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Madison Bumgarner rolls again, Giants take series from Mets

Maddie Meyer

It has been an absolute pleasure to watch Madison Bumgarner pitch this year.

I'm not sure what we'll think about this season in a decade. It's been a crushing disappointment, sure. The 2013 Giants have one of the worst performance/expectations ratios in San Francisco Giants history, and it's neck and neck with 2011. But when I think of 2011, it's not just Buster Posey's injury that pops in my head. It's not necessarily Carlos Beltran, and it's not that the Giants scored three runs in August (one of them on a balk.)

It was also the Year of Ryan Vogelsong. There was no rhyme, no reason to that part of the year, and it was a delight to watch Vogelsong pitch. The 2011 season had a lot of disappointment, sure, but I can think of a lot of seasons that didn't have anything as compelling or fun as Vogelsong's story.

Bumgarner's success this season isn't perfectly analogous, of course, because we're used to him being good. Vogelsong emerged from the mists wearing a loincloth made from a saber-tooth tiger, clutching a weathered map, and muttering something about a treasure. Bumgarner is one of those outstanding young Giants pitchers that's easy to take for granted. He's nine months older than Zack Wheeler, yet he's already burdened with the expectations of a staff ace.

It's a good thing he's something of a badass, then.

I mention Al Leiter's slider/cutter as a comparison for Bumgarner's slutter once a year. The last time I mentioned it, I pointed out that I mention it once a year. This was less than a year ago. So, yes, I'm obsessed. It's all I can think about when I see the pitch because I remembering being so frustrated watching the Giants hit against Leiter. How were the Giants supposed to hit that stupid pitch? Swing and it's in on the thumbs. Take it and it's a called strike.

Duane Kuiper mentioned Leiter's slutter and compared Bumgarner's pitch to it in the second inning. SO I'M NOT CRAZY. I'm not the only one who sees and remembers that pitch, though I might be the only one who brings it up so often.

Oh, man, this is going to be awesome in 30 years, when I'm yelling about a Huston Street two-seamer to people who weren't even born when Street retired.

But if I had to rank my favorite Giants' pitches, it would go something like this:

1. Romo slider
2. Bumgarner slutter
3. Lincecum change (when working)
4. Cain fastball
5. The Lopez Embarrasser

Not sure if there's a specific pitch for #5. It's just the name for when Javier Lopez makes a left-handed hitter look like a tennis pro swinging a baseball bat for the first time.

When Bumgarner was a prospect, the rap on him was that he was all fastball and no secondary pitches. He racked up the strikeouts in the Sally because his fastball was good enough to fool teenagers, but he was going to need something else if he wanted long-term success as a starter. Then his velocity disappeared. So long, Madison. It was nice knowing you as a prospect, but let's focus on Erick Threets now.

Instead, the velocity came back, and he developed the slutter. Sweet, sweet slutter. It's deceptive. It's subtle. It's impossible. And one of the best things about the 2013 Giants season has been Madison Bumgarner. There's still room for him to grow, too. He's had a pattern over the last few starts of cruising early, then running the pitch count up enough in the sixth and seventh to knock him out of the game before he can think about a complete game.

One of these days, he'll figure it out. Until then, he's merely great. A list of the pitchers with three 200-inning seasons before turning 24:

