Is Madison Bumgarner Already the Greatest Left-Hander in San Francisco Giants History?
Madison Bumgarner again out-dueled Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw last night in Los Angeles. MadBum’s victory got me thinking whether or not it is time to anoint him the title of the Greatest Left-Handed Pitcher in San Francisco Giants’ History, particularly in light of the fact that the San Francisco team has always had tremendous difficulty in developing ace left-handers.
After looking into this question further, I have concluded not yet, but very soon, unless Bumgarner is unexpectedly traded or suffers a career-ending injury.
The following is a list of the left-handers with the most wins as San Francisco Giants with their won-loss records:
Kirk Rueter 105-80
Mike McCormick 104-94
Gary Lavelle 73-67, 127 saves
Vida Blue 72-58
Madison Bumgarner 69-50
Shawn Estes 69-50
Barry Zito 63-80
Atlee Hammaker 58-59
Ron Bryant 57-55
Billy O’Dell 56-49
Bob Knepper 53-55
At this moment I rank the Greatest San Francisco Giants Left-Handers as follows:
1. Mike McCormick. He led the NL in ERA in 1960 and won the Cy Young Award as an SF Giant in 1967. At this point, I think he’s still too many SF Giants career wins ahead of Bumgarner for MadBum to be No. 1.
2. Madison Bumgarner.
3. Kirk Rueter A terrific career won-loss record, but he was never the team’s No. 1 starter in his long SF Giants’ career.
4. Gary Lavelle. Clearly the best left-handed reliever in SF Giants history, Lavelle pitched more than 100 innings in five different seasons as a Giant, which allows him to compete with the top starters in terms of value, as reflected by the fact that only two left-handers have more career wins as an SF Giant.
5. Vida Blue. Vida’s great hurrah for the SF Giants was his first half in 1978 when he started the season 16-4, had the team unexpectedly out in front in the NL West and started the All-Star Game for the Senior Circuit. Vida cooled off badly in the second half, and so did the rest of the team, ultimately losing the division title to the hated Dodgers.
6. Shawn Estes. Estes is remembered as a disappointment, because he had only one great season (1997 when he went 19-5 with a 3.18 ERA) at the beginning of his major league career. However, he was great that one season and finished his Giants’ career with an impressive won-loss record, at least in comparison to other San Francisco Giants’ left-handers.
7. Ron Bryant. Bryant also had only one great year (1973 when he went 24-12 and finished 3rd in the NL Cy Young voting) after which he blew out his arm. However, Bryant was also good in 1972.
8. Billy O’Dell. O’Dell went 19-14 for the 1962 World Series team and also had a good year in 1963.
9. Atlee Hammaker. Famously remembered as never being the same after the 1983 All-Star game in which he got hammered, Hammaker actually threw four more high quality starts in the second half of the season before his arm gave out.
10. Bob Knepper. Knepper was 10-5 at the 1978 All-Star Break and finished the season 17-11. Knepper and Blue will always hold a certain place in my heart because 1978 was the year I really became a Giants fan.
11. Barry Zito. If salaries are factored into the rankings, Zito would certainly rank even lower. However, he deserves a place on my list solely by virtue of his 2012 post-season performance.
12. Jeremy Affeldt. Now in his seventh season as a Giant, Affeldt’s career numbers as an SF Giants (15-17 record, 10 saves) says a lot about how much the job of relief pitching has changed since Gary Lavelle’s era.
In Giants’ franchise history, there is still no doubt that Carl Hubbell was the Greatest Left-Hander. For Madison Bumgarner to make a case for the franchise title, he’ll have to spend almost his entire career with the Giants and be exceptionally healthy in the second half of his career.