Tonight’s game was so masterful, I’m almost at a loss for words to describe it. Madison Bumgarner was the best I’ve ever seen him, shutting down a good lineup like they were the Rangers on Halloween. He pitched in, out, up, down, and made one simple mistake of not intentionally walking Ryan Hanigan.
But man, that slider. It deserves a postgame wrap of its own. Bumgarner threw his slider 38 times – he threw his four-seamer only 37 times – and got a ridiculous 10 whiffs with his slider out of 31 thrown for strikes.
And strikes. Strikes. So many strikes. Bum threw 72 strikes out of 107 total pitches, with 9 of those balls coming in a 16-pitch first inning, and never went over 14 pitches in an inning after that. He was phenomenal, throwing pitches in the strike zone that nobody could hit. It’s an underrated talent, but an important one.
For example, look at Bumgarner’s PitchFX for tonight based on At-bat result.
The black squares are the strikeouts. He’s got two on the left side, and two on the right, and most within the umpire’s margin of error. The others? Strikes. For comparison, look at Tim Lincecum’s breakout start on Wednesday.
Five of Lincecum’s strikeouts came on junk below the zone, fooling hitters with off-speed pitches after showing them heat. Bumgarner works completely differently.
For funzies, look at this one. It’s Jonathan Sanchez’s no-hitter, July 10, 2009.
Wow. He got some strikeouts around the zone, but mostly it’s his (formerly) effective wildness that got those batters swinging at garbage. He was dead on all morning. Except for that little guy in the corner. Yeah, I wouldn’t worry about that little guy .
Anyway, there’s a point here. Madison Bumgarner throws strikes, but he does it in such a way that hitters cannot collide their bats with the ball in an effective way. It’s a hard thing to do. Really hard, especially considering that the Cincinnati Reds felt so good about Joey Votto’s ability to do exactly this that they signed him through the next 13 years. Convincing hitters to swing at junk is all well and good, but throwing strikes and doing it damn well is something that can keep a pitcher effective for a long, long time. For the Giants, because he’s ours.
Thanks to BrooksBaseball.net for the graphs.
And wow, this week. As usual, Barry Zito set the standard for excellence, and it’s just gone uphill since then. The absolute best part of sweeping the Dodgers without allowing a run, aside from reading True Blue LA  with tears of joy streaming down my face, is that they did it without Bumgarner or Cain. Then tonight happened. In the last five days, Matt Cain has been the worst of the Giants starters. I’m okay with that lot in life.
Because momentum exists, at least until it doesn’t anymore. I sincerely believe that confidence and swagger contribute heavily to a player’s outing, whether it’s their confidence to hit with two strikes, or to throw that changeup in a 3-2 count and know that the batter will hack at it. Barry Zito got some of that swagger back. So did Tim Lincecum, who desperately needed it. Ryan Vogelsong, well, took another step past swagger, past All-Star, and closer toward Cy Young votes (again! ).
And swagger comes out in every facet of the game. You see it in Tim Lincecum hits, in plays at the plate, in Gregor Blanco triples, in Madison Bumgarner scoring from first on Gregor Blanco triples, in Melky Cabrera taking Clayton Kershaw deep. And yes, in back-to-back-to-back-to-back shutouts. What a week. The only thing the Giants didn’t get this week was Anthony Davis in the first round.
Beat LA. Beat CIN. Beat the whole damn league right now, Giants.
And man is it nice to score five runs, and only get to talking about the offense 600 words in. Every starter got on base, and each got a hit except Brandon Crawford. Johnny Cueto is really very good, as have been most of the pitchers the Giants have faced this week, but Cueto was the one tipping his cap today. Melky stayed hot, getting on base four times, and everyone else contributed, particularly Todd Frazier on Pablo Sandoval’s fly ball to left field  (h/t @BayCityBall for this and the later one).
Not that it really mattered what the offense has been doing, because the pitching hasn’t allowed a run in the last 36 innings. I’m not sure if I mentioned that part yet.
I’m skipping Brandon Watch and Stats of the Day today, because shutouts are awesome enough. Just think: what could Matt Cain possibly do tomorrow to top what the other pitchers have done this week?
Yep, that would do it.