clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Madison Bumgarner shuts down Braves with help from Madison Bumgarner

New, 1037 comments

Madison Bumgarner can pitch. Madison Bumgarner can hit. Giants win.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

And, suddenly, without provocation or warning, baseball wasn't so mysterious after all.

It's so weird when this happens. You're expecting errors and pinch-hit home runs and a labrador retriever stealing the rosin bag and airplanes landing on the field. "That's the thing about baseball," you say when home plate transforms into a tiny, white robot that shoots into the sky. "You see something new every day!"

Madison Bumgarner is one of the better pitchers in the National League. The Braves have one of the worst lineups in the National League. You have expectations with that kind of matchup. Reasonable, logical expectations. Their cleanup hitter was Jeff Francoeur. On purpose. Their starting pitcher was a rookie who has struggled with the transition to the majors. When you add it all up, it sure sounds like the kind of game that the Giants might win 6-0.

The Giants defeated the Braves on Thursday, winning by a score of 6-0.

Maybe there's a novel to be written about baseball happening exactly like we expect it. The alternate history where Jesse Foppert wins three Cy Youngs and Todd Linden makes six All-Star teams, while Joe Panik becomes a utility player and Matt Duffy is never drafted. This would be a game for that novel. Madison Bumgarner and the Giants were better than Aaron Blair and the Braves before the game. They were better during the game. They are still better, even though the game has ended. It's not even arrogant to suggest it. It just is.

Every other time, something weird will happen. The Giants won't score against Blair, or Bumgarner won't find his release point, or something else will reaffirm your belief that baseball is a sociopath. This time, though, baseball sure was predictable.

Thank you for being respectful and well-mannered, baseball.

* * *

The last time the Giants hit three runs in a game was April 12, in Coors Field. A breakdown of the games since then:

2-homer games: 4
1-homer games: 20
0-homer games: 23

And on Thursday, the Giants hit three home runs before an out was recorded in the fifth inning. That's the thing about baseball, you see something new every day.

* * *

One of those home runs came from Madison Bumgarner! And, lo, it was filled with majesty and great delight.

"My name is Aaron Blair, and I am an exchange student from Narnia. I have never heard of Madison Bumgarner, but since he is a pitcher, I'm assuming that he cannot hit my very fast fastball and oh bother oh dear."

It's time for Madison Bumgarner Facts!

[♬Madison Bumgarner Faaaaaa-aaaacts♬]

First, from Ted Berg of USA Today:

Ha ha, it's only funny because it's true, folks!

[flips index card away, audience laughs]

[makes comically exaggerated grimace]

Guess we're glad we didn't sign that guy!

[flips index card away, audience laughs]

But Heyward's home run today came against the Dodgers!

[audience whoops and cheers]

One of those guys should be a starting first baseman or DH in the majors, and the other four lucked into their job as a starting first baseman or DH in the majors.

[flips index card away, audience laughs]

Madison Bumgarner is now the active leader in pitcher home runs. He's 26 years old.

[flips index card away, audience laughs]

Jake Peavy is tied for eighth on that list, with three homers.

[flips index card away, audience is unsure how to react]

Since 2014, here is a list of players with more than 1,000 plate appearances and fewer home runs than Madison Bumgarner:

  • Billy Hamilton
  • Elvis Andrus
  • Erick Aybar
  • Ender Inciarte
  • Adeiny Hechavarria
  • Brock Holt
  • Kurt Suzuki
  • Omar Infante
  • Angel Pagan
  • Norichika Aoki
  • Alcides Escobar
  • Dee Gordon
  • Ben Revere
  • Michael Bourn

[flips index card away, audience laughs]

* * *

Also, here's a lesser-known fact: Madison Bumgarner pitched in this game, too. He struck out more than 10 batters (again). He allowed no earned runs (again). His ERA is under 2.00 (whoa), and he has the highest strikeout rate of his career (yowza).

One of the great tenets of McC orthodoxy, and it's not controversial or debatable, is that pitchers don't get better just because they get more experience. Pitchers tend to improve their control as they get older, benefiting from muscle memory, but they also tend to lose their stuff, harmed by physics and age. I don't know enough to suggest that it totally balances out, but it seems close.

So just because Bumgarner was excellent when he was young, that doesn't mean that he's going to morph into a super-duper-duper excellent pitcher with more experience. That's just not how it works.

However! This is a benefit of Bumgarner being relatively young. He's still just 26, just two-and-a-half years older than Aaron Blair, the rookie who started for the Braves. It wouldn't shock you if, in five years, Blair still has roughly the same stuff he's featuring now. Pitchers don't have to turn in their gun, badge, and stuff when they turn 28. As such, it would stand to reason that Bumgarner's stuff is as safe as any 26-year-old pitcher's.

And yet that muscle memory still might improve. His command could still get better, and he could become even more weaponized, more dangerous. I'm not sure if that's what's happening now, considering his walk rate is also the highest of his career, but it's just a note that the Bumgarner from the last seven seasons (!) doesn't have to be a final product.

Of note: Beau Mills is raising bucking bulls full-time now. That probably really intrigues Bumgarner, to be honest. And it's a reminder to never let any of us within 490 feet of a draft room.