McGwire’s three-year-old record. Unsurprisingly, Bonds’ astonishing production earned him the first of four consecutive NL MVP Awards.
CF: 1965 Willie Mays
Key stats: .317/.398/.645, 52 HR, 112 RBI, 185 OPS+, 10.7 fWAR
Mays captured his first NL MVP Award and his lone World Series ring with the New York Giants in 1954, but in terms of fWAR, his 1965 campaign was his best. In his age-34 season, Mays reached a career high in home runs and led the NL in on-base percentage and slugging percentage. The banner season culminated in his second NL MVP trophy, which came 11 years after his first.
RF: 1938 Mel Ott
Key stats: .311/.442/.583, 36 HR, 116 RBI, 178 OPS+, 8.7 fWAR
Ott split time between third base and right field in 1938, but his fluid defensive role didn’t seem to affect his performance at the plate. The Hall of Famer led the NL in home runs, on-base percentage and runs scored to earn his fifth consecutive All-Star selection and a fourth-place finish in MVP voting.
SP: 1908 Christy Mathewson
Key stats: 37-11, 1.43 ERA, 390 2/3 IP, 259 K, 169 ERA+, 10.8 fWAR
Mathewson compiled the most dominant campaign of his Hall of Fame career in 1908, when he won a career-high 37 games, setting a modern-era record for NL pitchers. Known for his famous “fadeaway” pitch (now called a screwball) and pinpoint command, Mathewson racked up 259 strikeouts while issuing only 42 walks that year. He completed 34 of his 44 starts en route to tossing a career-high 390 2/3 innings and set a franchise record with 11 shutouts.
RP: 1998 Robb Nen
Key stats: 7-7, 1.52 ERA, 88 2/3 IP, 110 K, 40 SV, 266 ERA+, 3.6 fWAR
Searching for a new closer to replace Rod Beck, the Giants sent Minor Leaguers Mick Pageler, Mike Villano and Joe Fontenot to the Marlins in exchange for Nen ahead of the 1998 season. The trade ended up being one of the best in franchise history. In his debut season with the Giants, Nen rode his blistering fastball and filthy slider to the first of three All-Star seasons in San Francisco, where he became the franchise’s all-time saves leader with 206.