What with Barry Bonds hitting home run after home run into McCovey Cove in the early 2000s and the recent Bruce Bochy dynasty, the San Francisco Giants have been one of the most successful MLB franchises of the century, winning three World Series and making seven postseason appearances.
In the past 17 seasons, the Giants have failed to finish with a winning record just five times. The key to all those wins is having great players—and the Giants have had some of the best.
Of course, baseball is a team sport, with 25 players on a roster and a mixture of talent. And while Giants fans should need no reminder of the greats, what about the not-so-greats? Those who were along for the ride while Bonds broke the single-season home run record but who hit none of their own, or those who tagged along for the World Series wins but did little to contribute toward them.
Here are the 8 best and 7 worst San Francisco Giants players since 2000.
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15 BEST: PABLO SANDOVAL
Pablo Sandoval’s an interesting character; he recently took the top spot in the “worst” category of our list of the 8 best and 7 worst Boston Red Sox, and now here he is rounding out the “best” category of the 8 best and 7 worst San Francisco Giants players. But let’s not dwell upon his post-San Francisco woes. Instead, let’s remember all the good he did in the Bay Area.
In seven seasons as a Giant, he hit close to .300 with 106 home runs and 462 RBI. In 2011, he was the team’s most valuable player according to wins above replacement, but his best season was his first full one, when he set career highs in just about every offensive category, including batting average (.330), on-base percentage (.387), home runs (25), and RBI (90). Now if only he could put up those kinds of numbers in Beantown.
14 WORST: AARON ROWAND
Aaron Rowand came to the Giants after a career year with the Phillies in 2007 that saw him hit .309 with 27 home runs and 89 RBI, all while playing Gold Glove defense in centerfield. Then-GM Brian Sabean grossly overpayed for Rowand, giving him a five-year, $60 million deal despite the fact that, prior to his breakout season in 2007, he had been nothing more than a middle of the road player.
To say that he did not live up to his lofty contract would be an understatement. In four seasons, he combined for a .253 average with a lowly .310 on-base percentage, never hitting more than 15 home runs in a season.
13 BEST: JASON SCHMIDT
Jason Schmidt enjoyed moderate success in Pittsburgh, but he really came into his own in San Francisco. Traded halfway through the 2001 season, his performance immediately improved, going from 6-6 with a 4.61 ERA with the Pirates to 7-1 with a 3.39 ERA with the Giants.
He would continue to improve the following seasons, reaching his peak in 2003 when he went 17-5 with a league-best 2.34 ERA and 0.953 WHIP, finishing in second place for the NL Cy Young.
As a Giant, Schmidt combined for a .678 win-loss percentage while averaging nearly a strikeout per inning, earning him three All-Star appearances.
SF pitching coach Dave Righetti deserves a lot of credit, because Schmidt only seemed to excel in a Giants uniform. After leaving the Bay Area in 2006, he would go on to have two subpar seasons with the Dodgers, combining for an ERA over 6 in his remaining two seasons before retiring.
12 WORST: KIRK RUETER
Just going by his record (105-80 in 10 seasons), you’d think Kirk Rueter would be a candidate for the best of the century, but, instead, he’s a prime example of why wins and losses aren’t the best measurement of a pitcher’s talent. You also need to take into consideration ERA, and Rueter finished with one higher than 4.36 six out of his 10 seasons in San Francisco, with a high of 5.95 and an average of 4.32. You also need to take into consideration WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning), and Reuter averaged a subpar 1.414.
Reuter—who’d never been a strikeout pitcher, reaching triple digits in Ks just twice in 13 big league seasons—suffered greatly after QuesTec introduced their Umpiring Information System in the early 21st century. Forced to go after hitters due to the tightening of the strike zone, he started to get lit up. In 2005, his final season in the majors, he went 2-7, striking out 25 hitters compared to 47 walks in 107.1 innings.
11 BEST: ROBB NEN
It was a tossup between closers Robb Nen or Brian Wilson for this spot. Wilson had more saves in a single season with 48 compared to Nen’s high of 45, but Nen saved more games in total (206 compared to Wilson’s 171). Nen also beat out Wilson in ERA (2.43 to 3.21) and strikeouts per nine innings (10.8 to 9.6).
In other words, Nen is the best Giants closer since 2000.
His best season came at the turn of the century, when he saved 41 games and posted a career-best 1.50 ERA, striking out 92 batters in 66 innings, earning a trip to the Midsummer Classic, a fourth place finish in Cy Young voting, and a 12th place finish in MVP voting.
10 WORST: EMMANUEL BURRISS
While he is primarily a second baseman, Emmanuel Burriss can play just about any position on the field—the problem is, he can’t hit. In five seasons with the Giants, he scraped together a measly .243 batting average with a .304 on-base percentage and just one home run.
A former top prospect in the organization, Burriss failed to make his mark in the big leagues, and after five years of serving as a mere utility player, he was sent back down to AAA, at which point he elected free agency.
After three seasons in the minors, he resurfaced with the Nationals in 2015, appearing in five games. In 2016, he made the opening day roster of the Phillies but was soon sent down to AAA Lehigh Valley, where he would spend most of the season.
9 BEST: TIM LINCECUM
In recent years, Tim Lincecum's career has been on the decline, but that shouldn't take away from what he did in his first five seasons with the Giants. From 2007-11, he combined for an ERA below 3 while averaging nearly 10 Ks per 9 innings, earning two Cy Young Awards and four consecutive All-Star appearances.
In 2011, Lincecum broke the franchise record for most games with 10 or more strikeouts (29), surpassing Hall of Famer Christy Matthewson, who took more than four times as many games to accomplish the feat.
