If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last week, you know that the Giants have survived a bizarre, emotionally draining, back-and-forth National League Division Series against Atlanta and are now preparing to face the monster known as the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS. These Phillies have made a late push for Team of the Decade, and could really secure their place in history as a dynasty with another championship in 2010. But first, they will have to get past the Giants’ pitching staff- one comprised mostly of former Grizzlies, including all four in the starting rotation.
Who: Joe Nathan
When He Was a Grizzly: Joe played with Fresno for four seasons from 1999-2002. Despite his less than stellar numbers as a Grizzly, the San Francisco Giants 1995 sixth round went on to an All-Star career as a Major Leaguer.
? Throughout the four seasons with Fresno, Nathan compiled just a 12-23 record with a 5.59 ERA.
? The right-hander put up his best numbers with the Grizzlies in his first season, winning six games against four losses in 13 starts. He finished the 1999 season with a 4.46 ERA.
? Joe’s 2002 campaign with the club was also the first in which he saw time out of the bullpen. In 31 games, the Texas native made six relief appearances.
Where He Went From Here: After making his Major League debut with the Giants in 1999, Nathan saw time with the Grizzlies’ parent club in 2000 and 2002 before pitching the entire 2003 season in San Francisco. All 78 appearances with the Giants that year were out of the ‘pen, and he compiled a 12-4 record with a 2.96 ERA in 79.0 innings.
Where He Is Now:
Nathan was traded in mid-November of 2003, along with former Grizzly Boof Bonser and Francisco Liriano to the Minnesota Twins for catcher A.J. Pierzynski and cash. The right-handed reliever made his mark as one of baseballs top closers with the Twins since 2004, adding four All-Star appearances and two top-5 finishes in the AL Cy Young Award voting. In six seasons as a Twin, Nathan has gone 22-12-361 in 412 games, while yielding a minuscule 1.87 ERA.
? Set a Minnesota Twins single season record with 47 saves in 2009.
? Went 7-0 with a 1.58 ERA, and a 0.79 WHIP in 2006.
? Tallied a career high 95 strikeouts in 2006, averaging 12.5 K’s per nine innings.
? At the plate, Nathan accumulated five hits with the Giants in 2000, four of which were for extra bases. Two of the four extra base hits were his only two career home runs in the Majors.
By: Noah Frank
And just what did that rotation do in the Division Series? Oh, I don’t know, only combine to go 2-0 with a 0.93 ERA (3 ER/29.0 IP), walking just five while striking out an absurd 36 over that stretch. Yes, the combination of righties Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain and southpaws Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner picked apart a piece-meal Braves lineup, one that had been decimated by injuries late in the season. Needless to say they will have their hands full with a much more potent Phillies offense, but their collective performance in the first round was pretty amazing.
Consider the fact that Cain was in Fresno in 2005, Sanchez and Lincecum in ’07, and Bumgarner as recently as June 20th of this season. This is the first time Grizzlies fans have really seen the players they used to cheer on in person having an impact in the postseason, at least for the Giants (nothing against Joe Nathan).
And while San Francisco didn’t have much to cheer about on offense, Buster Posey did share the Division Series lead among all National Leaguers with six hits and three runs scored. Plus, Pat Burrell slugged a three-run home run in Game 2, the biggest run-producing hit of the series. He’ll have his chance to shine again against the team that drafted him, and that he played nine seasons for in the Big Leagues.
The NLCS kicks off Saturday night in Philly. Crawl out from under that rock and cheer on your former Grizz, won’t you?