Got to see Madison Bumgarner's San Jose debut last night. Fabulous seats, and my son and I were two of three -- along with a long-time SJ Giants ticket holder who knew the pitching coach -- to be behind Buster Posey as he received Mad Bum's first warmup long-toss throw and one of perhaps eight or 10 who were beside Mad Bum when he made his first warmup throw off the bullpen mound.
Mad Bum got tremendous results (IIRC only two hits and a hit batsman in six innings with two double plays and a near-third). Only one ball was hit hard, and that was a line out to center fielder Darren (?) Ford. Four strikeouts in the first two innings, so he probably wound up with six or seven.
But I'm still not entirely sure of what to make of him, as he threw 80% or more fastballs. His secondary pitches (curve or slider and change up) seemed OK but not great. His control (no walks) was quite good, and he kept the ball down well and got it up around the letters or even shoulders with two strikes.
He threw in the 90's, but I don't remember his exceeding 94 (maybe a pitch or two at 95). He certainly didn't seem to have the electric stuff Tim Lincecum had there two and a half years ago, but the batters didn't hit it any better. And while Tim had already turned 22 back then, last night Mad Bum was only nine days past 19 1/2.
I'm not sure exactly how Mad Bum did such a great job of getting the Stockton Ports' hitters out, but he did. Mostly with the fastball. One low but over the plate curve ball got driven out of the park, but it was 30 degrees foul and never close to fair territory after it left the bat.
Nice movement away from right-handed hitters with that fastball, and hitters had a hard time laying off the pitch even at the letters and above, but I'm still not sure how he was so dominant.
Would that fastball play in the majors already? Well, apparently Manny Ramirez couldn't hit it (being among Bumgarner's four strikeouts in his three scoreless innings against the Dodgers in spring training). Unless the San Jose gun is three or four mph slow right now or Cal League hitters haven't yet caught up to a fastball above 90, I'm not sure he's doing it.
Facing Madison, all one really needs to do is look for the fastball, but apparently you can't hit it even if you're looking for it. I'm just not sure why. Perhaps it is the combination of speed, movement and very nice control. I guess his control and keeping most pitches down must be the key.
Mad Bum gave up a couple of weak popups on which he almost literally took the bat out of the hitters' hands. And he was able to induce a ground ball on each of the three occasions runners reached base. The third time he didn't achieve the double play only because the ball wasn't hit hard enough.
And he did show off his devastating pickoff move, failing to nail a runner breaking the wrong way only because his throw to Angel Villalona was shoulder high. Even then it was bang-bang.
And Angel immediately became my favorite San Jose Giants player. He looks both powerful and very much like a ball player, and even his hands looked soft to me. Good speed for such a big man, perhaps about the same level as Travis Ishikawa.
I think AnVil (a guy behind me was even calling him that) had three hits, but unlike his massive homer Thursday night, each was a bloop. But AnVil has closed his stance since I saw him on milb.com video last year, and he looks like a hitter (albeit one who can be fooled by the curve ball, even from a southpaw).
AnVil moved up from first to second very nicely on a short wild pitch, showing good instincts. The only thing I didn't like was that on a bloop he hit to right, he jogged to first while watching the ball and didn't begin to hustle until it fell in and skipped away from the fielder. Made it to second easily, though.
The Giants appear to be keeping the pressure off Angel, batting him seventh. Every hitter in their order except Darren Ford at leadoff and Michael Ambort batting eighth appears to have a legitimate shot at making the Giants. And aside from Thomas Neal, batting an extremely strong ninth in the order, each would seem to have a good shot at being a starter.
Foothill High's Brandon Crawford showed adequate speed for a shortstop and hit the night's only home run, just clearing the wall in right center. Ouch, that means it would have resulted in death in AT&T's Death Valley.
Nick Noonan made two errors in the same inning and was picked off first base (although he was safe on a funky throw to second). But he's batting third in a VERY strong batting order.
Buster Posey is batting cleanup, and failed to get the ball out of the infield. Buster drew one walk.
Getting back to Bumgarner, I have watched only the first inning of San Jose's Thursday night opener, but at this point I think Tim Alderson might be slightly closer to the bigs than the younger (by 10 months) Mad Bum. Tim threw three change ups in that first inning -- one for a ball, one for a swing-through and a followup change that was barely foul tipped.
Although Alderson's fastball doesn't compare with Mad Bum's for speed and particularly movement, his curve is of major-league quality. Seeing him for the first time in San Jose's playoff opener last September, I felt he was little more than a confident change up away from being able to pitch in the bigs.
Clearly Mad Bum has the far greater upside of the two, but Timmy Two might be ready a little quicker. Then again, hitters at no level have yet failed to be overpowered by Bumgarner -- apparently even the big league Dodgers ten days ago.
I'm not entirely sure how Mad Bum is so dominating. But the fact remains that he is.