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Giants win behind dominant, shaky, weird-as-heck Madison Bumgarner start

Jeff Francoeur hit a grand slam, and we can laugh about it now.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

One of these days, the Jeff Francoeur grand slam isn't going to be so cute. It will be hit by Francoeur or Dan Uggla or Cody Ransom or Shane Victorino or Mat Latos, and it will cost the Giants the danged game. Tears will be shed. Teeth will be gnashed. It's going to be awful.

Until then, Francoeur's still a nice fellow, and his presence in the Phillies' lineup sure makes baseball interesting, so good for him. Good for that grand slam. And the Giants won, so tears were not shed. Teeth were not gnashed. It was just an exceptionally odd game. Madison Bumgarner might have pitched the best five-run start I've ever seen, and it's possible that was the best five-run start I'll ever see. How in the heck do you evaluate this one?

Start with the claim that it was an exceptionally odd start. It absolutely was, and there are statistics to prove it. Bumgarner threw eight innings (good), walked none (outstanding), struck out 11 (oh, baby), while allowing five earned runs (uh) and throwing pitches economically. If you're not familiar with game score, it's a fun toy from Bill James that adds points for positive events, like strikeouts, and deducts them for negative events, like walks. Bumgarner's game score was 61, which isn't bad at all.

It's also a rare game score for someone who allowed five runs. Since 1914, there's about one of these per season. The most impressive parts of that list are the names. Eyeballing it, I get 17 Hall-of-Famers, and that list of HOF pitchers doesn't include Hall of Nearly Great players like Jack Morris, Frank Tanana, and Virgil Trucks, nor does it include players who were, briefly, among the best at their position, like Mario Soto, Teddy Higuera, or Johnny Sain. It doesn't even include Lil Stoner, mentioned here because you deserve to remember he existed.

Also, most of the pitchers on the list are from the era where throwing eight innings or fewer brought great shame upon the pitchers and their families. It's even rarer these days.

The point being, pitchers who get to finish eight innings while allowing five runs and pitching that well are rare, and they're usually studs. They're guys who sure look like they're throwing brilliantly, so the managers shrug, figure homers are gonna happen, and leave the ace-type in there. That's exactly what happened on Saturday.

And please note that's about as well as Bumgarner can throw. He had thrown something like 20 pitches through three innings. He threw 78 strikes and 20 balls, one of the best ratios I can remember. The grand slam was set up on a grounder, HBP, and bloop -- hardly a progression of hanging curves. And then Francoeur got the fastball he was, is, will forever be looking for, in exactly the wrong spot. One of these days, it's going to come in the ninth inning or in a one-run game. As is, that was a good one, baseball. You got us. Good one. Ha ha, oh, you.

The Giants are 20-1 when Madison Bumgarner strikes out 10 batters or more. Because, yeah, of course they are. That many strikeouts means that Bumgarner has his best stuff, and a Bumgarner with his best stuff is more like a mythological creature than a left-handed starter. Except this time, the Giants almost lost. I have no idea why it happened, but at least we can laugh about it now.


The last time the Giants lost, Norichika Aoki was pilloried for being a boner brain on the bases, and rightfully so. He should probably stop having a boner for a brain on the bases.

Here's a reminder, though, that he's a net positive, an excellent player in so many ways. He's at .324/.398/.410 for the season, and even if that average is just a slump away from normalizing, he's been an excellent acquisition, one of the best of the offseason from any team.

WAR through June 5
Aoki: 1.1
Jon Lester: 0.4
James Shields: 1.1
Pablo Sandoval: -0.3
Yasmany Tomas: 0.3
Chase Headley: -0.4

Recent free agent Max Scherzer is leading the NL with a 2.9 mark, but I'm focusing more on the players the Giants were attached to in the rumor mill. All of those other dudes got a ton of money. They're around for years and years, whether their teams want them or not. And here's Aoki, doing his thing, being just as valuable, and doing it for middle-reliever money. The Giants have him next year if they want him, too. Looks like they will from here.


A day after homering and making a great diving play, Matt Duffy was 2-for-5 with a double on a ball that was inches away from going out. I know that Bruce Bochy said that Casey McGehee might get a start in Philadelphia, so here's the test. Does Bochy value the hot streak of a younger player more than the implied potential of a hot streak from a veteran?

It's a fascinating decision, and as someone who is skeptical that managers can tell the real hot streaks from the pyrite, it's not like I'll set a car on fire if Duffy doesn't start on Sunday. It's just fascinating.

Using the ol' eyeball test, I can't imagine a reason to keep giving McGehee chances as a starter just because that's what he was supposed to be when the Giants traded for him. Duffy's faster, at least the equal with the glove, and just as likely to hit as McGehee, if not much more so.

Starting McGehee on Sunday would feel like something a hovering owner would demand because he was the one pushing for the trade in the first place. Except there's no hovering owner. There's just a manager with mostly free reign and validated opinions on what helps baseball teams win.