You've watched the 2015 Giants go through some ups and downs. They were swept by the Cubs in a four-game series last week, for example. They've had winning streaks, losing streaks, and more winning streaks. They've looked like the best team in baseball, shortly after looking like the most helpless team in baseball history. They're confusing. I don't remember a team like this.
But you know what the low points feel like, when you're not sure if the Giants even belong in the majors. The Nationals are there right now. And at the end of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad road trip, they looked up and saw Madison Bumgarner, 6'5", all fuzz and snot, ready to pitch against them. That was unfortunate timing.
For them. For the Giants? Pretty, pretty danged good timing. In his three starts in August, Bumgarner has thrown 25⅓ innings, with one walk and 35 strikeouts. He is putting baseballs where he wants to put them. The Giants, once again, look like a marvelous, whole, threatening team. They're the 1997 Indians without Jose Mesa. And without Matt Williams. Which is a good thing? Probably, but let's play nice.
In the ninth inning, chasing his second complete game in a row, Bumgarner faced Bryce Harper. For this entire series, Harper has looked like a player who has figured out the game theory of baseball -- he had an answer for every pitch, every location. When he made outs, they were hard. It was a classic matchup between two players who, with any luck, should be battling against each other for the next decade, at least.
Bumgarner struck him out on three pitches.
Gas. Gas. Gas. The last fastball was 93 mph. I was at a party for my daughter's softball league, and they had a pitching gun there. Now, I ... /adjusts belt and pants ... used to throw pretty hard back in the day. Didn't know where it was going, but they stuck me at third for a reason. Now, it's been about 10 years or so since I tried to throw a baseball as hard as I could, so I was curious. I wound up, put everything I had into it, and threw a 55-mph fastball five feet from home plate. For the next week, I had to brush my teeth with my feet. Can you imagine 93-mph fastballs after 100 pitches? We take it for granted, and, sure, they're all great athletes. That's why they make money. But just contemplate the idea of 93 mph at the end of a game. Just for a second. Revel in its absurdity.
Bumgarner is the strongest pitcher I've ever watched on a regular basis. Don't e-mail me with your anecdotes about Jeff Juden doing curls with a VW Bug, please. When it comes to extended viewings, I don't remember a pitcher making me shake my head quite this much.
By pure coincidence, I was checking the DVR this morning and realized that I had the last two innings of Game 7 recorded. It was labeled as "Fox Postgame," so it escaped my attention for months. So I watched it. And I made the kids watch it, too, because look at this freaking game, you dumb kids. And the same thought went through my head. Look at what a physical freak this guy is. A million innings, a million pitches, and he's still getting fastballs by Salvador Perez in the ninth inning.
One day, you'll be 70 and watching Farn Skently strike out six batters in his debut, and you'll think, "Good looking kid. Not Madison Bumgarner, though." And your grandkids will say, "Aw, Gramps, you're stuck in the past," and then they'll laugh and you'll laugh. And then you'll say under your breath, with feeling, "Screw this guy. This little twerp couldn't hold Bumgarner's tiniest snot rocket." Later that night, you'll write your grandkids out of your will.
Don't second-guess it. You're right to do so.
That's how good Bumgarner is, has been, and hopefully will be. You're living in the Golden Era of Giants baseball, and here's one of the biggest reasons why. Madison Bumgarner pitches for the San Francisco Giants. Isn't that exciting?
Players Madison Bumgarner just passed on the all-time career home run list for the San Francisco Giants:
- Dave Martinez
- Darren Lewis
- Steve Decker
- Tsuyoshi Shinjo
- Gary Carter
- Brett Pill
- Shea Hillenbrand
That list makes me smile for 30 different reasons.
There wasn't really a standout offensive performer of the day.
Well, yeah. And he had a double, too. Nationals pitcher was like ...
Still, the production was sprinkled around the lineup just enough to make it hard to pick a Ticket Squid Star of the Game, or something like that. So I'll go with Brandon Belt, who was just 1-for-4, but picked up an opposite-field hit for the 25th time this season. A breakdown:
And we're halfway through August. Last year he had seven opposite-field hits. Like, all season.
Baseball isn't so simple that you can say "Opposite field = success," but you can tell the difference in Belt's approach. There are more options. There are fewer ways for him to go into a funky shoulder-slump.
Tom Seaver in a danged Giants hat?
Tom Seaver in a danged Giants hat. I'm not sure what the true ranking of pitchers I regret not watching is. But it's probably something like this:
- Walter Johnson
- Tom Seaver
- Bob Gibson
- Sandy Koufax
- Christy Mathewson
Apologies to Carl Hubbell, Juan Marichal, Bob Feller, Luis Tiant ... and, well, 100s of other pitchers. But Seaver is on the short list. Part of me wants to wonder about a feature in which the Giants end up with him. Another, bigger, part of me, remembers that the Dodgers drafted him first, so I'm not going to play the what-if game anymore.
Nice to see him in a Giants hat finally, is all.
Joe Ross isn't on the Padres.
We'll have the next few years to hate Wil Myers, and he's a talented player, to be sure. At the same time, Ross looked like a future star in bursts on Sunday. The other player the Padres gave up, Trea Turner, looks like he's going to be a long-term solution at shortstop. That's okay, though, considering it's only been literally 35 years since the Padres have had a long-term solution at shortstop.
Which is all to say, we can hate Wil Myers and be really, really, really glad he exists at the same time. Everybody wins!
Except for the Padres.
Watch the full play here. It's worth it. Rather than do a weenie jump throw from the hole, Crawford takes an extra two steps and throws it twice as hard as he has a right to throw it.
Reminder that Crawford has never made the top three finalists in the Gold Glove voting.
This is the year, then. Last year's postseason primed the pump, and now he's hitting well enough to win a Gold Glove. Andrelton Simmons will, always and forever, be the baby with one eyebrow to Crawford. Still, he'll get close this year. He deserves it.