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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bumgarner replaced by Zito? I don't think so; Torres out, Rowand in

Under the heading of It's a Good Thing Beat Writers Don't Make the Decisions:

Manager Bruce Bochy had to fend off silly and wrong-headed questions about whether Madison Bumgarner, after his historically bad outing Tuesday night, should be replaced by Barry Zito, who threw a two-hit shutout in Fresno.

It's a laughable proposition, one made in the writers' zeal to get a good story out of Bumgarner's flop and to hurry along the decision the Giants are to make about Zito. Bumgarner has been the best Giants pitcher over the last two months (with maybe the exception of Ryan Vogelsong).

As the Twins poured out hit after hit in that nightmarish first inning in which Bumgarner gave up eight straight hits, the joke went up in Twitterland: there goes his 10-game quality start streak. But the Quality Start statistic doesn't come close to doing justice to what Bumgarner did over those 10 games. Of those starts, only two barely met the watered down minimum (six innings, three runs).

The rest had been dazzling, even if you're just looking at the numbers.

In those eight other starts, Bumgarner's line was: 54 2/3 IP, 46 H, 13 R 9 ER, 10 BB, 46 SO, 1.48 ERA, 1.02 WHIP.

Those were numbers that could have seriously made him a worthy All-Star candidate, despite his 3-8 record going into Tuesday night.

There was nothing wrong with Bumgarner Tuesday night that suggests a long-term malady. He just needs to be reminded that he needs to bury hitters when he's ahead of them. Inexplicably, he left pitches out over the plate three straight times with two strikes. Had he used his nice, deadly slider at the feet, he would have gotten out of the inning just fine.

Apparently, the word is going around that hitters know Bumgarner likes to stay in the strike zone, so the Twins, who ought to credit their advance scouting team big time for the job it did, looked for good pitches to hit, even with two strikes.

A little wild hair up a pitcher's nose can do wonders to keep hitters off balance.


Aaron Rowand's leading off in center field tonight, which means the outrage factor is riding high in Twitterville.

But the truth is, as I laid it out earlier this week, Andres Torres has been MIA on offense for quite a while. He appears lost at the plate, swinging at bad pitches, taking good ones, striking out way too much for a guy who's supposed to be a contact/speed player.

When he makes contact, Torres doesn't drive the ball into the alleys as he did last year. The slump dates back to late last season, which indicates we may be seeing traces of age creeping into his game.

It's not a happy development. Torres has been the spark to the Giants' offense, he is well-liked, and the story of a journeyman resurrecting his career was inspiring. Who knows? Maybe if he sits a few games, he can regenerate his bat. But how often has that magic formula worked for the Giants this year?

As for replacing Torres with Rowand, it seems to be a move borne of caution, to keep a semblance of defensive stability. Boss Bochy could have gone with Cody Ross in center field, if he wanted to get a power bat like Pat Burrell's in the lineup. But Burrell has also been struggling -- indeed, he may be on the same pathway toward retirement as Torres seems to be on.

Burrell is just 2-for-15 this month and 11 for his last 58 (only one HR in that time), a reflection of his diminished role that corresponds with his diminished skill. It really is a matter of time before they release him and bring up Darren Ford for an extended look.


  1. And of course, this advice didn't occur to Stewart, Righetti, Bochy, or Bumgarner himself.

    I don't think baseball is as mental as we like to think it is. I think a more obvious explanation is that even if a player knows exactly what to do, sometimes he just can't do it.

  2. I agree, Mark. It was a question of execution. He just did not get the pitch where he should have. Though, with a young pitcher, it is the kind of thing you need to emphasize. It happened so quickly that Righetti could not get out quickly enough to remind him.

  3. I continue enjoying your posts, and read them regularly. I value insights shared that I overlooked or did not consider. I always appreciate a fuller perspective on things.

    I note your readership is growing---congrats! Btw, do you have a name we can refer to? I mean Lowell is Lowell, Glenn Dickey is Glenn, Henry Schulman is ...

    Just curious; it would be more personal knowing your name.

  4. Btw, I'm thrilled with Tim's performance today. Twelve strikeouts--wow!

  5. Hey, Paul, it never occurred to me that I didn't have my name up. I thought it was up there somewhere. But it wasn't! So, I just put it up. Thanks for the catch!