I got about halfway through a blog post last week, in which I detailed the Giants’ four consecutive series wins, surprising offense, excellent pitching, lights-out bullpen, and optimistic prospects on the young season.
Well, suffice it to say that a bit has changed between then and now.
Getting swept by the Braves hurt. Not as much as it would hurt to get beaten so soundly by the Padres or the Dodgers, but seeing each and every part of what made your team good break down in systematic fashion can have something of a deflating effect. The pitching staff, which was supposed to prevent losing streaks, collapsed. The bullpen, which was supposed to preserve the leads that seem so few and far between, imploded. The offense, which so far this season has looked like a TV set on loud with some kid playing with the mute button, basically forgot what game they were playing. On the rare instance that they got a lead, well, see above for what happened.
That sucked, and now it’s over, and there’s a lot of baseball left.
I’m not as worried as I would be if this were September, or if any series in April could seriously be classified as “must-win,” or if we didn’t have such a gosh-darn fun group of guys that made it fun to enjoy baseball by the bay.
Sarcasm? Eh, maybe a little. We’ve become pretty used to starts by Cain and Lincecum being insta-wins, and it’s always a little depressing when they’re not. Even aces get pounded from time to time, and it’s a testament to Timmy’s skill level that we can be a little disappointed with his 2.70 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. Maybe his six walks on Monday were the result of his trying to be too “fine” with his pitches, trying to compensate for the failures on the rest of the team and single-handedly break their losing streak. Maybe not. Whatever; the Freak fixes his own problems.
What is becoming a concern is the back of the rotation. With Zito on the Disabled List for the first time in his career, and the much-heralded Ryan “Tweety” Vogelsong coming up to take his place, Madison Bumgarner has been promoted to the fourth starter role in the rotation.
So far this year MadBum has looked extremely hittable, and has yet to log a Quality Start (6+ IP, 3 or fewer ER) in his four starts. He’s only made it further than the fifth inning once, and each other time he’s been pulled in the midst of rallies. On an anecdotal note, he’s looked lost out there. He hasn’t been wild; he’s walked 10 batters in his 17.1 IP. Not good, but not apocalyptic. He just seems to be lacking that je ne sais quoi that he had last year, that mysterious “it” that let him finish off batters.
He’s gotten to 2-strike counts with batters 40 times this season: 8 times he has given up a hit, 7 times he gave up a walk, and just 9 times did he record a strikeout. Two of those hits and four of those walks came in an at-bat after he had a 0-2 count, but couldn’t close the deal. This year I just haven’t had the confidence in Bumgarner to finish it, to throw the right pitch to make the batter look silly, like he did last year. I’m also sure that MadBum feels the same way, the same lack of confidence to do the deed, which I’m sure isn’t helping anything.
Looking back at Bumgarner’s 2010 season , he faced a batter with a 2-strike count 215 times. Of those, he got 86 strikeouts (40%), gave up 42 hits (19.5%), and walked just 8 batters (3.7%). In the 96 PAs in which he got an 0-2 count against a batter, he would eventually give up only 17 hits, but punched out 48 (50%), and didn’t walk a single batter (though he did have one HBP).
So anecdotes, ERA and general crappiness aside, we’re definitely seeing a different caliber MadBum from what we saw last year.
On the subject of Ryan Vogelsong, he’s very much an unknown quantity. He’s had a pretty low-to-mediocre career in the majors thus far, but has looked pretty good in his few relief appearances thus far. He played in Japan for three years, pitching for a 4.17 ERA and 1.371 WHIP in 213.2 innings. His 9.1 K/9 rate is impressive, but his IP on the three years was 106.2, 65.1, and 41.2, so it’s hard to imagine that he’d be able to suddenly stretch his arm out to be a serviceable starter over more than a month or two.
I got pretty upset when people (on Twitter, to be fair) started cheering for Vogelsong when news of Zito’s injury broke, and I maintain that BZ’s injury should be considered bad news. I’ve backed off a bit on this since seeing Vogelsong pitch pretty well, but I doubt that ultimately he can be as good as Zito in the rotation.
On that depressing note, I’m going to skip over most of the offensive missteps. Aubrey Huff is slumping in a bad way, but he’ll get it together. Panda looks great all-around, and I’m impetuously  optimistic that he’s going to be a legitimate top-5 MVP candidate this year. My mind goes blank if I try to find more words to write about Aaron Rowand , so I’m just going to take a pass and go send another Get Well Soon card to Andres Torres.
Mostly, I’m disappointed in losing my own streak. I had something like a 6-0 streak in games that I had attended since last year, including Game 4 of the NLCS (think Pablo’s two doubles in the sixth inning), and the ring ceremony (Rasmus’ dropped game-winner), ended by the hot ball of suck that MadBum threw out there on Friday.
On a housekeeping note, we’re now being linked over at City on a Hill Press , the UC Santa Cruz student newspaper that Thomas and I both used to work for. They’re a good organization, and if you ever find yourself looking for news about Santa Cruz, the University of California system, or a bunch of other topics, they’re a good read.
Also, Thomas and I are probably going to go back to a once-a-week format, at least until we can find a reliable time mid-week to record. I’m taking a (very expensive) LSAT class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Thomas has something or other going the rest of the time, so we’ll be sure to let you know when we come up with something.
Be sure to check out next week’s podcast, however, as we’re having special guest stars Britt and Maiya from the Snow Woulda Had It!  blog. It should be a romp, so send in your questions, and enjoy the show.
Now someone get the remote away from that damn kid.