Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top 10 Giants Moments of 2015

Rejoice, Giants fans. An even year is coming. The blessed year of Our Lord 2016 will soon be upon us, so now is the time to look back on the 12 months that were. Certainly, part of what took place in 2015 was a baseball season. And part of that baseball season was 162 Giants games. Some of them were delightful. Others were less delightful (I'm looking at you, Justin Bour). In this post, however, we'll focus only on the positive. Without further ado, here are the top 10 moments (and an honorable mention) of the 2015 Giants season:

Honorable Mention:
Madison Bumgarner Rides a Horse at AT&T Park; Giants Celebrate 2014 Title


It doesn't get much better than this. The Giants raising the championship banner and receiving their rings is just an honorable mention on this list because the ceremonies were in honor of the previous season. Nobody wanted 2015 to be about 2014, and the Giants succeeded in that regard: 2015 was special. It was a good year in which the team ultimately fell short. However, the images of Madison Bumgarner riding a horse while hoisting the championship banner and Giants executives, coaches, and players receiving World Series rings will not soon be forgotten.

10) Khris Davis Doesn't (But Does?) Step On Home Plate

What fun! A first inning home run was, for a couple of minutes at least, ruled an out. Eventually the call was overturned, but for a few exciting and hilarious moments, Khris Davis homered into an out. Credit Andrew Susac for watching Davis as he danced straight over home plate, and credit Bruce Bochy for talking to the umpires and calling for an appeal. As Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper said at the time, "You have to touch home plate; that's part of the deal."

9) Pence Returns from DL, Makes Immediate Impact

Hunter Pence had missed 30 consecutive games before this one against the Mets on July 7. Not only was his sliding catch and throw one of the best plays of the year, it energized the team and fanbase, which breathed a sigh of relief knowing that their star right fielder was back. Just three days later, Pence's grand slam off Cole Hamels sent AT&T Park into a frenzy. Pence didn't play much in 2015, but when he was on the field, his presence was felt and his energy was contagious.

8) Juan Perez's Catch

In my opinion, one of the top five catches of the year. It wasn't even nominated for the Esurance Best Defensive Play Award, but oh well. Esurance may have been born online and majored in efficiency, but it doesn't know much about top defensive baseball plays. Some of the plays that were nominated for the award were not nearly as impressive as this. Maybe Perez was snubbed because he's a relative unknown. Maybe it's because the Giants as a team are often overlooked. It's probably a combination of both those things, and other things. Regardless, this was the best play any Giant made in 2015, and it belongs on this list. To hell with Esurance.

7) Pagan's Triple Following Gum Gate

What an unbelievable sequence of events. I have no idea why Pagan threw gum at Derek Norris, nor do I really care. Pagan said it was an "accident," but I don't believe him. Craig Kimbrel didn't believe him either, and he brushed Pagan back on the very next pitch. I have no problem with that. Pagan probably deserved it. After the brushback, Pagan tripled off Kimbrel, in a 0-0 game in the 9th inning, in the Padres Home Opener, after the Padres made all those offseason moves to bring themselves into national relevancy for first time in years. Needless to say, Pagan was fired up at third base. It was a macho moment, one of the best of 2015.

6) Bumgarner's Impressive Plate Appearances

What do we have here? Ho hum, it's just Madison Bumgarner (noted pitcher and World Series legend) drawing a pinch-hit walk off Aroldis Chapman and hitting a tape measure home run off Clayton Kershaw. Bumgarner had two of his best plate appearances of the year off the best reliever in baseball the best starter in baseball. Go figure. Business as usual for Bumgarner, who hit .247 with five home runs and a 107 wRC+ in 2015.

5) Kelby Tomlinson's Major League Debut

This was a special moment. Kelby Tomlinson had just been called up from Triple-A Sacramento when Joe Panik went down with lower back inflammation. It was an extra innings game in Atlanta, always a tough place to play for the Giants. Tomlinson lined a one-out single in his first Major League plate appearance, and his wife and father-in-law were overcome with emotion in the stands. Tomlinson eventually scored the go-ahead run, although the Giants lost the game in the bottom of the inning.

