I don't know what just happened.
I'm not going to pretend tonight justified Hector Sanchez's spot on the roster -- Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart could hit a homer every couple hundred at-bats, too -- but that's what I was hoping for when I argued for it. A little offense above and beyond what the Giants could expect from the incumbents. He is hitting .297 with a couple of homers, folks. Don't look at the number to the ri … DON'T LOOK AT THE NUMBER TO THE RIGHT. We're not concerned about that now.
I still think he could be a fantastic catcher. Sitting on the bench four out of five days isn't helping that; I'm coming to terms with that. The short-term gain is probably too small to make the long-term risk worthwhile. But you see a game like tonight, and you get the allure of keeping him on the team. Even if he's just five percent better than Whiteside, you never know when that will show up. Glad it was tonight.
Bochy will get a lot of grief for the Bumgarner/Braun decision, but I liked the Posey double-switch. You either commit to a reliever hitting and hope Posey gets a shot in three innings, or you save Posey's ankle and put your best possible lineup in place for the innings that you know you'll play. And it turned out that Bochy was something of a genius. I don't know how many managers would have made the same move, considering that Posey was just about the only chance of a good thing happening.
Pro tip: Whenever I agree with a move Bochy made, I pretend that Posey called it himself. I'd like to think Bochy was leaning on the dugout rail in the 14th, wondering how Sanchez got in the game, but playing it cool and making it seem like he made the move.
I was also cool with the Bumgarner/Braun idea at the time. I knew I shouldn't have been. But I was high on Bumgarrogance. He was magic. He was in command. He was invincible. He certainly couldn't hang a slider to Ryan Braun with two outs and dammit so very much.
After 109 good pitches, Bumgarner threw a bad pitch to the worst possible player. Yes, Sergio Romo exists to face hitters like Braun in the eighth inning. I get that now. I woke up after the inning was over, and I was in my bathtub, covered in Bumgarner dust and wondering what happened. When you have the best right-handed setup man in baseball, you don't leave the left-handed pitcher in to throw his 107th pitch to one of the best right-handed hitters in baseball. My bad. Also, Bochy's bad. You can decide for yourself if that's a possessive or a contraction. Maybe it's both. Schrödinger's snark.
The important thing is that you save a little blame for Brandon Crawford, who can get over his fielding wonkery any time now. He was supposed to be Omar Vizquel without the power. But I was thinking, like, Omar Vizquel from a few years ago, not from ten years in the future. The better at-bats (.344 OBP in May before tonight!) are somewhat encouraging, but Crawford is quite possibly the most useless player on the team if he can't field.
I'm not ready to say he can't field yet. He wasn't doing this last year, as he had two fewer errors in 70 more chances. But this was a concern I didn't expect to have. And you'd better believe the Giants weren't expecting it. If it keeps happening by the time Pablo Sandoval is back, we're going to see a heckuva lot more Joaquin Arias. I wouldn't be opposed to it, especially if you catch my ear on a night like tonight.
The story of the game is still Bumgarner. CSN Bay Area was running a poll today about a nickname for him. I'll let you decide the merits of the various selections, but you can't fault the spirit of the poll. Bumgarner seems like the player who should have a nickname. He's big and stoic. Ten kinds of awesome. Unflappable -- completely impossible to flap, as it happens.
I don't know something with a cowboy theme … Bumgarner walks into a saloon, spurs a-janglin'. The guy at the piano stops, and everyone gets quiet. Bumgarner blows a snot rocket. The music starts up again. Work with me here.
My suggestions didn't make the cut -- "Lefty Throwgreat" and "Really Goodman (Which Is a Play on 'Benny Goodman' And This Is The Whole Nickname)" seemed better at the time -- but, alas, there will be no nickname for Madison Bumgarner. It's too late. You have to catch that sort of thing before the first-syllable/second-syllable nickname takes hold. Add in that the first two syllables of Bumgarner's name happen to be words already, and there was no chance.
So we'll just have to settle for him being really, really, really good in a Giants uniform over the next decade. I'm running of out words to describe how much I love watching him pitch. That doesn't change with an error and a Braun home run. Bumgarner is still a treasure.
I feel like we should get atop our desks and recite "O Captain! My Captain!" whenever he takes the mound. That poem is about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, so we'd have to rejigger a few things, but we can't just sit around saying "Boy oh boy oh boy, he good" for the next eight years. I mean, we will. But that doesn't make it right.
If there was one nit to pick with Bumgarner's start to the season, it's that his strikeout rate had dipped a bit. The results were still good, so it wasn't a huge concern. It just stuck out on the stat sheet. As a grizzled old-timer who remembers all the way back to the mid-'00s, though, I remembered the initial freakout about Matt Cain when his strikeout rate dipped in the first half of 2007. By "freakout", I mean "thread with 15 comments," which meant something back then. After finishing his first full season with an 8.4 K/9, Cain started 2007 with a 5.9 K/9 in April.
It seems silly now, but there wasn't a history of young pitchers developing into demigods yet. There were people who were absolutely convinced that Cain was hurt. We're better than that now. It's easy to be better than that after Bumgarner has a 10-strikeout game.
The new, patient Giants freak me out. I don't think there's a manual for this. There isn't an established protocol. No one left instructions on the kitchen counter. I'm not sure when it's appropriate or socially acceptable to believe in the new approach. It seems rash to do it now. After all of the complaining about sample size around here, it's probably not a great idea to declare a broken team fixed after a week's worth of better at-bats.
But it's comforting, even in a game that featured 12 consecutive scoreless innings from the Giants, the glow from the first inning kept me warm. Well, it didn't keep me that warm. If you tried to cook chicken by the glow, you'd get salmonella. But the game started with a round of walk-walk-Posey, and it felt good. Felt like the Giants were going to go for a dozen runs.
Nope. Just the three. But there were eight more walks tonight, which is impressive even with the five extra innings. Even Nate Schierholtz worked a clutch leadoff walk in the ninth inning before going to a full count in the 11th. I'm buying the new approach. Everyone's buying the new approach. Did you hear the buzz about the new approach? I just hope that there's really a new approach.