1. Madison Bumgarner.
What else is there to say? The last time I attended a game at AT&T, it was 2011. It was my birthday. Madison Bumgarner started. His how the first inning went:
- Infield Single
- Strike Out (Pitcher)
0.1 innings, 9 hits, 8 ER, 1 K.
Needless to say it was not a great game to watch.
But, I guess I’ll always be able to say I saw the worst game of Bumgarner’s career. This postseason performance is MadBum’s apology to me for having to watch that meltdown in person.
What’s really interesting to me about all of this is that after that game a popular MadBum theory was solidified. The idea was that Bumgarner was good but not great, and the problem was that his stuff lacked something. He didn’t throw hard enough, didn’t have a great out pitch, didn’t have that “thing” that separates the great from the merely good.
In particular, the idea was that Bumgarner walked a fine line: when everything clicked, his mechanics, his control, his stuff, he could put together an awesome game. But, he didn’t have the pure stuff to get around the games where he didn’t have it all working at the same time.
I heard the same thinking expressed on sports radio here in Boston before the Series started. He’s a good pitcher, but he’s not an ace, not great.
If you’ve been watching Madison closely since that day in 2011, you know he’s an ace. You know he has great control. You know he can strike guys out. You know he can make batters look foolish. You know he has great stuff. You know he can beat any other team’s ace on any given day.
You know he’s great.
He may not light up the radar gun (although the 94 he’s been sitting at this postseason isn’t anything to take lightly), but he’s as bona fide an ace as there is in baseball.
Remember when Matt Cain was the chosen one?
Remember when Tim Lincecum was the chosen one?
Both those of guys are great, and have had some INCREDIBLE moments during their Giants careers. But maybe it was really Madison the whole time.
There are still no circumstances under which I would pitch Jean Machi if I were the manager of the Giants, but Bochy went to him in Game 4 in a very logical situation (he needed a pitcher to get 1 out before being pinch hit for).
Bochy did in that moment what great managers do: put their players in a position to succeed. He didn’t need Machi to go through the heart of the lineup in the middle of a tight game. He basically needed him to strike out an AL pitcher. Machi got it done.
I also would have started Michael Morse in Game 4, but having him off the bench was huge psychologically (plus Morse had a great at-bat to draw a walk as a pinch hitter). Juan Perez started instead and made a couple of great plays in LF that Morse would have NEVER made.
This is why Bochy is the manager. And he’s good at it.
Ned Yost hasn’t had an egregious error that clearly cost the team a game. In fact, my opinion of him has gone from liability to neutral.
But, Yost hasn’t figured out the final step of managerial greatness, which is putting his players in the best position to succeed. The Royals success has to do with the fact that they are very talented, and have some great options in certain roles.
Yost’s use of the bullpen in Games 4 and 5 demonstrated a lack of skill in some ways, but also reveal that the Royals have a significant talent drop off from the big 3 to everyone else.
That’s not Yost’s fault.
But, he also doesn’t do some of the smaller things Bochy does (like how Bochy used Machi in just the right spot) to take his team from an 9 to a 10.
3. The Great Players.
Pablo and Pence have been huge in the past two games. Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, and Juan Perez have had their moments.
I would argue that Yusmerio Petit and Jeremy Affeldt have been just as valuable this postseason as anyone, non-Bumgarner category.
But, I still think the Giants need/will get something great from Buster Posey before this all over. They need it. Remember he saved his World Series home run for Game 4 against the Tigers.
I also think, amazingly, that Tim Lincecum will have a moment, most likely tonight in Game 6, where the Giants need him to get a couple of outs. Can Timmy deliver?
No idea how this all ends. It really does feel like 2002 in so many ways, but these are not the 2002 Giants. These are not Dusty Baker’s Giants. If any team can figure out how to shut this thing down tonight, it’s these Giants.
Get it done tonight boys! Go Giants!