Rk Yrs From To Age
1 Chief Bender 5 1903 1907 19-23 Ind. Seasons
2 Dwight Gooden 4 1984 1988 19-23 Ind. Seasons
3 Frank Tanana 4 1974 1977 20-23 Ind. Seasons
4 Bert Blyleven 4 1971 1974 20-23 Ind. Seasons
5 Don Drysdale 4 1957 1960 20-23 Ind. Seasons
6 Bob Feller 4 1938 1941 19-22 Ind. Seasons
7 Pete Schneider 4 1915 1918 19-22 Ind. Seasons
8 Earl Hamilton 4 1912 1915 20-23 Ind. Seasons
9 Walter Johnson 4 1908 1911 20-23 Ind. Seasons
10 Johnny Lush 4 1906 1909 20-23 Ind. Seasons
11 Christy Mathewson 4 1901 1904 20-23 Ind. Seasons
12 Steve Avery 3 1991 1993 21-23 Ind. Seasons
13 Fernando Valenzuela 3 1982 1984 21-23 Ind. Seasons
14 Don Gullett 3 1971 1974 20-23 Ind. Seasons
15 Clay Kirby 3 1969 1971 21-23 Ind. Seasons
16 Larry Dierker 3 1968 1970 21-23 Ind. Seasons
17 Joe Coleman 3 1968 1970 21-23 Ind. Seasons
18 Gary Nolan 3 1967 1971 19-23 Ind. Seasons
19 Catfish Hunter 3 1967 1969 21-23 Ind. Seasons
20 Don Sutton 3 1966 1968 21-23 Ind. Seasons
21 Ken Holtzman 3 1966 1969 20-23 Ind. Seasons
22 Denny McLain 3 1965 1967 21-23 Ind. Seasons
23 Dean Chance 3 1962 1964 21-23 Ind. Seasons
24 Milt Pappas 3 1959 1962 20-23 Ind. Seasons
25 Mike McCormick 3 1959 1961 20-22 Ind. Seasons
Rk Yrs From To Age
26 Van Mungo 3 1932 1934 21-23 Ind. Seasons
27 Wes Ferrell 3 1929 1931 21-23 Ind. Seasons
28 Willis Hudlin 3 1927 1929 21-23 Ind. Seasons
29 Pete Donohue 3 1922 1924 21-23 Ind. Seasons
30 Waite Hoyt 3 1921 1923 21-23 Ind. Seasons
31 Babe Ruth 3 1915 1917 20-22 Ind. Seasons
32 Lee Meadows 3 1915 1917 20-22 Ind. Seasons
33 Bullet Joe Bush 3 1913 1916 20-23 Ind. Seasons
34 Jim Scott 3 1909 1911 21-23 Ind. Seasons
35 Jimmy Dygert 3 1906 1908 21-23 Ind. Seasons
36 George Mullin 3 1902 1904 21-23 Ind. Seasons
37 Madison Bumgarner 3 2011 2013 21-23 Ind. Seasons

There are some cautionary tales on that list. There are some Hall of Famers. There's also a dude who hit 714 home runs. But the important part is that Bumgarner is a rare creature. We already knew it, but here's an update. You'll probably get another one in five days.


If Juan Perez could hit -- like, a little bit -- he would be the crown prince of WAR. That is, the kind of player who would rank consistently among the game's most valuable players because he does everything else well. He's been worth a half-win this season, for example, despite a .265 OBP in 69 plate appearances coming into Wednesday's game. That's hard to do.

After three hits and a walk on Wednesday, the OBP is up to .306. FanGraphs has him close to a full win now. And we haven't even seen his power yet. He's not exactly Giancarlo Stanton, but he's been good for 40 extra-base hits at every stop in the minors.

He's not going to be a starter. At least, it's exceptionally unlikely. You root for a team that started Andres Torres in center during a championship season, so there's no point in ruling anything out, but the odds are against him holding down a job as a starter.

But as a complementary, useful player? The odds of him becoming a solid fifth outfielder are in his favor. He's impressive in every baseball-related part of his his chosen profession ... except the pesky hitting part. So when he has a game like this one, it's almost imperative to draw attention to him. Look at Juan Perez, everyone!

If he can do something similar to his current production -- say, .250/.300/.340 -- for a few years, he'd go down as one of the better fifth outfielders in ... well, over the last few years, at least.

Okay, that's not that exciting.

Madison Bumgarner, though. Bow, howdy, is that guy something? Don't forget: His middle name is "K." It's not short for anything. It's literally just "K."

We should probably all get matching Bumgarner tattoos at this point.