Who is the Most Underrated San Francisco Giant of All-Time?
Giants fans who didn’t grow up watching Jim Barr pitch became aware of him in 2014 when Yusmeiro Petit broke his National League record of 42 straight batters without allowing a hit. Barr set his record in 1972 over just two games.
Against Pittsburgh, he walked pitcher Bob Moose to open the third inning, then retired the game’s last 21 batters. Against St. Louis, he retired the first 20. The streak was broken on Bernie Carbo’s double in the seventh.
Ten of Barr’s 12 seasons in the big leagues were in San Francisco. Over 1800.1 innings for the Giants from 1971 through 1978 and again in 1982-1983, Barr won 90 games with a 3.41 ERA.
Santiago Casilla is a famed member of “The Core Four,” but he has widely been viewed as the least popular of the four. While many fans remember Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo fondly, many Giants fans look back at Casilla’s career with frustration.
While Casilla did struggle at times as the team’s closer, he also had some of the best numbers of any closer in team history.
Only Robb Nen (10.4) and Sergio Romo (9.3) have a higher Wins Above Replacement in the modern era of relief pitchers, and Casilla is seventh overall since 1958 among Giants relief pitchers at 8.4 wins. That puts Casilla above legends like Rod Beck, Brian Wilson, Lopez and Affeldt.
He is also second all-time behind Nen in ERA+ at 153. Only Nen, Romo and Wilson have a higher strikeout percentage than Casilla’s 22.6% and only Nen, Romo, and Lopez had a better opponents OPS+ than Casilla’s 78.
For any anger fans felt during the 30 home runs Casilla allowed in his career, there were also many great moments that get lost. Among his best moments, he became one of the only Giants to ever pitch an immaculate inning, which is three strikeouts in an inning on nine pitches.
He also had 28 blown saves, but that comes with the territory. What gets lost is that while Casilla did a terrific job overall as a closer, he was never meant to be one. He stepped into the role because of injuries to Wilson and Romo. Before that, he was a versatile relief pitcher who pitched in the middle innings against both left and right handed batters and often pitched multiple innings.
Gary Lavelle is one of the best relief pitchers in Giants history. Over 11 seasons (1974-1984) and 647 games with San Francisco, Lavelle recorded 127 saves over 980.1 innings. Drafted by the Giants in the 20th round of the 1967 amateur draft, Lavelle also maintained a 2.82 ERA and only allowed 44 home runs in that time or 0.4 HR/9. He was a two time All-Star, going to the Midsummer Classic in 1977 and 1983. 1977 was his best season, with a 2.05 ERA over 118.1 innings and a staggering ERA+ of 191. One of the reasons he is not more beloved is that San Francisco never played in the playoffs during his career. In the lean years of the Giants, some of the team’s best players are easily overlooked.