Chris Quick, who runs the ESPN-affiliated Bay City Ball, has invited me to write for his site and I’ve accepted. Needless to say, I’m very excited about the opportunity to start writing over there. My first post, on the Angel Pagan signing, is already up.
Anyway, this also means the end of Giants Nirvana. I’m not good with good-byes — and besides, this isn’t entirely good-bye, as I’ll still be writing elsewhere — so I’ll be brief…
To anyone that’s ever stopped by here to read anything of mine: Thank you. It’s been a fun ride.
The Giants have won the World Series.
Every year, 30 teams play toward this end goal, and every year, only one of them actually achieves it. The odds are depressingly low.
And yet, the Giants have now won two championships in the last three years.
There were so many things that could have done the Giants in this year. They were fortunate enough to avoid another barrage of injuries. They faced an uphill battle down the stretch after losing all-star Melky Cabrera (especially in light of the strong additions the Dodgers had made).
The Giants played six potential elimination games in the playoffs, and won every single one of them.
And when they got to the final stage, they wasted no time in winning a championship. Carried by the same dominant pitching that brought them a title two years ago, the Giants played four games against the Detroit Tigers, and they won them all.
The front office did a masterful job building a contending team, acquiring the likes of Angel Pagan, Melky Cabrera, and George Kontos in the offseason, reinforcing the bullpen by bringing back Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt, and adding guys like Marco Scutaro, Hunter Pence, and Jose Mijares along the way. (Not to mention Gregor Blanco and Joaquin Arias, who were both signed to minor-league contracts, and ended up playing important roles with the team.) I wasn’t ecstatic about all of these moves, but most of the front office’s decisions panned out very well, and of course, it’s because of them that the Giants are champions.
The Giants won the World Series. Savor it. Bask in it. Seize the moment. These don’t come too often.
It’s been an amazing, unpredictable, thoroughly enjoyable ride. What a season.
Last night, Madison Bumgarner finally found a groove, tossing seven scoreless innings en route to a 2-0 Giants victory. You’ll hear a lot — or, scratch that, have probably already heard a lot — about how Bumgarner didn’t have his best stuff last night, and I think that’s pretty fair to say. Despite the mechanical adjustments he made prior to the outing, his fastball didn’t gain any zip, and his slider was certainly not at its best. When Bumgarner is at his best, he’s touching 93 with the fastball, and he’s throwing the slider with considerably more velocity and movement.
But Bumgarner had no trouble shutting the Tigers down yesterday, as he limited them to two hits in total while also racking up eight strikeouts. His last time out, he’d struggled to get the Cardinals to swing and miss at his stuff. In total, he only managed five swinging strikes. Last night, though, Bumgarner more than doubled that, yielding 12 swinging strikes in all. This might, as Jeff Sullivan suggested, have something to do with increased differentiation between his fastball and slider. The charts on Brooks Baseball (10/14, 10/25) make this pretty noticeable. For example, check out the horizontal movement of Bumgarner’s pitches plotted against the velocity. In his NLCS start, the pitches were somewhat clustered together, whereas there was a clear distinction in last night’s start. I tend to avoid jumping to conclusions based on pitch f/x numbers because it’s very easy to get misled, and I’m no expert on this stuff, but I’d have to think this is a pretty good sign.
Maybe Bumgarner’s stuff was “bad” last night, but if that’s the case, it’s a testament to how damn good he is. A pitcher can’t luck his way into eight strikeouts over seven innings of two-hit ball against one of the better offenses in baseball. Nope. That’s not to say that Bumgarner didn’t encounter some luck last night — he got away with some mistake pitches, and had some help from the defense — but there was definitely more to it than that. Something was working for Bumgarner, and while it remains to be seen whether he can recapture that magic if he does happen to make another start in this series, Bumgarner was dominant last night.
Bumgarner in the World Series, career: 15 innings, 14 strikeouts, five hits, four walks, 0.00 ERA.
The Giants are two victories away from a championship, by the way.