In a perfect world, we'd get to watch Madison Bumgarner doing this for the next eight years. I won't dig into the actuary tables and see what the real world suggests will happen because that's irrelevant right now. Right now, I'm thinking good thoughts because Bumgarner's something like a perfect young pitcher -- plus stuff, plus-plus command.
Imagine this stuff for the next decade, but with a hardened, wizened approach that only in-game experience can bring. Do we even realize what it's like to watch a 22-year-old pitcher like this? Most 22-year-old pitchers are learning not to gnaw on the rosin bag. Bumgarner's carving up major-league hitters.
The cutter that he throws to right-handed hitters is either a) more prevalent than it used to be, b) newish, or c) I'm an idiot who didn't pay enough attention to it last year. I'll go with c), but I reserve the right to be newly impressed. Back in the late '90s, Al Leiter owned the Giants. Just owned them. And the pitch that killed them was a cutter that ran in on the hands of right-handers. I remember thinking it was the most unhittable pitch on the planet at the time. As far as the Giants were concerned, it was.
When it's right, Bumgarner's is a similar pitch. It doesn't have a ton of break, but when it moves, it moves late. The hitter has started to swing, and then the pitch is biting at his thumbs. The command is great. The slider is great. The four-seamer is great. The cutter is the pitch that's fascinating me right now.
Be careful when it comes to Brandon Crawford. Complaining about the limp groundouts? Well, yeah, go nuts. But I'm not ready to slap a doink-glove tag on him yet. Mostly because I just invented the doink-glove tag tonight, mostly after watching clips of Crawford fielding. Doink. It seemed like every ball went to him tonight. Doink.
But you can't be a proud slave to statistics and then make too much of anecdotal evidence like that. Crawford's doinks are the equivalent to Brandon Belt getting called out on a pitch six inches off the plate. You can believe it's meaningful enough to transcend a small sample; I'll choose to wait. I'll choose to think he's as good as advertised.
There's a waiting period for this anecdotal data:
Wait, wait. Did Eugenio Velez get thrown out going first-to-third with two outs?
Wait, wait. Did Velez get thrown out going first-to-third because he tripped over a shopping cart? And was the shopping card filled with VHS cassettes? That's just random. Now he's tangled in the cassette tape.
Wait, wait. Did Velez get thrown out going first-to-third with two outs? But the Giants were in the field at the time.
I will not be surprised by anything Velez does on the bases from now on.
Boy, I wish Velez could get on base.
I'm still thinking that Crawford's doinks are in Phase One. There's surprise. Amazement. Concern. But I'm not giving up on his defense just yet. And we should absolutely expect something close to peerless defense. Without that, might as well put Brett Pill out there.
And there might be an external factor, too.
Is Brandon Crawford's sprained left thumb causing problems? Giants will probably say no but it's pretty heavily iced/wrapped after games.— Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy) April 18, 2012
Could be. I'll still pencil Crawford in as a superlative fielder. Say, how about that last out of the game? But the doinks will move to Phase Two soon if they keep happening.
Same thing goes with the fielding in general. Going with fluke. Will adjust if events warrant.
Clay Hensley has substantial splits, and I'll probably bring this up every other game.
Most pitchers have a higher strikeout rate/lower ERA in relief. But this is a dramatic split. And the early returns on Hensley are outstanding. His changeup is a freaky reverse slider. His sinker is a great pitch with which to shave the outside corners. Every time I complain about Sabean's inability to cobble a lineup together, I should at least pay lip service to his ability to find useful arms at a flea market. Hensley looks like another find.
Buster Posey and Juan Pierre are now tied for stolen bases on Tuesdays this year.