The impressive debut earned Tomlinson more playing time, and he took advantage of it. He finished the year with a .303 average, .358 OBP, and .404 slugging percentage in 193 plate appearances. He hit two home runs and stole five bases. Like Matt Duffy before him, Tomlinson came out of virtually nowhere. He is now up for serious consideration for a permanent roster spot as a utility infielder.

4) Chris Heston's No-Hitter

Even if he hadn't thrown a no-hitter, Chris Heston would have made this list. He saved the Giants in the first half of the season when Matt Cain and Jake Peavy couldn't pitch because of injury. Heston's brilliant first half culminated in this no-hitter against the Mets at Citi Field in New York on June 9. It made 2015 the fourth consecutive season in which a Giant pitched a no-hitter.

3) Affeldt and Hudson Retire; Vogelsong Says Goodbye

Read Ryan Vogelsong's lips. He says, "I will always, always, be a Giant." Yes you will, Vogey. Yes, you will. 

Vogelsong had his hands all over the 2012 and 2014 championships. He helped the Giants stave off elimination and force a Game 7 against the Cardinals in Game 6 of the 2012 NLCS. He went seven innings, allowing one run on four hits, one walk, and nine strikeouts; he pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings in Game 3 of the 2012 World Series in Detroit; and he pitched the Giants to the NLDS clincher against the Nationals in 2014. This man will never, ever be forgotten in Giants lore. Farewell, Vogey, and thanks for the memories.

Next, Jeremy Affeldt. He played a critical role in all three championships. Who could forget his clutch relief appearances in the 2010 NLCS? He followed it up with 10 1/3 scoreless innings in the 2012 postseason, in which he struck out 10 and allowed just five hits. And his relief appearance and win in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series will never be forgotten. Affeldt retires with the third-best postseason ERA of all time (min. 30 innings) at 0.86 and the second longest postseason scoreless streak at 22 innings, trailing only Mariano Rivera's 23. 

Tim Hudson will be remembered by most baseball fans for his days with the A's and Braves, but he played a key role in bringing the Giants a title in 2014. It was Hudson's first and only championship, and he will always be remembered as a great Giant and a champion.

2) The Stare

One of the greatest things I've ever seen on a baseball field. This was more than just your average pitcher-umpire confrontation. No, this was something deeper. Bumgarner was ticked off all night with Joe West's strike zone. He cursed loudly after he walked Jedd Gyorko on a 3-1 pitch. Joe West removed his mask, took a few steps toward the mound, and proceeded to stare at Bumgarner. Bumgarner proceeded to stare back. These two fine country gentlemen stared into the very depths of each other's souls. Buster Posey didn't know what to do. He looked back and forth between the two like, uhh, guys? GUYS? 

Then, it happened. Joe West gave Bumgarner a single nod, signifying respect and understanding. Bumgarner nodded back. Without ever uttering a single word, these two cowboys stared into each other's souls and came to an understanding. They may not have liked each other, but god damnit did they respect one another. This would have been the top moment of the year if not for...

1) Matt Duffy Finishes Second to Kris Bryant in Rookie of the Year Voting

This was supposed to be the year of Casey McGehee. Matt Duffy wasn't guaranteed to make the Opening Day roster. He was never a top prospect. He was more of an afterthought. Maybe he could be a capable utility infielder. Maybe

McGehee struggled mightily. Duffy played well when given the chance. Duffy took off. McGehee was released. Duffy took the league by storm. 

The Duffman finished the season with a .295 average, .334 OBP, and .428 slugging percentage. He clubbed 12 homers and stole 12 bases. His baserunning and defense were superb. He was worth 4.9 fWAR. He was the first Giants rookie ever to win the Willie Mac Award. The emergence of Duffy now gives the Giants a completely homegrown infield that's also probably the best in baseball. 

Pablo who?