When this season is finished, and the fall turns into winter, I think the one thing I’ll remember about the 2017 Giants is all the losing.
Here’s another thing I’ll remember: the Giants losing, over and over again, when Madison Bumgarner pitches well. It’s the perfect shorthand description for how the season has gone. Why are the Giants bad? Well, because they can’t hit or pitch. What happens when they hit? They really can’t pitch. What happens when they pitch? They really can’t hit. Over and over and over, it’s a slippery, evasive move the Giants are making, making sure they lose a whole bunch.
Madison Bumgarner was outstanding in Saturday night’s game. He threw seven innings, and he allowed just six baserunners. He walked one and struck out seven. He set hitters up, and he knocked them down, and there weren’t a lot of comfortable swings against him all night.
But he allowed two home runs. Which means that, by definition, he allowed at least two runs. The Giants are roughly 3-173 this season when they allow more than one run. It was never going to work.
Alright, so here are the stats: Bumgarner has made 13 starts this season. His ERA is 2.57, which is much better than his career average. His strikeout rate is close to his career average. His walk rate is a little better. His release point is back where it was in 2012, which is a mite concerning, but other than that, he’s the same pitcher. This is the same guy who helped the Giants win three championships because he was so adept at throwing baseballs.
The Giants are 3-10 in his starts.
That’s amazing! He’s thrown a quality start in nine of those 10 losses. One of them was a bare bones quality start of six innings and three runs, but most of them are legitimate quality starts by any definition. He lost a game in which he struck out 11, walked zero, and hit two home runs. The Giants lost a game in which he didn’t allow a run for seven innings, and then they lost the game after that, in which he allowed just two runs over seven innings. The highest his ERA has been all season was 3.86 (the 11-strikeout two-dinger game on Opening Day) and it’s dipped and dipped in every month since.
Yet the Giants have troubles winning when he pitches. I have nothing new to add, but that’s okay, neither do the Giants. And when I sit in my easy chair, take a puff from my ornate sandalwood pipe, and think about this season, I’ll remember all the losses, mostly. But also that they couldn’t even win when they had one of the best pitchers in baseball pitching as well as he’s capable of.
It takes a real annoying team to do that. I’d like to introduce you to the 2017 G ... oh, I see you’ve already met.
Bumgarner allowed two solo home runs, and that’s why the Giants lost. This might lead to you wondering if he’s allowing more dingers than usual, if he’s fallen victim to the rabbit ball or lower seams or whatever in the heck is going on with baseball this year.
He’s allowed 1.1 home runs for every nine innings he’s pitched, and that is a career high. But his career mark is 0.9, and his last four seasons have gone 0.9, 0.9, 1.0, 1.0, in that order. He allows this many home runs in every season, roughly.
No, the problem is that the rest of the team is bad.
Except for Jarrett Parker, at least in this game. His first inning at-bat featured Taijuan Walker doing that thing where you make a fist and pretend that you’re cranking the middle finger up slowly. Nothing but fastballs in the same spot.
While I doubt Walker really meant to do that, it wasn’t like he was all that worried. After all, the first of those fastballs went right by Parker.
In the rematch, Parker wasn’t jumpy. He wasn’t looking for that same fastball, and that allowed him to spit on the first-pitch curve and the high fastballs that were supposed to tempt him.
He was waiting for the same middle-finger pitch.
He got it. And he hit it a long, long, long way.
When you know you went yard... pic.twitter.com/OhdRcaoyC8— Ahmed Fareed (@FareedNBCS) August 27, 2017
The reaction actually made me think he missed it. It had the sound. It had the look. But I was still assuming that it was going to be a lazy fly six feet in front of the warning track because I’ve watched this team all year. Instead, it was one of the longer homers of the season. A right pretty dinger, it was.
At the risk of bringing you down, I would like to point out that it’s absolutely criminal that Parker hasn’t seen an inning of center field since coming back. There’s just about no way he’s going to be the de facto starter in left field again — “The 2018 Giants: The same team, but it can’t be that bad again, right?” — so the Giants need to figure out if he can be a rover who can handle all three positions, which would inform the front office as to what’s required from the last outfielder on the bench.
Eh, whatever, at least we’re seeing some hope in his bat. He’s at .262/.303/.447 right now, and that’s pretty close to a reasonable vision of a useful Jarrett Parker. If he could play a fair center field in a pinch, that would be awesome to know going into next season.
If only there were some way to find out ...