Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bumgarner Grooves When Madison has the Blues

Now I know a gal, her name is Lindsey Lou
She told me she loved me but I know it ain't true
Put on your Madison shoes
put on your Madison blues shoes
I've got the Madison blues
Now put on your Madison blues shoes

Yes, it's a borrowed line from a George Thorogood song. Who's he? Maybe you haven't heard of George but if you saw him live he'd leave a noteworthy impression. Take my word, like the aforementioned lyrics, it's all about the groove.

In an article by Josh Alper of MLB Blogger, back on June 9, 2010 he kind of "strafed" Madison. But he didn't see what Manager Bruce Bochy saw. Let's go back and rekindle the love that was back in June, when none of us had a clue what would happen in October and eventually culminate on November 1, 2010.

Bumgarner was expected to battle for a spot in the San Francisco Giants' rotation this spring after tearing up the minor leagues in 2009 and earning that cup of (insert name brand here) coffee.

But he got strafed during the exhibition season. His velocity dropped while continuing to be strafed, in his first two Triple-A outings which earned him a tongue-lashing by Brian Sabean for what must have appeared to Sir Brian like a pre-occupation with off-field matters that were the apparent cause of hindering his development. (If I might interject, "strafed" is more like an enemy attack in combat, so I don't approve of the over-exaggeration...And Madison is a married man, what sort of things could he being doing off the field that could hinder his growth as a pitcher?)

Then came Monday. He unraveled in the sixth inning after his centerfielder misplayed a fly ball.

That said, Manager Bruce Bochy didn't seem too put off by Monday night's behavior.

"He's competitive. We know that," Bochy said. "We're excited about his progress. We feel like he's a guy who's really close. If there's any move made, we're going to do it when we feel like it's the right time."

The Boch-man read it right! His man, Madison Bumgarner blew a fuse because of who knows what, besides the misplayed ball in the outfield. The fact that he went bonkers tipped off Bochy that the kid might be ready to come up to the big club and contribute.

I mean, c'mon on, I saw an article in Sporting News magazine in which an official scorer offered his little helpful hints on how he scores a game. The guy went on to say...I have my own television right next to me. It's on a 7-second delay. So I see the play live, I see it 7 seconds later, and I can rewind if I need to. What I try to do is make my initial call within 15 seconds, 20 seconds at the most. I'm looking for the initial position of the defensive player, what the defensive player's first move is, I'm looking for his angle to the ball, I'm looking to see where the batter/runner is in relation to where the defender is when he catches the ball and the position where the batter/runner is in relation to where the defender is when he throws the ball. It's all of these things.

That may be well and good, but it was 15 seconds of suck (oh, perhaps 20) that MadBum didn't agree with. The feeble call and his lack of support by his teammates put him over the edge. And we aren't even bringing up the possibility of the umpire and his strike zone.

After giving up 21 hits and 11 earned runs in his first two Class AAA starts, Bumgarner corrected the "mechanical flaw." He changed his grip, allowing him to create more of a downhill angle from his three-quarters delivery. Suddenly, he was pumping 90-plus-mph fastballs and putting up the numbers more in line with those of his first two minor league seasons (27-5, 1.65 ERA).

Bumgarner was called up in late June, settled into one of the majors' best rotations and posted a 1.18 ERA in his final six (6) starts, prompting Bochy to start him over Barry Zito in the postseason. Bumgarner won the NLDS clincher against the Braves and turned in an outing for the ages in the World Series. He dominated Game 4 by becoming the youngest rookie (21 years, 91 days) to pitch 8 scoreless innings in a World Series game.

Bumgarner not only consistently threw 90-mph fastballs but had his best changeup of the season according to pitching coach Dave Righetti. "I know how I would have felt on this stage, trying to calm down," Righetti says. "In the third or fourth inning, I might come around. For a young guy to pitch with that poise was impressive."

(the Sporting News contributed those postseason stats. Finally a contribution from TSN, about the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants.)

Kevin J. Marquez