Recapping Madison Bumgarner's historic season opener

Recapping Madison Bumgarner's historic season opener

PHOENIX — Madison Bumgarner woke up on Monday leading the Majors in strikeouts, which wasn’t a surprise. He also woke up as the MLB leaders in homers, which … well I guess nothing with Bumgarner can really be that much of a surprise anymore.

The big left-hander simply raised a bar that’s already impossibly high when he hit two deep homers on Sunday afternoon at Chase Field. Before his next start, Saturday at Petco Park, Bumgarner will be passed by quite a few position players on the leaderboard. So let’s take this opportunity to look back once more at what he accomplished Sunday … 

  • Bumgarner became the first pitcher in MLB history to hit two homers on opening day. It was his first multi-homer game, making him the fourth pitcher since 2006 to pull that off. The list: Dontrelle Willis, Micah Owings and Noah Syndergaard, who might be the closest thing we have to Bumgarner currently. Only three other pitchers have even homered on opening day since 1970: Rick Rhoden, Joe Magrane and Clayton Kershaw, who did it against the Giants in 2013. 
  • Bumgarner’s first homer tied the franchise pitcher record held by Johnny Antonelli and Hal Schumacher. He passed them in the seventh, when he hit career homer No. 16. 
  • In case you were wondering, the record for single-season homers by a player who was primarily a pitcher is nine (Wes Ferrell, 1931). 
  • This was a fun one from the Giants’ PR staff. The other Giants with two homers on opening day: Elliott, Mays, Williams and Barry Bonds. That’s a hell of a list to join if you’re a hitter. Bumgarner did it as a pitcher. 
  • Via Elias, Bumgarner became the first player to homer in his first two at-bats of the season since Bryce Harper in 2013. 
  • Also from Elias: Bumgarner has 13 homers in his last 199 at-bats, a rate of one every 15.3 at-bats. Albert Pujols has a career home run rate of one per every 15.5 at-bats. 
  • From Mark Simon and Sarah Langs of ESPN Stats and Info, Bumgarner’s seven go-ahead homers match former Cardinal Bob Forsch for the most by a pitcher since the DH was implemented. 
  • Also from ESPN Stats and Info, Bumgarner has 13 career homers on fastballs. On fastballs alone, he would be the active home run leader. Yovani Gallardo is second with 12 homers on all pitches. 
  • Bumgarner now has multiple homers against Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. According to Sports On Earth, he joins Carlos Gonzalez and Joey Votto as the only big leaguers with multiple homers off those two guys. 
  • Via Statcast, the only players with multiple homers of 112+ mph since this has been tracked are Bumgarner and Giancarlo Stanton. Yes, we've now referenced Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton when talking about Bumgarner's power.  
  • Via Daren Willman (@darenw, and a must-follow for baseball fans), only 16 players had multiple 112+ mph home runs all of last season. Bumgarner did that in his first two at-bats of 2017. 
  • Bumgarner now has the four hardest-hit pitcher homers of the Statcast era. They tracked him yesterday at 112.5 and 112.1 mph
  • The Giants did not have a single homer last season that exceeded either of the two blasts. You have to go back to Jarrett Parker’s big day in Oakland in September of 2015 to find a harder-hit Giants homer. Parker’s was 114.3.
  • Bumgarner’s two homers yesterday traveled a combined 838 feet. 
  • Finally, Bumgarner’s day job. As I wrote yesterday, that was the best stuff he’s had on the mound in years. Bumgarner’s fastball averaged 93.3 mph, which is harder than his max velocity in 2016. It wasn’t just the fastball, though. Bumgarner had excellent depth on his breaking pitches and he tossed one curveball at 79.1 mph, 1.2 mph harder than any curve he threw last season. 

Bumgarner usually ramps up the velocity as the year goes on, so there might be more to come. When you consider that he’s still just 27 years old, this all makes sense. Bumgarner is in his prime, and after two seasons of tinkering with mechanics, it seems he has found something he likes. Bumgarner often looks back at the stretch run in 2014 when talking about his ideal delivery. On Sunday, he smiled when asked if he’s getting closer to where he wants to be.

“This is the best I’ve felt in a long time,” he said. 

Giants starter Jeff Samardzija to get MRI on right shoulder


Giants starter Jeff Samardzija to get MRI on right shoulder

The Giants almost made it through spring training with no serious injuries.

But as they get set to leave Arizona for the Bay Area, Jeff Samardzija is dealing with a shoulder issue.

On Wednesday, Samardzija pitched in a minor league game. He gave up two homers, hit a batter in the fourth inning and was pulled from the game.

A day later, the Giants announced that Samardzija will undergo an MRI on his right shoulder. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, results of the MRI will be known later Thursday evening.

Samardzija's numbers in official spring training games this year are ugly. In 11 innings, he's 17 hits, 13 earned runs and six home runs.

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers


No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”