San Francisco Giants Morning Minute: Bum Good, Still Not Firing On All Cylinders

May 11, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) throws to the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning of their MLB baseball game at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports
May 11, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) throws to the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning of their MLB baseball game at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports /

On this edition of the San Francisco Giants Morning Minute, we discuss Bumgarner’s “struggles”, Span’s on-base success, and Duffy’s smarts.

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Good morning, San Francisco Giants’ fans, and welcome to the second rendition of the Giants Morning Minute. On Wednesday, the Giants came away with a much-needed, but very ugly win against the Toronto Blue Jays, avoiding being swept before hitting the road for seven games. In the 13-inning, 5-4 victory, Albert Suarez earned his first career major league win for the Giants, another reward for his nine-year minor-league journey to get here. Ryan Tepera took his first loss of the year.

The Giants are back at .500, and are tied atop a pitiful National League West with the Los Angeles Dodgers (16-16).

1 – Madison Bumgarner Looks Strong, But Still Not Quite Himself

Bumgarner was really good again on Wednesday, pitching 6.2 innings of one-run ball to put himself in line to earn career win number 90 (the bullpen didn’t oblige). He dropped his rotation-low ERA to 2.72, continuing to prove that he is still the team’s ace. His strikeouts are up, with his 60 punchouts ranking third in baseball and 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings leading the staff.

But still, he just doesn’t look quite look the Bumgarner we’ve grown to love. Always a control pitcher, Bumgarner just hasn’t been that sharp with his command this year. He walked four Jays’ hitters in his most recent outing, bringing his walks per nine innings mark to 3.3, the worst total of his career. 63.5 percent of Bumgarner’s pitches are strikes, the worst total among Giants’ starters and the worst number of his career. He’s not missing by a whole lot, but he’s still missing.

Even with the struggles, Bumgarner has been very, very good. If he’s this good while fighting through some mechanical issues, imagine how good he will be when it all starts to click.

2 – Giants gut out a “Giants like” win

It’s the 13th inning. Rookie pitcher Albert Suarez, in his third career game, is tasked with shutting down the Jays to get his team back in the dugout. He allows three hits to start the inning, one resulting in an out at second base when Ryan Goins challenged Gregor Blanco. Suarez then gets reigning American League MVP Josh Donaldson and home run machine Jose Bautista to end the inning.

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Fast forward to the bottom half of the inning. Brandon Belt is hit by Ryan Tepera‘s first pitch (Belt’s always finding a way on base, 19 straight games getting to first base in some way, shape, or form). Denard Span attempts to bunt him along, but an attempted throw to get Belt at second is unsuccessful. Joe Panik walks. Matt Duffy scorches a line drive, but it finds Edwin Encarnacion‘s glove. Then Buster Posey walks with no base empty, bringing home Belt and ending the ballgame.

Pretty? Absolutely not. Effective? You betcha. Just like a 17-7 loss still counts as only one loss, ugly wins still counts as a full win. The Giants still have to find a way to hit with runners in scoring position after another abysmal performance, going 2-for-17.

3 – Denard Span Not Raking, But Helping in Other Ways

In his first month-plus as a Giant, Denard Span hasn’t exactly been tearing the cover off the ball. He’s hitting just .246 after 36 games, a less-than-ideal number for a leadoff hitter. Span is still finding ways to help his team.

Span is getting on base at a great rate, with a .353 on-base percentage. Among qualified Giants, only Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, and Brandon Belt are better. On Wednesday, he picked up a base hit, three walks, and reached on the botched sacrifice to be on base five times.

Span is putting the ball in play, with a team-low 8.3 percent strikeout rate, but the balls just aren’t finding open spaces right now (a common problem up-and-down the Giants’ lineup). Span’s, and other guy’s batted balls should start finding open space soon.

4 – Matt Duffy’s Smart Baserunning Continues

Giants’ third baseman Matt Duffy isn’t an incredibly fast runner on the basepaths, but he is incredibly smart. On Wednesday, he easily stole his fourth base of the season in the 11th inning following a one-out single. Duffy’s stolen 16 consecutive bases successfully (he was 12-for-12 last season) after being caught in his only attempt in 2014. He doesn’t need particularly great speed, because he can read a pitcher’s move so well and get outstanding jumps, like he did against Gavin Floyd on Wednesday.

It didn’t really matter though, as Pence struck out on the next pitch. But it’s still noteworthy.

Next: Giants Morning Minute: Cain Good, Offense Not

Up next, the Giants head to Arizona for a four-gamer with the Diamondbacks. They’re looking for revenge after being swept on their home turf in four games earlier this season. Maybe a hitter’s park like Arizona’s Chase Field will help matters along. Johnny Cueto opens the series, facing off with Zack Greinke.