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Ranking the fun factor of the Giants pitchers

Who’s the most fun - and the least fun - on an excellent staff?

Colorado Rockies v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The other day I ranked the fun factor of all 12 position players on the San Francisco Giants.

Today it’s time for the better of two sides. The Giants hitters may be hilariously futile - as a team they rank 29th in MLB in both fWAR (-0.9) and wRC+ (52), but their pitchers are not. San Francisco’s dominant bullpen and surprisingly competent rotation has them fourth in all of baseball in WAR (2.7) and FIP (3.44).

They’re good! Very good!

But are they fun? Let’s rank them.

13. Derek Holland

Dutch Holland has been exactly what the Giants have asked him to be since joining the team in 2018. He’s been solid and dependable, almost always giving the team a chance to win.

His FIP this year is just 4.83, but it was 3.87 a season ago. And both numbers would likely be a bit higher with better pitcher management, as Bruce Bochy insists on giving Holland an opportunity to pitch a third time through the order, no matter how many times Dutch reminds the skipper that he cannot do that.

Competence aside, I just don’t find Holland fun to watch. I die a tiny bit inside when I realize it’s his day to start. He has a decent strikeout rate, but never really feels like a strikeout pitcher (which may be due to the fact that his two seasons with San Francisco are easily the best strikeout years of his career).

His curveball swoops like the Nike logo, but somehow is . . . I dunno, bland? Can a pitch be bland?

He’s like a Safeway donut. Gets the job done. Good to have him. Not exciting.

If you take non-baseball entertainment into consideration, he either cements his place as lowest on the totem pole, or flies up it. Your call.

12. Drew Pomeranz

Pomeranz is a prime candidate to move up the ladder of these rankings. He’s only two years removed from consecutive 3.8+ bWAR seasons, and when his curveball is working, it’s a thing of beauty.

Until he proves capable of that, he’s a meddling fifth starter who just kind of shows up and pitches and then you forget about it.

11. Mark Melancon

I like Mark Melancon. I like Mark Melancon quite a bit. Probably a fair bit more than most people who have watched the Giants regularly over the last few years.

I also like watching Melancon pitch because A. I’m a masochist who enjoys the drama of potential reclamation, and B. He pitches for ground balls, which affords us the opportunity to watch the Giants stellar defensive infield make plays.

So the Giants are fun to watch when Melancon pitches, and even fun to watch because Melancon is pitching, but Melancon pitching isn’t particularly fun to watch. If that makes sense.

10. Nick Vincent

I like Nick Vincent. I’m glad Nick Vincent is on the Giants. Maybe when he pitches more innings I’ll have more thoughts about him, but for now, he’s recorded 31 outs as a Giant and I’m having a hard time remembering any of them.

9. Sam Dyson

One of the last sneaky good moves of the Bobby Evans era was grabbing Sam Dyson when the Texas Rangers decided that a few games of poor baseballing would be predictive of the next few years. Dyson is pitching really well - through 8.1 innings, his FIP is a scant 2.11.

I like watching him pitch, because I always think of Snuckles. I like Snuckles.

Just look at that face!

Seriously though, I like watching Dyson pitch, though it’s not particularly thrilling. But I enjoy it, and the fact that he’s ninth on this list is a testament to the Giants early returns on their pitching.

T-7. Travis Bergen and Trevor Gott

If you’re questioning Farhan Zaidi about the strategy he employed with Connor Joe and Michael Reed, just look at Bergen and Gott. They’re the flip side of Reed and Joe: Relatively unheralded players who Zaidi scooped, gave a chance to, and is now reaping the rewards of.

Gott has struck out more than 10 batters per nine innings, and sports a 1.50 FIP. Bergen has struck out nearly 12 batters per nine innings, and his FIP is a team-best 0.53. That kind of success is fun!

They’ve both been sensational, and perhaps it’s that they’re new, or perhaps it’s that they both carry extremely white-man-playing-baseball names, but I keep conflating them in my head, so they get a tie.

6. Dereck Rodriguez

The peripherals still suggest that Rodriguez will struggle eventually, and only time will tell if that’s true, or if he’s got a little Matt Cain in him.

Until then, he’s someone who pitches with about as much poise and subtle confidence as you’ll see, and he’s walked just 37 batters in 135.2 career innings.

Oh, and:

San Francisco Giants Photo Day Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

I mean, come on.

5. Jeff Samardzija

If Drew Pomeranz was primed to make a run up this list, the Shark is primed to fall down it. We’ve seen two Samardzija’s with the Giants: The insane control pitcher in 2017, who walked just 32 batters despite leading the league with 207.2 innings. And the completely wild 2018 Samardzija who nearly repeated his walk total (26), despite throwing only 44.2 innings.

This year we’ve seen a little bit of both, which has made for a funny ERA/FIP/xFIP contrast of 1.62/2.67/4.78.

The velocity is a little down, but he still throws hard and with tremendous movement. When he’s on, his pitches paint the corners with violent finesse. And on a team that doesn’t have a ton of intrigue, his performance every fifth day is worth tuning into, just to get another data point.

T-3. Will Smith and Tony Watson

Is it a cop out to pair the two elite left-handed relievers together? Sure, probably, but really I just couldn’t decide who is more fun. Watson has such a unique delivery, which reminds me of watching baseball in the 90s, and it works so, so well. Smith is so subtly dominant that you don’t really notice it until he allows a baserunner, and then you find yourself confused because you didn’t think that was legal.

2. Reyes Moronta

Let’s make one thing clear. If we’re just talking about raw pitching, in a vacuum, Moronta is number one on this list. The movement. The power. The swagger. The changeup. The baseball cap angle.

Give me one inning to watch a Giants pitcher pitch, and I’m taking Moronta,

On Saturday he entered the game in the eighth inning, with the tying run on second, and no outs. Easy peasy.

1. Madison Bumgarner

Bumgarner may never regain the form he had for many years. He may! But he may not. He likely won’t.

He’s still fun. Partially because every time he pitches you think of Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, and so many other superstar performances. He’s one of the faces of the franchise, even if he’s declining and potentially on the trading block.

He also still has some gnarly pitches, and the ability to make elite hitters look foolish on pitches they really shouldn’t swing at.

And, of course, he does this: