SAN FRANCISCO — You knew that Madison Bumgarner has outstanding control of his pitches. You might not have known that his excellence this year reached historic proportions.
Bumgarner began the season at age 21. According to researcher Roger Schlueter of Major League Baseball Productions, Bumgarner’s 4.15 strikeout-to-walk ratio (191 Ks, 46 walks) was the second best since 1893 for any pitcher that young. The only pitcher in his age-21 season to eclipse Bumgarner in this category was Kansas City’s Bret Saberhagen, who had a 4.16 ratio (158 Ks, 38 walks) in 1985. Bumgarner moved onto this list ahead of Don Sutton, who recorded a 4.02 ratio (209 Ks, 52 walks) as a Dodgers rookie in 1966. Bumgarner turned 22 on Aug. 1.
Of course, no discussion of strikeout-to-walk ratio is complete without mentioning Sergio Romo. The Giants right-hander posted a ridiculous ratio of 14 (70 Ks, five walks) in 48 innings. His figure led all Major Leaguers who pitched at least 35 innings.
Despite Bumgarner’s and Romo’s best efforts, Giants pitchers walked 559 batters, third-highest in the National League. Tim Lincecum issued a career-high 86 walks — a figure he vowed to trim. Aside from Romo, the relief corps of Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez, Guillermo Mota, Ramon Ramirez, Dan Runzler and Brian Wilson walked 154 in 336 innings. Despite this, San Francisco’s bullpen ranked second in the league with a 3.04 ERA.
More stats and history: The Giants’ abysmal total of 570 runs was their lowest in a non-strike-shortened season since they accumulated 556 in 1985.
You’ll remember that the ’85 club remains the only outfit in Giants history to lose 100 games.
Pablo Sandoval scored a club-high 55 runs. That’s the Giants’ lowest team-leading total, including strike-shortened years, since Heinie Smith scored either 46 runs (source: Giants media guide) or 48 runs (source: baseball-reference.com). Even in 1981, when the Giants played only 111 games, Jack Clark scored 60 runs.
Mark DeRosa, who possesses the gift of gab in abundance, will provide commentary during the postseason for MLB Network.
“That’s something I’ve had my eye on for a little bit,” DeRosa said. “They offered me a chance to come up there and help them out. Just to see if I enjoy it.I love being around the game. I love talking baseball. I’m not a guy who goes home in the offseason and forgets about it. I religiously watch every playoff game and World Series. I’ve got a lot of friends who have been playing in the league a long time with a lot of different teams. I’ve gotten to know a lot of guys around the league. I feel like I have a feel for what makes them tick.”
Here’s a not-going-out-on-a-limb-at-all prediction: DeRosa will do a heck of a job and set up a promising future for himself in radio or TV … once he finishes playing.
– Chris Haft
Monday, Sept. 5
SAN DIEGO — Fully aware that this has nothing to do with the Giants’ present-day issues, I’m compelled by the calendar to share this reminiscence.
Baseball on Labor Day always shall mean one thing for me: Sept. 3, 1973. The Giants beat the Dodgers, 11-8, overcoming an 8-1 deficit. This game reinforced some basic baseball truths — how momentum can be so fickle and inexorable; why leaving a ballgame early is never a good idea; and how the improbable can become commonplace when the Giants and Dodgers meet.
Moreover, it was simply an unforgettable game.
The Dodgers, who led the National League West by one game over Cincinnati at the time, led 8-1 after five innings. This prompted an older couple to gather their blankets (I should have mentioned that the scene was Candlestick Park) and head for the parking lot. Asked by a neighbor (apparently I was sitting amid a flock of season-ticket holders) why they were leaving so soon, the departing gentleman simply shook his head in disgust.
I wonder how those two felt a few hours later.
The Giants had only three hits through six innings — OK, I looked it up on baseball-reference.com — but roused themselves to score six runs in the seventh inning. That, I recall without fact-checking. I don’t remember much about the particulars of the rally, which included two-run singles by Dave Rader and Tito Fuentes (thanks again, baseball-reference). I do remember that though the Giants still trailed, 8-7, I was absolutely convinced that they’d proceed to win.
The ninth inning validated my belief. After striking out Willie McCovey, Chris Speier and Dave Kingman in a perfect eighth, Dodgers reliever Pete Richert walked Gary Thomasson to open the ninth. Baseball-reference says that the next two hitters, Rader and Mike Sadek, recorded sacrifice bunts and reached base safely. My memory tells me that the Dodgers botched both plays, but detailing how this happened would require deeper research.
The Dodgers summoned their best reliever, left-hander Jim Brewer, to face Bobby Bonds, the Giants’ best player and quite possibly the finest in the entire NL at that juncture. Though the bases were loaded with nobody out, the Dodgers seemed to have a decent shot of escaping the threat. Brewer’s formidable screwball made him tough on right-handed batters as well as against lefties.
But when Bonds performed at the height of his skill, nothing else mattered.
He drove a pitch to left field but hit it so high that I figured it was just a fly ball. Watching Bill Buckner stand helplessly at the fence as the ball disappeared into the seats told me otherwise. Giants fans in the relatively sparse audience of 15,279 — those who remained present, that is — were euphoric. The Giants never seriously threatened the Dodgers or Reds in the division race through the rest of the season. But, for one night, their followers felt as if the team had reached the World Series.
Bonds and the Giants thus issued an essential reminder: Never, ever give up.
Maybe this recollection isn’t so irrelevant after all.
– Chris Haft
Friday, Aug. 19
HOUSTON — With Eli Whiteside still feeling the effects of his rough slide Wednesday, the Giants are expected to recall catcher Hector Sanchez from Triple-A Fresno before Friday night’s series opener against the Houston Astros.
The Giants have not yet officially announced the move, which was initially reported by a Venezuelan news source. But industry sources confirmed that was imminent — and necessary. It’s anticipated that Whiteside will go on the seven-day disabled list with a concussion. Whiteside plowed hard into second base with a headfirst slide on an unsuccessful stolen-base attempt at Atlanta, with his head absorbing much of the impact.
Sanchez, 21, appeared in three games with the Giants in a brief Major League stint earlier this season and went 0-for-3. He was hitting .261 with one home run and 26 RBIs in 46 games for Fresno after batting .301 with eight homers and 46 RBIs in 42 games with high-Class A San Jose.
– Chris Haft
Sunday, Aug. 7
SAN FRANCISCO — Brian Wilson’s 34th save, which he recorded Sunday, took a while to develop. Nine days had passed since his last save opportunity, July 28 at Philadelphia. Since then, Wilson had appeared just twice, absorbing the decision in the 13-inning loss at Cincinnati on July 29 and receiving an inning of work Friday against the Phillies.
But the scarcity of save chances didn’t bother Wilson, who came up with the day’s best line when he was asked about it. “I’m not on commission,” he said.
You may remember that Tim Lincecum refrains from icing his right arm after he pitches. That’s one of the many aspects which makes him unique.
So it seemed a little strange on Sunday to see Lincecum with an icepack strapped to him. But it was applied to Lincecum’s right knee, where he was struck by Chase Utley’s thrown bat in the eighth inning.
To his credit, Utley apologized to Lincecum immediately (then singled to right field on the next pitch). Said Lincecum, “After I kind of gathered myself, I stood up and I could hear him say, ‘Man, I’m sorry. You gotta know I didn’t mean to do that.’ “
Something to keep in mind: Of the Giants’ 47 remaining games, 37 are against teams with below-.500 records.
Trouble is, they’re only 32-26 against clubs with losing marks.<p/>
The Giants’ only games left against teams that currently own winning records are at Atlanta (Aug. 15-18) and against Arizona (Sept. 2-4 in San Francisco and Sept. 23-25 on the road).<p/>
– Chris Haft
Saturday, July 30
CINCINNATI — Still intent on shoring up their infield, the Giants obtained 15-year veteran Orlando Cabrera from the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night for Minor League outfielder Thomas Neal.
Cabrera, 36, has played 83 games this season at second base for Cleveland, which has Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop. But moving back to short, where he has played 1,807 games, shouldn’t be a problem for Cabrera, who’s hitting .244 with four home runs and 38 RBIs.
Neal, 23, had spent six years in the Giants organization. He was batting .295 with two home runs and 25 RBIs in 60 games for Triple-A Fresno.
– Chris Haft
Thursday, July 28
PHILADELPHIA — Some weird stuff is happening with the Giants’ starting rotation.
Sunday’s starter against the Cincinnati Reds is. … To Be Announced. Undetermined. For now, it’s not Barry Zito, whose next turn would have been Sunday.
Zito said after Thursday’s 4-1 victory over Philadelphia that he hasn’t been informed of anything by Giants officials or manager Bruce Bochy. But Zito added that he expects to throw his usual between-starts session off a bullpen mound Friday.
Zito’s 6.75 ERA in four career starts at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park, where San Francisco plays this weekend, may have influenced the Giants decision-makers.
Bochy, who rarely hides behind “no comment,” remained mum when approached on the subject of Sunday’s.starter.
– Chris Haft
Thursday, July 28
PHILADELPHIA — Brian Sabean said Thursday that he’s continuing to pursue more offensive help as Sunday’s Trade Deadline approaches, but the Giants general manager didn’t sound optimistic about making more deals.
Asked if the market for catchers and shortstops, two positions where the club could stand some strengthening at the plate, had gained any life in recent days, Sabean replied, “Not really.”
Sabean spoke on a conference call to trumpet Wednesday’s acquisition of outfielder Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets for right-handed pitching prospect Zack Wheeler. Predictably, Sabean was upbeat about obtaining Beltran, who’s expected to bolster the Giants’ sagging run production.
“He’s a legitmate third hitter probably on any team,” Sabean said of Beltran.
Snippets from the call:
– Sabean indicated that Beltran, a six-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner, was the player the Giants wanted most. Sabean recalled that he initiated talks with his Mets counterpart, Sandy Alderson, on July 1. “We always had one foot in the door,” said Sabean, who related that as he returned home from Monday’s White House visit, he received a phone call from Alderson that “rekindled” trade talks.
– Sabean’s confidence in Beltran to fill the void at the batting order’s third spot is virtually limitless. “Once (Buster) Posey went down, I thought we were dead in the water with being able to replace him,” Sabean said. “Carlos has a chance to do that.”
– Sabean was reluctant to part with Wheeler, San Francisco’s No. 1 draft choice in 2009. “I truly hate that we gave up a really good prospect,” Sabean said. “But we’re at an interesting place in time.” Translation: The Giants are in win-now mode, and Sabean said that the organization didn’t expect Wheeler to contribute at the Major League level for another few years. “It’s our job to find another Wheeler,” Sabean said, expressing confidence in the organization’s ability to develop pitching and in the haul of pitchers from this year’s draft.
– Sabean hopes that players appreciate the Beltran trade, which reflected the organization’s efforts to keep the Giants on top. “If I were a player, I’d applaud it,” said Sabean, who acquired second baseman Jeff Keppinger last week in an attempt to strengthen the lineup. “I always worry about how [players] react or what they think.”
– Sabean apparentlydoesn’t have to worry about what Beltran thinks. He spoke to the switch-hitter and received positive feedback. “He very much wanted to be a Giant,” Sabean said.
– Chris Haft
Wednesday, July 27
PHILADELPHIA — Naturally, Brian Wilson had to comment about his wishes coming true.
Naturally, he delivered a hilarious response.
You may recall that Wilson, the Giants’ closer, urged Beltran to come to San Francisco and bolster the team’s offense. Wilson picked an intriguing time to do this: When lots of people (I don’t care what the television ratings said) were watching. He made his half-humorous, half-serious plea while announcing the National League’s starting lineup during the All-Star Game telecast a couple of weeks ago.
So, in the wake of Wednesday’s deal that brought Beltran from the New York Mets to the Giants, Wilson was asked about the fulfillment of his dream. Initially, Wilson didn’t say much. “It was just throwing positive vibes out there for a good player,” he said after recording his league-leading 32nd save in the Giants’ 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. Wilson added, “I didn’t do anything.” Dramatic pause. “Or — did I?”
That last remark prompted laughter among Wilson’s interrogators. Given the right-hander’s faith in his own powers, it was a very Wilsonian thing to say.
Numbing numbers from Wednesday:
Matt Cain’s victory over the Phillies was his first in the regular season. He was 0-3 with a 6.23 ERA in five previous starts against Philadelphia.
The Giants snapped Chase Utley’s on-base-safely streak at 28 games in a row.
San Francisco’s bullpen has recorded a 0.51 ERA since the All-Star break. That’s two earned runs in 35 innings.
– Chris Haft
Wednesday, July 27
PHILADELPHIA — At this point, it would seem surprising if the Giants didn’t acquire outfielder Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets.
Giants general manager Brian Sabean isn’t dropping any hints, and his underlings are sworn to secrecy — unless they want their next job in baseball to feature rolling out the tarp for an independent league team. But given the national media buzz, along with Sabean’s reputation for obtaining the man (or men) he wants as the Trade Deadline approaches, Beltran might find himself spending an extra day or two in Cincinnati, where the Mets currently are playing. Conveniently, the Giants travel to Cincinnati for a weekend series beginning Friday.
Beltran would have a ripple effect through the Giants’ lineup. Depending on whether Beltran were to bat third or fourth, the hitters surrounding him in the batting order — Jeff Keppinger, Pablo Sandoval, Nate Schierholtz — would see better pitches with him on deck or on base. As a switch-hitter, he might even enable manager Bruce Bochy to maintain some (gasp!) stability in the lineup.
Sabean doesn’t want to part with top prospects such as right-hander Zack Wheeler, outfielder Gary Brown or first baseman-outfielder Brandon Belt. That probably won’t be necessary. Conventional wisdom suggests that the Giants can seal the deal by sending the Mets three capable prospects. According to the smart money, Double-A Richmond outfielder Francisco Peguero would be included in the package the Mets would receive. Peguero is a nice-looking hitter, but possesses relatively little power.
Speculation has fingered left-hander Dan Runzler, who has divided this season between the Giants and Triple-A Fresno, as somebody else who the Mets probably would want. That makes perfect sense. Except there’s that little matter of the $5 million club option on the 2012 contract of Jeremy Affeldt, another left-hander. Affeldt has performed well. But with pay hikes imminent for salary-arbitration-eligible players such as Tim Lincecum, Pablo Sandoval, Ryan Vogelsong, Sergio Romo, Nate Schierholtz and Jonathan Sanchez, among others, the Giants might elect not to pick up Affeldt’s option to save money to allocate to others. If that’s part of the Giants’ plan, they might be reluctant to part with Runzler — who would help sustain their inventory of left-handers — and would offer the Mets a different pitcher or two.
Then again, teams are forced to trade players they’d rather keep all the time.
Meanwhile, the existing Giants are continuing the day-to-day existence that has become habit for established big leaguers. Outfielder Cody Ross, whose playing time likely would decrease if Beltran arrived, insisted that he and his teammates aren’t dwelling on Sunday’s deadline.
“To be honest with you, we don’t really talk about it a whole lot,” Ross said Tuesday night. “With this particular club, we’ve been around, for the most part, for a while. I remember being a rookie, a second-year guy, and talking about trade deadlines. It was exciting. But now it’s just another day and we just go out and play. We can’t really worry about it. We have to make do with what we have and I think we have a pretty good team. We’re in first place, so, as long as we can stay there …”
– Chris Haft
Tuesday, July 19
SAN FRANCISCO — Maybe it’s time to stop worrying about Madison Bumgarner and start wondering just how good he is.
Bumgarner’s excellence was somewhat obscured by Brandon Belt’s offensive fireworks Tuesday in the Giants’ 5-3 victory over the Dodgers. In case you missed it, Bumgarner pitched superbly.
He walked none, extending his streak of games in which he walked one or fewer to nine in a row.
He threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 28 batters he faced.
He worked eight innings, ridiculing the skeptics who believed that his huge increase in innings pitched last year would ultimately sap his strength or even endanger his health this season.
More than two months of the regular season must be played. That’s plenty of time for doom and gloom to befall Bumgarner. Right now, though, he looks ready to cruise into October and win another two or three postseason games.
The evening might not have gone so well for the Giants without shortstop Brandon Crawford’s alert defense in the third inning.
The Dodgers had three runs in and appeared destined to score more as Juan Rivera followed Rafael Furcal’s two-run single with another single. As Furcal scooted to third base, Crawford cut off Nate Schierholtz’s strong throw from right field and noticed that Rivera had strayed a little too far from first base on his turn. Crawford threw quickly and accurately to first, retiring Rivera and dampening Los Angeles’ rally.
“That was a big-time play,” an appreciative Bumgarner said.
All anybody heard about Dodgers starter Rubby De La Rosa before Tuesday was that he threw the heck out of the ball. Indeed, De La Rosa reached 100 mph on the AT&T Park velocity readings.
But if a pitcher’s stuff is predictable or lacks movement, he’s going to get hit. Crawford, for example, whacked a 95 mph heater from De La Rosa for a second-inning single, immediately after Brandon Belt stroked a. 91-mph delivery onto the right-field arcade for his homer. One inning later, Schierholtz singled by catching up with a 97-mph fastball.
I was curious about what happened the last time the Giants built a six-game winning streak against the Dodgers — July 19-Sept. 26, 1969. As usual, baseball-reference.com had all the answers.
The Giants’ future Hall of Famers played key roles in those six games. No surprise there. Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry each won twice. Willie McCovey, in the midst of his Most Valuable Player season, homered twice. Willie Mays batted .389 (7-for-18).
Win No. 5 in that streak might have been the nuttiest game of the bunch. It was sealed in the 10th inning when McCovey drew an intentional walk with two outs and nobody on base. Reliever Pete Mikkelsen proceeded to walk Bobby Bonds and Ken Henderson unintentionally, loading thie bases. Jim Davenport then hit a ground ball that scooted between Maury Wills’ legs, giving San Francisco the winning run.
– Chris Haft