The 5 greatest seasons from Giants pitchers

December 14th, 2020

Ten pitchers have gone into the Hall of Fame with a Giants cap, a nod to the franchise’s rich history of developing elite arms. Several of these all-time greats burnished their credentials by producing some of the best individual seasons the league has seen. Here’s a look back at five of those superlative campaigns:

1. , 1908
One of the most dominant pitchers in baseball history, Mathewson’s biggest year came in 1908, when he won a career-high 37 games, setting a modern-era record for National League pitchers. The Hall of Fame right-hander posted a 1.43 ERA over 390 2/3 innings, racking up 259 strikeouts while issuing only 42 walks. Mathewson completed 34 of his 44 starts that year, including a franchise-record 11 shutouts. “Big Six” was worth 10.8 Wins Above Replacement in '08, the highest single-season total by a pitcher in Giants history, according to FanGraphs.

“Mathewson was the greatest pitcher who ever lived,” Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack once said. “He had knowledge, judgment, perfect control and form. It was wonderful to watch him pitch -- when he wasn’t pitching against you.”

2. Tim Keefe, 1888
Keefe delivered his finest season for the Giants in 1888 (8.5 fWAR), when he won the Triple Crown after leading the NL in wins (35), strikeouts (335) and ERA (1.74). He recorded a career-high eight shutouts while tossing 434 1/3 innings and reeled off 19 consecutive wins, a club record matched only by Rube Marquard in 1912. Behind Keefe and fellow Hall of Fame right-hander Mickey Welch, the Giants captured the first NL pennant in franchise history.

3. , 1969
Known for his distinctive, high leg kick, Marichal hit his peak with the Giants in 1969, when he went 21-11 with an MLB-best 2.10 ERA and an NL-leading eight shutouts. The Dominican icon also threw 299 2/3 innings en route to earning his eighth consecutive All-Star nod with San Francisco. Marichal accrued a career-high 7.8 fWAR that year, which ranked third among NL pitchers behind the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson (8.8) and the Cubs’ Fergie Jenkins (8.2).

4. , 2009
“The Freak” made history in 2008-09 by becoming the first pitcher to win Cy Young Awards in each of his first two full seasons in the Majors, though in terms of fWAR (7.6), his ‘09 campaign was his best. Lincecum went 15-7 with a 2.48 ERA over 225 1/3 innings while leading the NL in strikeouts (261), complete games (4) and shutouts (2). He earned his second of four career All-Star nods and was tapped to start for the NL at the Midsummer Classic in St. Louis.

5. , 1966
Perry earned his first career All-Star selection in 1966, when he turned in the most valuable campaign of his decade-long stint with the Giants. Perry went 21-8 with 2.99 ERA over 255 2/3 innings, placing 18th in NL MVP voting. His 7.3 fWAR ranked second among NL pitchers that year, behind only Dodgers ace Sandy Koufax (9.1).