Before really getting into the selections, a bit of transparency is in order: narrowing this list down to five players was difficult.
A look at the statistics make it somewhat obvious who should and shouldn’t be on this list. But there is so much more to factor in. Should a player’s postseason resume overwrite his poor regular season? Should consistency be what matters most?
There have been a number of pitchers who had great moments with the Giants that, stepping back, did not have a fantastic decade.
And there are some pitchers who have felt muted throughout the years but have mounted success based on consistency.
That all being said, an omission from this list does not imply that they were not carefully considered.
After excusing myself for any selections I make for on-the-fence candidates for the All-Decade starting rotation, we should start with the most obvious choice: Madison Bumgarner.
Bumgarner might be the best player that the San Francisco Giants had over the past decade—regular season or postseason. He’s had one of the greatest Giants careers of all time.
He played in all ten seasons of the 2010’s and his resume is unmatched during that time.
He was selected for the All-Star game four different times. He finished in the top rankings of Cy Young Award voting in five different seasons. He finished in the top 20 of MVP voting. He had a cumulative 32.3 WAR.
That’s the best among Giants pitchers in that span by over twenty.
Bumgarner proved himself to be the quintessential workhorse in every capacity. He was the automatic ace that could sway a series in San Francisco’s favor every time he toed the rubber.
His playoff greatness in 2014 alone may have thrusted him into Hall of Fame discussions once he retires later this coming decade. It remains to be seen just how he finishes his career, and what his chances actually are.
But in Giants’ fans hearts, Bumgarner is a living legend who was a key part in securing those three World Series rings.
And that even goes without mentioning his singlehanded ability to advocate for pitchers hitting in modern baseball.
For some of the other pitchers on this list, things get a little fuzzy when considering their full decade of accomplishments and shortcomings.
Matt Cain came into his own during the 2009 season and was poised to dominate in the 2010s. For the first few years, that’s exactly what he did.
He dominated with a sub-3.00 ERA and a WHIP just over 1.00. He made the All-Star team twice and finished in the top eight of Cy Young Award voting in two different seasons.
But after that, it was a quick descent for one of the top pitchers on the Giants’ staff.
Despite struggles to wrap up his career, Matt Cain deserves to make this list thanks to those first three seasons. His overall numbers are, by no means, bad, but the latter half of his decade performance doesn’t touch the first half.
And of course, if there was any doubt he should be included, he did pitch a perfect game in 2012.
That’s a hard point to argue against.
When drafting a team of the decade off the top of your head, Tim Lincecum is an obvious name you’d figure would be in the conversation with Madison Bumgarner.
But it isn’t that simple.
It’s almost been four years since Timmy last pitched in the Bigs. While it’s easy to forget some of the ugliness that came in the last few years of his career, it’s not easy to forget his domination early on.
It’s equally tough to remember that Lincecum’s absolute peak came in 2008 and 2009 when he captured back-to-back Cy Young Awards.
He was a Freak.
In the early 2010s, he wasn’t bad at all. In fact, he was still dealing, still making All-Star appearances, and still finishing in the top ten of those Cy Young Awards.
After his 2012 season, however, his numbers ballooned, and he never really recaptured his magic again.
It was a sad day for baseball when Tim Lincecum unofficially retired in his early 30’s, but he definitely deserves to make this list.
His dominance in the 2010 postseason helped the Giants secure their first of three World Series rings. He put together a 2.43 ERA across 37 innings and had a defining two-hit shutout in Game 1 of the NLDS.
The shimmying starter is going to be welcomed back with open arms as he continues to make his way back from Tommy John surgery next year. He should give the Giants a much-needed punch in the rotation.
But Johnny Cueto’s success in the 2010s — specifically with the Giants is mostly undiscussed.
Another case of a guy who may or may not deserve to be on this list compared to other pitchers, Cueto had a spectacular 2016 season that pushed him into the conversation.
He went 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and nearly 200 strikeouts on the year, fresh off inking a massive deal with San Francisco the previous offseason.
That season, he earned an All-Star nod, finished in the top six of Cy Young Award voting, and even received MVP votes.
In just four seasons, Cueto has accumulated an 8.8 WAR with the Giants.
Unfortunately, 5.5 of that WAR came from 2016.
He took a slight step back in 2017 and then had his time on the field limited thanks to injuries the next two seasons. Despite all of this, Cueto’s impact with the Giants is hard to deny.
It can’t be stressed enough that there are plenty of names that could be swapped out with the last two included on this list, but Jeff Samardzija represents a case for consistency.
When the San Francisco Giants threw big money at Samardzija in free agency, he looked like a solid pickup to hunker down the third spot in the rotation.
He’s proven to be a relatively consistent pitcher over the years in terms of both availability and stuff.
He’s racked up 7.4 WAR in four seasons and still holds some value for the Giants despite their current status within a pseudo-rebuild.
In the world that they’re in right now, there might be nothing more valuable than a guy who can consistently toss six frames.
By no means is Samardzija one of the flashier names on this list, but he gets the nod over some of the other fringe selections because he’s been around for nearly half a decade and has given a steady line of production throughout.