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SF Giants Opening Day Lineup Likely to Make History

The SF Giants have a long and storied history. On opening day, Buster Posey will build a bridge between the New York days and the San Francisco era.

This afternoon at the day job I started wondering to myself how far away Madison Bumgarner was from being the all-time leader in most opening day starts in San Francisco Giants history. Right now he's at three consecutive opening day starts, and barring injury, he'll make it four consecutive on Sunday, April 2. That four in a row would tie him with Tim Lincecum (2009-2012) and would leave him trailing only Juan Marichal, who made six consecutive starts from 1964-69, was displaced by Gaylord Perry in 1970 due to injury, then started three more from '71-73. 

If we look even further back, Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell started six opening day games for the New York Giants, but the only consecutive OD starts he had were from 1933-35, though his reign of starts spanned from 1929 to 1942. It was when he was making his consecutive appearances that he was included in the MVP race each season, winning one in 1933 and another in 1936. 

The next two on the list are interesting because they each started four in a row in New York in an eight-year span. First up is Bill Voiselle, who took the ball from 1944-47, followed by Larry Jansen from '48-51. Sal Maglie took the ball on opening day in '52, but Jansen placed himself third on the Giants all-time list with his fifth opening day start in 1953. In his first year in the bigs, he came in second in the Rookie of the Year voting with a 21-5 record and a 2.1 BB/9 rate, lowest in the league. 

The last Giants pitcher on the list to start four opening day games was Johnny Antonelli who held that honor in the three years leading up to the move out west from 1955-57, then missed the big one in '58 when the team became the San Francisco Giants that we all know and love. In 1959 Antonelli made his fourth and final opening day start for the team. 

The final list ends up looking like this:

Total Years
Marichal 10 '62, '64-69, '71-73
Hubbell 6 '29, '33-35, '40, '42
Jansen 5 '48-'51, '53
Antonelli 4 '55-57, '59
Lincecum 4 '09-12
Voiselle 4 '44-47
Bungarner 3 '14-16

Grnated, this list only goes back so far but it is from a reliable source in Baseball Reference. If you look at Wikipedia, Mickey Welch (1883-86), Red Ames (1906, '09-11) and Christy Mathewson (1902-04, '08) all had four opening day starts around the turn of the century, while Amos Rusie (1890-92, 94-95) started five opening day games in the late 1800s. BR has statistical data from these seasons, but no box scores, so at least in my mind the table above and the information here are a separated by credible, verifiable evidence. 

The point that I set out to make here, however, is that with his next opening day start, Bumgarner will still be a ways away from the Giants all-time leader, Juan Marichal. However, in looking at the rest of the positions around the diamond, another player will be tying the franchise mark with their next opening day start. It should come as no surprise that this player is Buster Posey.

As we sit a couple of weeks away from the regular season, Posey has started the last six opening day games, which is currently one behind the franchise leader, Wes Westrum, who started seven of the final eight opening day games for the New York Giants. 1957 was the final year of his playing career. Posey's next opening day start will also move him from the tie he is enveloped in with Tom Haller, who was a two-time all star with the SF Giants before they traded him to the Dodgers in 1968. One of the players that the Giants got in return for Haller, Ron Hunt, was a specialist in getting hit by pitches. From his first season with San Francisco in 1968 to the final year of his career in 1974 split between Montreal and St. Louis, Hunt led the big leagues in HBPs, topping out at 50 in 1971 with the Expos. That is one off the all-time record of 51 set by Hughie Jennings, who is also ranks number one in the category in baseball history. Hunt is sixth all-time on this list with 243 plunks. 

We got off track a little bit there, but hopefully you found at least some of that wackiness informative. In short, Buster Posey is set to tie the all-time mark for opening day starts behind the plate while Madison Bumgarner still has a ways to go. 

If you're curious who has started the most opening day games at any position for the Giants, that would be Willie Mays, of course, with a record 20 starts in center. That record should stand the test of time, because not only does a player have to remain healthy, but they would have to reach the majors early, meaning that they're pretty good, and then not be tempted in free agency later on. All of this while performing well enough to hold onto an opening day gig. Mays' record looks safe. 


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