Thursday, October 30, 2014

Bochy Unleashes the "Kraken" and Giants Take Series - And Some Takeaways!

In many respects one could think of Madison Bumgarner as the human equivalent to the mythological Kraken - certainly to Kansas City fans at Kaufmann Stadium last night. By the bottom of the fifth, after reliever Jeremy Affeldt had given his best, Giants' manager Bruce Bochy let the bullpen gates open and MadBum emerge. Thousands of boos greeted him as well as hisses, curses and grimaces - realizing that with his appearance the KC run could well be at an end. As Ann Killion noted in her SF Chronicle piece this morning: "When Bumgarner strolled in to start the 5th it was over." As Killion put it:

"The Royals fans — all on their feet, losing their minds and their voices trying to will the team to a win — booed their displeasure into the black night. This was the man they didn’t ever want to see again. The player they hoped was too spent to be available for Game 7.

But there he was, walking alone through right field to the mound. If there had been a soundtrack, it would have been wah-wah-waaaaah from the “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly......Like the gunslinger in a spaghetti Western, Bumgarner unstrapped his arm from its holster and the opposition faded away into the night.”

Well, she wasn't too far off and in many respects, indeed,  "The game was over. The World Series belonged to the Giants."  As I forecast would happen yesterday IF  Bochy put MadBum in.

Of course, I had recommended (in my post yesterday) that he start the game, but as it turned out Bochy's strategy of starting Tim Hudson worked even better. Bochy allowed Hudson to self-destruct, as I also predicted he would, shelled from the mound after only 1  1/3 innings, giving up two runs. Ordinarily that might not seem like a biggie, but one only had to watch Hudson in action to see he was getting clobbered - even when the pitches went for outs. He just didn't have that quality pitchers, coaches and managers call "stuff. Bochy then sent Jeremy Affeldt in to contain the damage and not allow any more and he went another 2  1/3 innings - but you could tell he was spent by the bottom of the fourth.

With the game a nail biter and the Giants holding to a 3-2 lead, speculation then turned to who the next reliever would be and, of course, it was evident earlier when we saw Bumgarner warming up in the bullpen. As the bottom of the fifth opened up he walked to the mound- from the outfield-  and most KC fans already knew it was over, as the air was collectively sucked from the stadium. Their worst fears materialized and their most foolish hopes (that he was too spent after tossing 117 pitches two days ago) were dashed. But they ought to have known Bochy had no other option: MadBum was the only SF pitcher who could hold the KC bats in check.

Though a long time Milwaukee Brewers' fan, I am not a purist in the sense of rooting only for that team   - which self-destructed this year after leading the National League Central for over 150 days. Unlike the Giants, the Brew Crew grew lackadaisical and complacent after the All Star break losing series to the Cards, the Giants and the god-awful Cubs,  of all teams. I had written them off by the end of August as pretenders for yet another year.

The Giants then emerged as the team to watch with likely historical marks set by Bumgarner - who also helped dispatch the hated  Brewers' nemesis, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Royals, meanwhile, were too damned cocky and jubilant - especially after rousting wifey's team - The Baltimore Orioles- in four straight. Someone, we said, had to tame these guys and teach them some respect. Who better than the Giants with MadBum?

To say Bumgarner was superb is putting it mildly. By the end of the game he crossed all historical thresholds going back to the era of another Giants' great, Christy Mathewson. This is going all the way back to the "dead ball" era nearly 100 years ago. To put Bumgarner's stats in perspective, consider this:

21 innings pitched in this Series and only one earned run given up for an ERA of  0.43

For those unfamiliar with baseball stats that translates to less than one half of a run per game - or less than one run in two games.

He did this using 291 pitches, 205 of which were strikes for a strike percentage of over 70 percent. This included 17 strikeouts.

Talk about "pounding the zone"!

Bumgarner certainly deserves the MVP for the Series, and all the kudos he's now getting. Meanwhile, teams like the Brew Crew should be paying attention to see the level of pitching needed to sustain a long season and come out on top at the end. My main quarrel with what started out to be a seemingly stout Brewers' rotation is how they mostly petered out at the end. NO resilience! Then too all the injuries!

Where I do have a quarrel is with the SF Chronicle's presumptuous headline: DYNASTY!

First, the baseball gods don't take kindly to cities or teams self-declaring 'dynasty' status. YOU don't do that, it's up to outside observers to make the determination - and often it's from a historical perspective. Second, the Giants only won this game by the hair of their chinny-chin chins. One mistake at the end would have messed it up - though I didn't believe it would happen. Or,  if for some reason MadBum couldn't go past the seventh or given another fielding error, it might have well been different.

Finally, building a putative 'dynasty' whether in baseball or football,  is tricky in this era of free agency - when a team can lose key players at the drop of a hat. It only takes one loss of a key player to send a would-be contender into pretender-ville. In the case of the Giants, Pablo Sandoval, aka the Panda, becomes a free agent next year. If they lose him to free agency I can visualize the dynasty dreams having a half-life of about......five minutes.

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