San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner pitched a complete-game shutout last night to lead his team to victory over the New York Mets. In other breaking news, grass is green, water is wet, and Donald Trump tweets a lot.
Seriously, how do we even describe Bumgarner’s postseason excellence anymore? The stats are beyond ridiculous at this point. Thirty years from now, people will be walking around saying, “Nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes, and Mad Bum in the playoffs.”
Attempts to find a weakness in Bumgarner’s game are starting to border on laughable. For example, the Washington Post notes that “historically, Bumgarner’s control erodes after 100 pitches.” That’s a bit like saying Jim Brown got tired after his first 150 rushing yards, or that LeBron James looks a little gassed after he scores his first fifty points. If this is the best anti-Bumgarner strategy you can come up with, you might as well concede the game and let your shortstop pitch.
When I called on Dan Duquette to dig up an ace for the Orioles, this is the sort of performance I was thinking about. Who needs an otherworldly bullpen with a pitcher like Bumgarner on the mound? There would be no questioning when to use your closer, because you probably wouldn’t use him at all. Even if you took the lead in the ninth inning as the Giants did, a guy like Bumgarner (much like Justin Verlander a few years ago) can serve as his own closer, dialing up harder throws when needed.
All this being said, can the Giants turn their wildcard success into a deep postseason run? Given that they have to face the Cubs next, I doubt it. A pitching trio of Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija may be enough to match the Cubs trio Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, and Kyle “Wait, this guy’s from Dartmouth?” Hendricks, but their lineup and bullpen can’t match the Cubs’ star power.
If the Giants can force a winner-take-all Game 5, however, all bets are off. At that point, Chicago will have bigger problems than a silly goat curse—they’ll have to face the ever-growing playoff legend of the Mad Bum.