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Buster, MadBum among SF's best of '10s

@goodforball
December 20, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- No single statistic defines the value of the Giants’ top players of the decade. This is a team that thrived at least partly due to intangible factors -- think of right fielder Hunter Pence’s impassioned speech to teammates before Game 3 of the 2012 Division Series at

SAN FRANCISCO -- No single statistic defines the value of the Giants’ top players of the decade.

This is a team that thrived at least partly due to intangible factors -- think of right fielder Hunter Pence’s impassioned speech to teammates before Game 3 of the 2012 Division Series at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati -- so simply measuring one player’s WAR against another’s often accomplishes little.

Here’s a look at the Giants’ Top 10 players from the decade of 2010-19:

1. Buster Posey
Seasons: 2009-present

Until recently, Posey’s career path appeared destined to lead him to the Hall of Fame. He followed up his National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2010 with the NL Most Valuable Player Award in '12, six NL All-Star team selections, four NL Silver Slugger Awards and an NL Gold Glove Award, among other honors. Even if he retired today, he’d be remembered as the best catcher in franchise history.

2. Madison Bumgarner
Seasons: 2009-19

Bumgarner has been so remarkable that other big leaguers regard him with sheer awe. His canonization began with the 2014 World Series, when he capped a postseason-record 52 2/3 innings with five shutout innings of relief in San Francisco’s Game 7 win at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.

3. Matt Cain
Seasons: 2005-17

Cain gets the nod over Tim Lincecum here, though it wasn’t an obvious choice. From 2010 to the end of their careers in San Francisco, Cain (3.79 ERA, 1.210 WHIP) outperformed Lincecum (4.02 ERA, 1.335 WHIP) in the regular season. Both excelled in the '10 and '12 postseasons, too. This span included Cain’s perfect game on June 13, 2012, against Houston.

4. Tim Lincecum
Seasons: 2007-15

The decade did not span Lincecum’s NL Cy Young Award-winning seasons (2008-09). Otherwise, these rankings might look a lot different. Lincecum’s ability was so immense that he no-hit San Diego in '13 and '14 after his gifts began to unravel. He still managed to strike out nearly one batter per inning (1,028 strikeouts in 1,045 innings) during this decade as a Giant.

5. The Core Four
Seasons: 2010-15

You can’t name just one of them. They must be cited as a unit. Though relievers Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Javier López and Sergio Romo stood alone on the mound, they seemingly functioned in concert, as an offensive line would in football. The success achieved by one of them often depended on the help of another to set up ultimate success.

6. Brandon Crawford
Seasons: 2011-present

There simply wasn’t a play Crawford couldn’t make from 2015-17, when he won the NL Gold Glove Award for defensive excellence every year. Any game in which he didn’t show off his considerable range or powerful throwing arm was an oddity. Winning the '15 NL Silver Slugger Award affirmed his versatility.

7. Brandon Belt
Seasons: 2011-present

Belt rarely was spectacular. But he has remained steady. Looking for more than consistency, Belt’s critics have overlooked his defensive prowess or his ability to extend a plate appearance to eight, 10 or even 21 pitches, helping exhaust an opposing pitcher prematurely.

8. Pablo Sandoval
Seasons: 2008-14; '17-present

Unlike Belt, Sandoval possessed a flair for the spectacular -- no more so than on the night of Oct. 24, 2012, when he matched a record with three home runs in the World Series opener. Throughout his Giants years, his zeal was evident as he flung his big body toward grounders, took a couple of turns on the mound and never, ever got cheated when he unleashed his ferocious swing.

9. Hunter Pence
Seasons: 2012-18

Whatever Pence did, he was rarely boring, whether he was racing toward the right-field wall to attempt a dangerous catch or hacking at pitches until he lined one into a gap. He was a genuine winner and leader, as he proved with his oratory during the 2012 postseason.

10. Ryan Vogelsong
Seasons: 2000-01, '11-15

Vogelsong captured imaginations with his unlikely rise from Japan to Minor League reject to NL All-Star. He won loyalty with his pitching, which was effective more often than not. It’s often overlooked that he was the Giants’ leading winner in the 2012 postseason.

Chris Haft has covered the Major Leagues since 1991 and has worked for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @goodforball.