Bruce Bochy earned his 1,000th victory as manager of the San Francisco Giants. It’s an incredible milestone. The saying goes that in every game you’ll see something that you’ve never seen before, but with this, I suspect that we’ll never see it again.
We might not see another manager reach the 1K mark with this team, not because the Giants might not win 1,000 more games before civilization comes to an end, but because the manager role is changing so rapidly that turnover will likely follow. Another manager might not get the chance to get to 1,000. This is Bruce Bochy’s thirteenth season as manager of the Giants. That’s the longest tenure since John McGraw, and when he left the dugout The Great Depression was just A Few Bad Years.
Bochy is already the most decorated manager in the San Francisco era, and now he has another achievement to add to his mantle.
To get this win, the Giants had to battle through a tightly contested game for nine innings and then one solid inning of Metsing assured victory. Michael Conforto misplayed a few balls in right field, a comebacker deflected off Robert Gsellman and evaded everyone in the infield. Pablo Sandoval ripped a double ripped a double inside the line. The Giants batted around for a six-run tenth inning, and the Mets looked so incompetent that it was a wonder that this game even had to go to extra innings. The tenth inning was a reminder that no matter how poorly the Giants’ season is going, at least there’s the Mets.
On a recent episode of Effectively Wild, Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley talked about marquee pitching matchups and which pitchers they consider to be must-watch. Tonight’s matchup between Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard was brought up as one that would have been absolutely scintillating just a few years ago, and a few years ago, it sure was. The 2016 NL Wild Card game was a pitcher’s duel for the ages. That game inspired songs to be written, portraits to be painted, t-shirts to be made.
But a few years later and both pitchers have an ERA over 4.00. The perception of this re-match might have been just two guys who weren’t as good anymore trying to go six before handing it off to the bullpen, but this was one of the better pitchers’ duel of the Giants season, at least for a while. Bumgarner came out hitting 93 with the fastball, and the only baserunners he allowed in his first frame got on through a blooper and a backfoot slider that barely grazed Pete Alonso’s back foot.
You could forgive the Giants for only scoring a scant few runs. Did you see that sinker Syndergaard was throwing? Even though Syndergaard was throwing high 90s with movement, the Giants had a decent approach against Thor. Eno Sarris of the Athletic pointed out that the Giants were still catching up to his fastball because he’s been predictable with its usage.
In zero-strike counts, Thor goes to the fastball 61% of the time (top third among qualified starters). I don’t think that’s all of it, but I do think he goes to the fastball too often generally. Today, 30 fastballs so far, one whiff.— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) June 5, 2019
Syndergaard finished with three swings and misses on 52 fastballs and sinkers. That’s a 5.7 swinging strike rate which closer to Kirk Rueter than Literally Any 2019 Pitcher. It doesn’t make sense with how much movement the sinker had, but give credit to the Giants for having a plan and sticking to it.
Bumgarner cruised through the first five innings, but his sharpness wavered in the sixth. Pete Alonso hit his 20th home run of the season to break up the shutout. I’m obligated to remind you that the Giants haven’t had a 20-home run hitter since Brandon Crawford in 2015, and Pete Alonso has reached that mark on June 4. The pitch to Alonso wasn’t especially bad, and Bumgarner still had the lead at that point. But a walk to J.D. Davis set up a go-ahead homer from Wilson Ramos.
Ultimately, Bumgarner’s outing was undone by the thing that’s been undoing his season: the home run. Bumgarner has his best strikeout-to-walk ratio since 2015, but he’s giving up home runs at a higher rate than ever. After the two homers in the sixth, Bumgarner is sitting at a 15.0 HR/FB percentage. It’s not a huge spike, but it’s been noticeable. Home runs are up all around the league, so I’d be inclined to say it’s the ball but the two home runs tonight weren’t exactly wall-scrapers.
I don’t know if Bumgarner is doing something that makes home runs more likely or if he’s making the same number of mistakes and hitters just aren’t missing them. It says something about how good Bumgarner has been when a quality start feels disappointing. If Derek Holland or Drew Pomeranz had this start, there’d be poems written but since it’s Bumgarner we’re left with the feeling that he could do better. Even if his ERA is still over 4.00, this is still Bumgarner’s best season in three years. The home runs just need to come down.
The Giants managed to tie things up in the seventh, and they very nearly took the lead. With two on and two out, Brandon Belt doubled over Michael Conforto’s head. Evan Longoria was waved home, but a good relay got him at the plate. Ramos missed him with the initial tag, so if Longoria were just a step faster, he might have been safe.
Of course, the games that was supposed to be a pitcher’s duel (and was for a while!) went to extra innings where no one can even remember who started the game.
If you need any proof that baseball has changed, look no further than Madison Bumgarner swinging away on a 3-0 pitch. It used to be that the only players who swung at 3-0 were pure slugger types, but now everyone’s doing it. Slappy contact hitters like Joe Panik will swing away at 3-0, and why not? It’s probably going to be a fastball down the middle, right? Madison Bumgarner is a good hitter for a pitcher, but he’s still a pitcher. In 630 plate appearances, he’s hitting .182/.227/.311. But even he gets to swing away on 3-0.
He swung and missed and walked on the next pitch. It takes a massive amount of confidence to think that one can hit a 96-mph sinker rather than just hoping the pitcher doesn’t throw a strike in his next three pitches. If any pitcher has earned that confidence, it’s Bumgarner.