As a Giant, he led the league in strikeouts three times, threw two no-hitters, and became just the eighth pitcher in MLB history to reach 1,000 strikeouts in five seasons.
8 WORST: SHAWON DUNSTON
Shawon Dunston had three stints with the Giants (’96, ’98, ’01-’02). In his third, he drew just five walks in 346 at bats for a .274 on-base percentage. His slash line of .231/.250/.286 with just one home run in 2002 was the second worst single-season for a Giant since 2000, next only to Marquis Grissom’s abysmal 2005 (we’ll get to that).
It’s not like Dunston made up for his atrocious offense with stellar defense, either. A former shortstop, the Giants didn’t know where to play him, so they stuck him in left, center, and right, and even DHed him in the World Series (talk about a designated hitter who couldn’t hit).
Referring to Dunston’s tendency to make mistakes throughout his career, statistician and sportswriter Bill James once famously called him an “eternal rookie.”
7 BEST: JEFF KENT
With 377 career homers, Jeff Kent is the all-time leader in home runs for second basemen. He also holds the record for most seasons with 100 or more RBI for a second baseman, with eight, all of which came with the Giants, and five of which came in the 21st century.
Kent's best year was in 2000, when he won the MVP by setting personal bests in practically every offensive category, hitting .334/.424/.596 with 33 home runs and 125 RBI.
Surprisingly, he received just 15.2% of the vote his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility, and received even less the following year, despite being one of the best hitters to play the position. Dayn Perry of CBS Sports argued that Kent’s “suspect defense” might have something to do with his inability to reach Cooperstown.
6 WORST: MIGUEL TEJADA
One of Brian Sabean’s more boneheaded moves, in 2011, Miguel Tejada was paid a lofty $6.5 million to hit .239/.270/.326 with 4 home runs and 26 RBI in 91 games, taking him from one of the most feared hitters in the game to one of the most hated players in San Francisco history. Before the season was even over, the Giants released Tejada and Aaron Rowand, choosing instead to absorb more than $15 million left on their contracts.
The Dominican infielder was the subject of much controversy throughout his career. In 2005, Rafael Palmiero claimed that Tejada had given him performance-enhancing drugs, and in 2009 he pleaded guilty to perjury after lying to Congress about his steroid usage. In 2008, he admitted to lying about his birth year after being confronted by a reporter.
5 BEST: BUSTER POSEY
Buster Posey has finished in the top-20 for NL MVP voting in each of his six full seasons in the bigs, taking home top prize in 2012 after he led the league in batting average (.336) and his team in home runs (24) and RBI (103).
With three World Series rings, a Rookie of the Year Award, an MVP, a career .307 batting average, and 116 home runs before the age of 30, Posey is on pace to go down as one of the best catchers in the history of the game.
Not to be overlooked is Buster’s defense. Last season, he added a Gold Glove to his long list of awards after he helped both Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto achieve ERAs under 3.
4 WORST: NEIFI PEREZ
Neifi Perez played for five teams in the 21st century (Rockies, Royals, Giants, Cubs, and Tigers), and he could easily be considered one of the worst players since 2000 for all of them.
On the surface, he put up respectable numbers at the plate, including a career .267 batting average, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find that he was indeed awful—so awful, in fact, that his time in Kansas inspired the “Neifi Index,” which measures “the contribution a player makes to his team by not playing.” In other words, Perez was so bad that he contributed more to his teams by not playing.
Giants fans certainly wish he had played a lot less when he was in San Francisco, as he hit just .244 with a .281 on-base percentage and three home runs in 706 plate appearances over two seasons.
3 BEST: MADISON BUMGARNER
Although lacking the two Cy Youngs of Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner makes a strong case for being the top Giants pitcher of the 21st century (especially when you factor in his offensive contributions).
In eight seasons, he's compiled a record of 100-67 with a 2.99 ERA, averaging just shy of a strikeout an inning—and don't forget, he's just 26 years old. At this rate, he's bound to be the franchise leader in several pitching categories.
Bumgarner's postseason heroics have been the stuff of legends. At just 21 years old, he helped the Giants win their sixth World Series in franchise history, becoming the youngest San Fran pitcher to win a postseason game. He would go on to lead the Giants to two more World Series. In 16 postseason appearances (14 as a starter), he's won 8 games with a 2.11 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP. In the 2014 postseason, he put on a pitching clinic, going 4-1 with a microscopic 1.03 ERA.
2 WORST: BARRY ZITO
After eight successful seasons with the Athletics, which included a Cy Young and three All-Star appearances, Barry Zito earned a then-record seven-year, $126 million contract with the Giants. This would prove to be one of the worst signings in MLB history, let alone Giants history, as he would go from an Ace to a bottom of the rotation pitcher, eventually to a write-off.
In seven seasons in San Francisco, he posted a record of 63-80 with a 4.62 ERA. Compare that to the 102-63 record and 3.58 ERA he put up in seven seasons with the Athletics and you’ll get an idea of why he’s one of the most hated players in franchise history.
1 BEST: BARRY BONDS
Hate him or love him, there's no denying that Barry Bonds was a great baseball player—and possibly even the greatest of all time.
The bulk of his career 762 home runs came before the year 2000, but his best seasons, including his record-breaking 73-homer season, came after it. From 2001-04, he averaged 52 homers per season and 60 per 162 games while combining for an unheard of .559 on-base percentage, leading to four consecutive NL MVPs.
Bonds's legacy may have been tarnished by persistent steroid allegations, but the fact remains that he was a great baseball player long before he was suspected of juicing. PEDs might help you hit home runs (although even that could be debated), but they won't help you draw 232 walks in a single season, which Barry did in 2004.
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