Sunday, October 31, 2010
Bumgarner leaves little room for doubt
Once again, the Rangers just got beat.
In Games 1 and 2, they just got beat by San Francisco's hitters.
In Game 4, they just got beat by San Francisco's starting pitcher.
This shouldn't have been a huge surprise, considering Madison Bumgarner's excellent strikeout-to-walk ratio during the season, 13th best among National League pitchers with at least 100 innings. Throw in his postseason performances, and it's hardly surprising that he's pitched well.
Madison Bumgarner became the youngest left-hander in history to throw at least eight scoreless innings in a World Series start.
Then again, it might be just a little surprising that he continues to pitch well. It's been suggested that Jonathan Sanchez has lately been suffering from fatigue, having now thrown 213 innings in 2010.
But Sanchez is 27 years old, a veteran of five major league seasons. Meanwhile, Bumgarner's only 21, and (including his Triple-A stint) entered Game 4 having thrown 216 innings this year. After throwing only 151 innings -- most of them against Double-A hitters -- last year.
Which only goes to suggest further that if the World Series goes the distance, it will be fair to question Bruce Bochy's decision to use Sanchez twice and Bumgarner just once. Because we've now got roughly five months of evidence suggesting that Bumgarner is the better pitcher.
Having said all that -- and giving due credit to Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey for their power, and to Freddy Sanchez for his flashy fielding -- duty compels me to at least mention that the Giants were exceptionally fortunate in Game 4.
I've been making lists of "breaks" in each game. For the most part, they've been pretty even. But as Game 4 progressed, the Post-It I was using for the Giants kept filling up while my Rangers Post-It remained an empty square of little yellow paper. Granted, at some point I probably fell victim to confirmation bias, the Giants' breaks becoming obvious and the Rangers' breaks invisible. Consider, though:
In the top of the second, first-base umpire Jeff Kellogg missed a call that negated what should have been a double play. It was an exceptionally close play, but Kellogg missed it. As a result, Tommy Hunter threw 11 more pitches in the inning (which couldn't have helped him, later).
In the bottom of the second, Jeff Francoeur lined a shot toward right field, but Sanchez made a fantastic play to snag it. That's a skill play, obviously. But it's also a luck play, because the great majority of balls hit that hard result in singles and doubles.
In the top of the third, Andres Torres hit a shot off first base and wound up with a double. It would have been a tough play for Mitch Moreland, but the tough play became an impossible play.
In the bottom of the sixth, Kellogg missed another call at first base, and this time it went the other way; Elvis Andrus probably beat the throw, but Kellogg gave the Giants the double play.
In the top of the seventh, Torres hit a ball to the warning track that one-hopped the fence ... and missed by about a foot actually bouncing over the fence for an automatic double. Which would have cost the Giants a run, as Edgar Renteria wouldn't have been able to score from first base. (The next hitter grounded out to end the inning.)
In the bottom of the eighth, Francoeur hit a fly ball that Cody Ross corralled at the base of the wall in left field.
If all of these plays go the other way, the Giants probably still win. Maybe it's 3-1 ... 4-2 ... 2-1. We can't know, even approximately. We can only guess the game would have been closer than it was.
We do know that Madison Bumgarner out-pitched Tommy Hunter, and we do know that Huff, Torres, and Posey all crushed pitches to drive in runs. We know the Giants deserved to win this one, just as they deserved to win the first two games and the Rangers deserved to win the third.
To this point, the managers and the breaks have been mostly irrelevant. To this point, the results have almost perfectly reflected the performances of the guys with the bats and the gloves. This does make "analysis" somewhat difficult. But there's something to be said for the players who play better actually winning.