I’m not certain that there is such a thing at all as the perfect pitcher. There are of course candidates, seasons of perfection from Koufax and Pedro and Randy and so forth, but it seems more like an ideal to strive for than an actual thing. Madison Bumgarner thus is certainly not the perfect pitcher; he did Cliff Lee things at the age when Cliff Lee was doing them in Single-A, but he has his problems. And the biggest of those problems is that he throws too many strikes.
Think about that one for a second. “Listen, Madison, there’s that one thing that pitchers are usually supposed to do above all else. You’re, uh, you’re a little too good at it.” Kinda puts any complaints about Bumgarner into perspective, doesn’t it? But it can be a problem, and it was tonight in the early innings, when the Athletics swung wild and free because they knew Madison Bumgarner was going to set up camp in the strike zone and not leave without federal intervention.
Maybe he’ll adjust; he’s got a lot of time to do it. He could talk to Timmy and develop a breaking pitch that looks identical to his fastball as it leaves his hand, and have hitters whiffing at something in the dirt. He could work with Vogelsong to locate his fastball on the corners, all the time, until eternity. He could borrow Cain’s weak-contact magic and turn those bloops into pop-ups and those dingers into fly-ball outs.
He probably shouldn’t ask Zito for advice.
Anyway, my point is that Madison Bumgarner is young and really good and even when nights like this happen they don’t really end all that badly. He was hittable, but he wasn’t wild, and I’ll take hittable over wild 19 times out of 20. (#20 is not to be spoken of.) If he can get less hittable, he’ll be Hall of Fame bound; if not, he’ll still be a really, really good pitcher for a long time.
Lots of other things happened in that game. The bullpen things, well, that sort of thing will happen to even good bullpens from time to time; the same is true of Santiago Casilla. I can’t get too upset about it, especially considering how the Giants won last night’s game, but I am thrilled that Cain starts tomorrow, giving his bullpen the best chance of extended rest. That last inning would have been comical if it wasn’t so nightmarish. Thank you, Ryan Theriot.
The Giants scored nine runs, which is probably worth talking about. The idea that the offense can succeed without hitting a lot of home runs has some merit to it. They play in a park that takes home runs away from lefties, and their lineup is stocked with a surprising amount of plus baserunners – not just fast guys, but guys who know what they’re doing when the ball is put in play. You can do a lot with that lineup just dunking line drives into the gaps. All the same, seeing Brandon Belt & Buster Posey just cut loose was very reassuring.
Both of those guys actually had fantastic nights, by the way – respectively a home run, a single, and a couple of walks. While nobody was looking, Belt has become one of the NL’s better-hitting first baseman, a status partially aided by the dearth of capable bats at the corner but surely not hurt by his wacky hot streak. Since his first home run, he’s hitting .441/.545/.912, and while everyone looks like Joe DiMaggio on a hot streak there’s no denying that Belt has had a better plate approach – he’s hitting to all fields, hitting with two strikes, hitting without starting every plate appearance with two strikes, and just plain hitting.
Buster Posey’s pretty good too, by the way. After 2011, I’m never taking him for granted again.
All in all, the Giants took a game where they could have flailed feebly at an obviously wild young pitcher, which was their wont for some time, and instead took bad pitches and hit good pitches. It seems so simple. It’s so not simple at all. The A’s mounted a valiant comeback – by the way, what the heck is the deal with Josh Reddick? – but it’s hard to score five runs in an inning. So it’s a good thing they got all those runs.
I don’t know. I feel like I’m running out of new things to discover about this team, but in a good way. They have a lineup pretty close to complete, lacking only a major-league bat at shortstop and a batting order that makes sense. The prospect is hitting like who we hoped he’d hit like. The insane Melky hot streak is over and everyone else is picking up his slack. The Ineffable Mysteries of Tim Lincecum continue, but there’s not much to say about those. They’re ineffable, you see. Barry Zito’s still Zito, everyone else is good, and the bullpen is great except when it isn’t, which is better than most bullpens in baseball.
With the occasional game as an exception, it’s hard not to look at the Giants and see a playoff-worthy team. I don’t know if that has an exact parallel to “Brandon Belt plays every day,” but I’m going to say it does, because the heck with you, KNBR callers. Tomorrow, Matt Cain goes for the sweep against Not-Brandon-McCarthy. I don’t really believe in momentum, but all the same, taking a sweep into a Dodgers series would feel pretty good.