In yesterday’s post (scroll down) I started to compile a roster of the worst Giants from 1983-2008, or the least successful seasons of Giants ballplayers over the time period that I’ve been alive and a fan of baseball. Yes, I was a fan of baseball at 1-month-old, if not fully aware, my love for baseball was latent and buried deep within my tiny baby body, just waiting to be actualized by Will Clark and Matt Williams.
So, in essence this isn’t really the worst all-time Giants roster, just the worst roster of my time. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, lets move on to our ‘worst starters’. I defined a starter yesterday as a pitcher who has thrown at least 150 innings in a single season for the Giants. I’m going to tweak my standards today, just a little, in order to make the selection process a little more fun. I’m also going to select pitchers not only on the basis of their performance, but also for purely personal reasons. Over the last 3-4 years my expectations have been drastically reduced by the Giants, but there was once a time in my starry-eyed youth where I had high hopes for certain players for various silly reasons. These hopes and expectations will also be a basis for certain selections.
Enough jabber, let’s fill out our rotation!
SP1: 1996 William Van Landingham, 181.2 IP: 5.40 ERA, 1.508 WHIP, 75 ERA+
Anyone who watched mid-90′s Giants baseball is sure to remember the majesty that was William Van Landingham. He was briefly successful in his first 2 stints with the Giants, posting ERA’s of 3.54 and 3.67 in 1994 and 1995. He even finished 7th in Rookie of the Year voting for the strike-shortened 1994 season. Van Landingham might be best known for his 20-character long name.
On May 29, 1996, Van Landingham started against Jason Isringhausen, then a starter for the New York Mets. They tied a record for the longest combined names of two starting pitchers. Van Landingham also set the record for longest complete name in Major League Baseball, at twenty characters. The record has since been tied by Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
William struggled in ’96 and was out of the game after 1997. Godspeed, Van Launching Pad.
SP2: 1998 Orel Leonard (IV) Hershiser, 202 IP: 4.41 ERA, 1.411 WHIP, 91 ERA+
Looks shopped. Because Orel never played for the Giants. Nope. Wait, what are you talking about? Mrphhhle-mrpphhh? I can’t understand you. Mppphhhershiser hmmphgiants. What? If I can’t hear you, I can’t understand what you’re trying to say to me about Orel Herisher playing for the Giants. Moving on.
SP3: 2001 Livan Hernandez, 226.2 IP: 5.24 ERA, 1.549 WHIP, 77 ERA+
Oh, boy. It’s Livan. Overweight, moody, soft, lazy. Livan’s tenure with the Giants was full of ups-and-downs. From his meltdown in the World Series to that time he attacked an elderly man with golf clubs, what can you say about Livan? He had a great 2000 for the Giants when he posted an ERA+ of 114 in 240 IP but he never came close to repeating that performance in his following 2 years with the Giants. He soon wore out his welcome, and was shipped to the Expos where he found new life. He might have been a whipping boy but his attitude and lack of perfomance didn’t help matters. His World Series ERA of 14.29 — he was the loser in Game 3 and 7 — sting the most.
SP4:1996 Osvaldo Fernandez, 171.2 IP: 4.61 ERA, 1.456 WHP, 88 ERA+
Osvaldo’s 1998 season isn’t terrible and in fact, an ERA+ of 88 is pretty respectable. We would all kill for Barry Zito to have an ERA+ of 88 right now, but I remember the amount of hype surrounding Fernandez when he came to the G’s and he never lived up to his international record. A Cuban defector, Fernandez dominated the international baseball scene.
A 1996 N.Y. Times article on Osvaldo states:
Fernandez established residency. He began pitching again, for Licey of the Dominican Winter League. Counseled by his agent and friend, Joe Cubas, he waited for the call that his performance dictated would come. That performance included a 22-0 record and a 1.53 earned run average over all in international competition. Fernandez was 2-0 in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. He also pitched Cuba to the world championships in 1994 in Managua, Nicaragua, going 2-0 with a 1.50 e.r.a.
His repertoire was described as:
The polished right-hander, whose defection sparked a bidding war among nine major league teams, obviously knows how to deal in the sport’s hard currency — 92-mile-an-hour fastballs, curves, even knuckleballs — enough riches to have enticed the San Francisco Giants to sign the 27-year-old former Olympian and linchpin of the Cuban national team to a three-year contract a month ago.
Sounds great, right? The Giants won the ‘bidding war’ for his services and signed him to a 3-year-deal. His most successful season would be his initial year in the majors in 1996. After ’96, Fernandez only pitched one more season for the Giants, throwing 56.1 innings of 4.95-ERA-ball in ’97. Did he get injured? He just dropped off the face of the earth. He didn’t appear in the minor leagues after ’97 in the Giants system and he finally resurfaced for two years with the Cincinnati Reds in 2000 and 2001. I had high hopes for Osvaldo and was sorely disappointed. He was supposedly 27 when the joined the Giants but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was in his mid-30′s by the time he came stateside. That could partially explain his performances.
SP5: 2008 Barry Zito, 153.2 IP: 5.45 ERA, 1.627 WHIP, 79 ERA+
What do get when you have a pitcher that’s barely pitching above replacement level? And he’s signed for a large truckload of money — $14.5M this year and $18.5M+ over the next 5 years. You get Barry Zito. Hating on BZ is really easy these days but I can’t leave him off this list no matter how hard he’s working, or how nice of a dude he is. The Giants have a very real chance to have the worst contract in baseball history on their hands and it’s not all Zito’s fault — heck, we would all take the money — but he is a large part of the equation. He rarely wins against top offensive teams — 3 of his 9 wins are against teams with an EqA of .260 or better — and he’s sucking down a finite resource called money on the Giants roster without returning much value.
The final rotation:
1. 1998 Orel Leonard (IV) Hershiser
2. 1996 Osvaldo Fernandez
3. 2008 Barry Zito
4. 2001 Livan Hernandez
5. 1996 William Van Landingham
That pairs up nicely with our starting lineup:
1. 1992 Darren Lewis, CF
2. 2002 Tsuyoshi Shinjo, RF
3. 1992 Chris James, LF
4. 1995 Kirt Manwaring, C
5. 1999 Charlie Hayes, 3B
6. 1996 Steve Scarsone, 2B
7. 1995 J.R. Phillips, 1B
8. 2008 Omar Vizquel, SS
Ultra Secret Hint: Hover over the images for secret information about each pitcher!
Comment Starter: Who is in your worst Giants rotation?