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Madison Bumgarner strikes out 11, knocks in a run, and is generally excellent

Bumgarner passed Matt Cain on the Giants all-time strikeout list en route to a 4-2 victory over the Rockies.

MLB: Colorado Rockies at San Francisco Giants John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

For the second night in a row, a Giants starter struck out 11 Rockies and gave up two runs. What made tonight more memorable (other than the Giants winning) is that Madison Bumgarner’s 11 strikeouts pushed him past Matt Cain on the Giants all-time strikeout list. Bumgarner is up to 1695 strikeouts now, and there’s a non-zero chance he’ll pass Tim Lincecum in his next start.

Giants All-Time Strikeout Leaders

Player Strikeouts
Player Strikeouts
Christy Mathewson 2504
Juan Marichal 2281
Amos Rusie 1835
Tim Lincecum 1704
Madison Bumgarner 1695
Matt Cain 1694
Carl Hubbell 1677
Gaylord Perry 1606
Mickey Welch 1570
Tim Keefe 1303
Baseball Reference

Bumgarner has already surpassed Cain and Lincecum in WAR, and unless he’s traded before his next one or two starts, he’ll top them all in strikeouts, too. Bumgarner won’t start an All-Star game in a Giants uniform like Lincecum and Cain did, and he probably won’t throw a perfect game or a no-hitter, but there’s an argument to be made that he was the best of the three.

Trying to pick out the best of Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner is a bit like trying to pick out a favorite child. They’re each special in their own, unique ways. But Bumgarner scored the highest on the SATs, and he’s the only one that’s going to bring prospect capital back when he leaves.

Tonight, though, Bumgarner took advantage of a sun-soaked batters’ eye in the early innings and the Coors hangover effect. That’s not to say that he didn’t pitch well. He absolutely did. He made one mistake to Ian Desmond, but Desmond is generally due for a dinger in any Rockies/Giants series. Bumgarner got dinged for a second run, but that wasn’t really his fault. Even the three walks were maybe the result of him getting squeezed.

Other than those minor blemishes, Bumgarner was virtually unhittable. He tallied up 17 swinging strikes and added another 15 called. This season, Bumgarner has stepped back from his curve after experimenting with it as a way to make up for his lost velocity in 2018. Tonight, Bumgarner showed some more confident with the breaking ball even after Desmond knocked one out. With a runner on second and nobody out, Bumgarner threw the hook again to Desmond to strike him out after falling behind 2-0.

Bumgarner even added a RBI single of his own during the Giants rally in the fourth to truly cement this as a vintage Bumgarner start.

Bumgarner passed it along to Sam Dyson, Tony Watson, and Will Smith who all pitched perfect innings. Smith recorded his 21st save in 21 chances while striking out two and pushing his strikeout rate even higher. It’s going to be a shame when none of these guys are on the roster come August 1. I’ve grown accustomed to the Giants being able to protect what few leads they gain.

There is no other way that Brandon Belt’s first at-bat as a leadoff hitter this season could have gone. Of course, he struck out looking on a pitch on the black.

I saw some things on Twitter about how Bruce Bochy was taking drastic actions by putting Belt in the leadoff spot, but he’s the most qualified for the position. The number one priority of a leadoff hitter is getting on base, and Belt is the best on the team in that regard. In fact, he’s the only Giant who’s been around for more than a week who is any good at getting on base.

Any analytically driven strategy the Giants employ is doomed to fail the first time it’s attempted. The opener backfired the first and only time the Giants employed it this year. The first time Belt hit leadoff he struck out on three pitches. It doesn’t mean that these are bad ideas; baseball is a game of failure, after all. Even the best plans are going to go screwy.

Tyler Austin, who does nothing but strike out and sock dingers, hit a dinger as a pinch-hitter in the sixth. I happened to be looking away from the broadcast when he hit it, but I could tell from the sound that it was gone. At 108.8 mph, it was the hardest hit ball of the night.

Austin stood and watched it for maybe a quarter of a second which is about as much pimping as a Giant is going to do at Oracle. It’s not that Austin is lacking any confidence or swagger—the dude has four buttons unbuttoned on his jersey—it’s that he’s seen other hitters get burned by Oracle Park and he needed to run it out in case it was a fly ball.

When Alex Dickerson was designated for assignment by the Padres, he had a -20 wRC+. In his 19 plate appearances with the Friars he hit .158 with no walks, no extra-base hits, and no strikeouts. His hustle-double in the fifth inning was his 19th plate appearance with the Giants. After that plate appearance, Dickerson brought his line to .286/.324/.486 and that includes his lost time with the Padres. After being 120 percent worse than league average, became 18 percent better at a 118 wRC+ in the same time.

He’s been much needed jolt for a terminally feckless offense. His defense is, uh, well, it’s not as great. Dickerson lost a routine fly ball in the lights. It hung up so long that Kevin Pillar ran over from center and almost made a diving catch in left field.

If you need any proof that errors are mostly dumb and largely useless for evaluating defense, that was scored a double.