He is tall, he is young. He is tough, he is gruff. For he is Madison Bumgarner, cut from the same cloth as the First Human which was fire-tested in the flames of Pangea. He subsists on the grit of his fallen foes. And definitely lots of animal meat.
I can't help it. Madison Bumgarner makes me want to grab a quill and compose songs of his legend on scrolls. I don't see him as a "power pitcher" or a "tricky lefty" or whatever classic label we tend to throw on pitchers to make it easier for our brains to make associations with other players to help summarize a fellow human being's existence as a product pushed to entertain us. Instead, I just view him as a great pitcher. That's it. He's great.
And when he pounds the strike zone like he did today (and most of the time) I need to take a cold shower. Yes, yes, he did walk 4 batters, but I'm going to chalk that up a bit to a sometimes tight, sometimes floating strike zone. Also, and this is genuine, the Padres have gone from annoying-because-they're-not-that-great scrappy to annoying-because-they're-actually-pretty-good scrappy, which is really annoying because they don't give up outs as easily and don't chase as much. Seriously, they're in the top third of the National League in scoring. Oh, what's that, you say? Bumgarner struck out 8 of them and held them to only 3 hits? See? He's great.
He had all his pitches working today. He didn't get flustered when the heat got turned up:
(courtesy of @gidget; if the image isn't working click on it)
I don't even have to waste ink, quills or scrolls composing songs to sing of the legend of Madison Bumgarner. There's nothing to build up. By simply being Madison Bumgarner he's *Madison Bumgarner*.
"Come on, let's go!" he says. You can see the drawl on that "on" just by the way his mouth moves, too. That is some serious country coming at you.
We can debate the merits, morality, and practicality of throwing something with the potential energy of a bullet at a mostly defenseless person -- SB Nation could devote an entire site to the "unwritten rules" of sports -- another time. I wasn't a fan of "throwing at" Jesus Guzman after his jacked up home run routine from last night, but after it happened and he held on to his bat and walked towards Madison Bumgarner my interest was piqued. When Madison Bumgarner walked right at Jesus Guzman in kind I was over the moon. This wasn't a macho thing, this was a tough thing in the face of a macho thing. And it said everything you'd ever really need to say about Madison Bumgarner: he's never scared.
Sure, maybe he's terrified of silverfish or something, but there's no fear when he's on the diamond.
He's been incredible to watch. There have been fewer growing pains with him than there were with Matt Cain and he never had to live up to ridiculous expectations like Tim Lincecum. He's just been Madison Bumgarner from the very beginning.
* * *
Now that my gushing has abated, a few things to talk about: home runs allowed. The Padres hit 5 home runs this series, the Giants hit 0. Granted, the Giants lineup features Juan Perez, Tony Abreu, and Joaquin Arias... and Andres Torres and Gregor Blanco. And sometimes Hector Sanchez or Guillermo Quiroz. Oh, and Nick Noonan... and the team hasn't really struggled to score runs this season (at least, not for long stretches like in years past) but it's weird to watch other teams come in and show a modicum of power, because it definitely serves as a reminder that the Giants certainly do lack power in the lineup.
But what I really wanted to mention about the home runs allowed was that it seemed to me that Madison Bumgarner tends to give up a lot of home runs at AT&T, so I checked the numbers and... yeah, he kinda does: 22 home runs allowed at AT&T Park (57 total allowed for his career). Compare that to Cain's 66, Zito's 57, and Lincecum's 40 and just from eyeballing it there appears to be... I don't know... bad luck or something involved. Of course, any pitcher who pounds the zone is susceptible to dingerism. What was surprising about today was not that Jesus Guzman knocked one out (he nearly had 2) but that Will Venable hit one into the arcade. Bumgarner's allowed home runs to 5 lefties in his career including Venable: Carlos Gonzalez (3), Joey Votto, Jason Heyward, and Yonder Alonso (all 1). The Padres in general do well against Bumgarner in terms of home runs. They've hit 11 off of him, the most of any team.
Still, I think this is just the trade-off for Bumgarner. His first four strikeouts were swinging strikeouts because he just pounds the strike zone. If that means hitters will occasionally make great contact on those pitches and hit them out, but then nobody else does anything for the rest of the game, then I think that's reasonable. I mean, as long as they're not stringing that solid contact together...
All this to say (again): Madison Bumgarner doesn't turn 24 until August 1st and he's already amassed quite a record against other teams and an impressive career resume. He is a great pitcher.
* * *
I didn't recognize Jake Dunning's first major league appearance in my last post-gamer so I can't omit him here. I'm a firm believer that bullpens should, as much as possible, feature power fastballs and one other sharp out-pitch. In my view, the Giants' bullpen really suffers from not having a guy or two who can throw 95+ with some other plus pitch. Santiago Casilla was/is that guy. Beyond that, it's pretty much Romo's slider left to devastate.What does this mean for Jake Dunning? I have no idea. His fastball didn't really light up the radar guy or have a lot of tail (though it appeared to have some good sink to it) and his slider wasn't particularly sharp, but it was effective. I'll take that if it means he continues what he's done in his appearances: throw strikes. So, I guess what I'm saying here is: Jake Dunning, right-handed setup dude.
Ahhhh, wins feel good. So good.