This was going to be Madison Bumgarner's free agent year. In an offseason where the best starting pitcher on the market might be Tim Lincecum, give or take, Bumgarner could have booked a zeppelin to fly over the Winter Meetings and required every interested GM to climb up a flimsy rope ladder, just to talk to him. And Bumgarner would have thrown peanuts at them the whole time they were climbing up, laughing, just because. Every GM would have had to do that; every GM would have had to take it. Bumgarner would have made $300 million.
As is, Bumgarner is ours, and what a warm feeling that gives us. He wasn't right, mechanically, for most of the spring, and he started the season with an uncharacteristic five-walk, five-inning Jonathan Sanchez special. After five straight seasons with 200 generally excellent innings, including three of them with an extra month tacked on, it's only natural to wait for the other cleat to drop sometimes, even with the best players.
Yet if the season ended today, Bumgarner would have the lowest ERA of his career. He'd obliterate his best strikeout rate by a full strikeout per nine innings -- hard to do when you're already over 9 K/9.
"No, that's okay, fellas. I'm just going to walk home. Thanks, though."
- Adam Rosales, probably
I have a cockamamie theory about this strikeout spike, and I have no idea if it's something that can be tested. So we know Bumgarner's fastball velocity is a tick down (but trending upward), but the slider/cutter velocity is steady as she goes. The cockamamie theory suggests that the closer those pitches are in velocity, the harder they are to differentiate. Hence, more missed bats.
Or maybe we're still in May.
Either way, this is the kind of Madison Bumgarner that makes the other team groan when they check the pitching probables a couple weeks in advance. His command was impeccable. His pitches were moving, and there were about three times as many lousy at-bats against him as there were good at-bats.
Nine innings, no walks, five hits, 11 strikeouts. That'll do.
* * *
Aaaaand he yelled at a dude again. This is one of five or so this year. Collect them all. I have thoughts.
- It's kind of embarrassing. At least, I roll my eyes almost every time. I don't care if Alex Guerrero is mad at himself. I don't care if Troy Tulowitzki watches his home runs. I don't care if Yasiel Puig ... no, that guy kind of bugs me, he can keep antagonizing him. But I can't imagine that Wil Myers yelled "NOW GO GET YOUR SHINEBOX" after his own strikeout. I just can't have been that big of a deal.
- In fact, Bumgarner doesn't even know why he was mad. He just knew that he wanted to be mad. That's ... yeah, I can dig that. If he needs to pretend that every hitter just keyed his car, if that's how he needs to get in the zone, then the eye-rolling is a fair price to pay.
- While I'm rolling my eyes, though, I start thinking about how much he must drive Padres fans nuts. Then I giggle. And I stop rolling my eyes.
He's going to do this again. He's going to do it several times. It's more than a little silly, but I'll take the silly brouhahas if they lead to more excellent games like this.
* * *
Brandon Crawford had five RBI on Tuesday night. I know that RBI aren't a great stat, and you won't see them referenced here as a way to evaluate a player's season or career. But for a game? Five RBI is a good shorthand for, "That player sure was fun to watch in that particular game."
Over the last calendar month, Crawford was hitting .242/.308/.368 before Tuesday. That's a slash line that looks like Crawford's supposed ceiling. from 2012 or so. Not awful, and it comes with stellar defense. Like everything else that comes with being a greedy Giants fan, though, we've seen how he can be so much more.
My only regret is that Duane Kuiper came back from the bathroom to give an excellent call, when the first two batters of the inning were called by Mike Krukow, which is always a hard space to get on Giants Season Bingo. I don't think I've heard him call a three-run dinger, though.
Dang it. That close.
* * *
Total number of home runs on 3-0 swings, by year
- 2010 (0)
- 2011 (0)
- 2012 (0)
- 2013 (0)
- 2014 (1)
- 2015 (2)
- 2016 (2)
The record since they've started keeping track of counts: three. And it's not just homers on 3-0 swings -- they also have as many 3-0 hits, total, as they did all of last year.
Heck, yes, swing 3-0. Make the other teams paint the corners and take more walks. Then make them throw the ball down the middle and hit more dingers. Then make them paint the corners and ... you get the idea. But if this is an organizational shift, I'm all for it.
* * *
On a short list of the most annoying things in baseball these days, Matt Kemp making capable plays in right field is near the top. He's supposed to be awful, according to the stats. We're talking all-time awful. And it's not like he passes the eyeball test. He chases after fly balls like he's towing a waterskier, and he's constantly contorting in odd ways right before he lunges out of desperation.
So tonight's game was a fine win, if only because it made me forget most of the competent plays Kemp made all game, just to spite me.
* * *
Without that play, Kemp gets another pitch. You saw what he did on a two-strike pitch in the ninth, hitting it where the Burrell roam. The Giants probably still win without that play, but I don't want to take my chances. It's like the Tim Lincecum and the 2014 World Series. Pretty sure it wasn't the most important part of the equation, but I'd rather not find out.
At least he didn't sign with the dumb Padres. Remember that. Shame on the Padres for making us think about it, really.
* * *
The Giants have won six games in a row, and they're in first place. Type it a few times, seriously, I keep telling you. Feels good, so seize the opportunity when you can.