MLB playoff starters' strength reminds us of Madison Bumgarner's brilliance


MLB playoff starters' strength reminds us of Madison Bumgarner's brilliance

SAN FRANCISCO -- For a dozen years, Madison Bumgarner has been associated with the Giants, and for most of that time he has served as the face of the franchise and cornerstone on the field. But Bumgarner woke up Thursday morning looking at free agency and an uncertain future. 

The 30-year-old will hit an open market that has been unkind to some veterans in recent years, but as free agency approached, Bumgarner was always confident in the case he could present to other organizations.

It was bolstered as the Giants sat at home in October. 

This was a throwback postseason, one in which a game that increasingly has focused on hard-throwing bullpens took a step back and embraced starting pitching. Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke got the Astros to a Game 7. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin pushed the Nationals to their first title. 

If Bumgarner was watching, he surely enjoyed the shift. He has always advocated for strong starting pitching and 200-inning workhorses. His agents surely enjoyed the last month, too. The Nationals and Astros might have helped boost the market for a left-hander who has a history that far exceeds anything that was accomplished this October. 

Cole, the star of this free-agent class, posted a 1.72 ERA in five October starts and bolstered his reputation as perhaps the best pitcher in the world. But he came 16 innings short of Bumgarner's 52 2/3 inning masterpiece in 2014 while allowing the same number of runs. 

Verlander matched Bumgarner's six 2014 starts but allowed 17 earned runs in 35 1/3 innings.

Strasburg made five brilliant starts and came out of the bullpen once, totaling 36 1/3 innings en route to World Series MVP honors. Scherzer also came out of the bullpen once and showed incredible toughness in returning for Game 7, but his innings total in the postseason was just 30. He recorded exactly 15 outs in three of his five starts. 

This is not to take away at all from what the Nationals and Astros did. Their rotations carried a heavy load, with the Nationals, in particular, going with the novel strategy of turning their starters' off days into bullpen days. 

[RELATED: Giants down to three in manager search]

But if you're Madison Bumgarner and you're trying to convince teams that $100 million-plus is the right investment, you point to this postseason and then bring up your own.

Bumgarner isn't the same pitcher he was five years ago, but he's still pretty young and still confident in his big-game ability, and the passing years have only further solidified that 2014 is something we just won't see again. Every October there are starters who lead the way, but in the five years since the last Giants title, nobody has gotten within 15 innings of what Bumgarner pulled off. 

Watch McCovey Cove Dave lose two baseballs during Giants-Rangers game

Watch McCovey Cove Dave lose two baseballs during Giants-Rangers game

Global pandemic or not, some Giants fans refuse to give up one of the organization's most unique traditions.

A group of fans has continued taking kayaks out into McCovey Cove, just over the right-field wall at Oracle Park, hoping to snag one of the elusive splash hits off the bat of a Giants slugger.

However, even if the home run comes off the bat of an opponent like Texas Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, fans will go to great lengths to secure the ball.

[RELATED: Aruba Prime Minister wished Tromp well after Giants call-up]

You can see one of the Giants' more prominent fans, McCovey Cove Dave, jump (or more accurately slide) out of his kayak in an effort to secure Choo's two-run home run. Not only does he not get the home run ball from Choo, but another ball that slips out of Dave's kayak ended up in the hands of a female fan.

As you can see from Dave's Twitter account Sunday, social distancing did not seem to be a priority for those who flocked to McCovey Cove for the final time before a 10-game road trip.

Nevertheless, it's good to see Giants fans trying to make the most of the 2020 season, one in which no fans will be admitted to any MLB games as the league tries to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Chadwick Tromp got text from Aruba Prime Minister after Giants call-up

Chadwick Tromp got text from Aruba Prime Minister after Giants call-up

Chadwick Tromp has had a whirlwind week. The Giants rookie made his MLB debut on Wednesday, got the first two hits of his MLB career on Friday and hammered his first big-league home run on Sunday. Tromp also made history in the process, as he became just the ninth player from the tiny island nation of Aruba to play in MLB.

The young catcher helped the Giants win an important home series against the Texas Rangers at Oracle Park. Following Sunday's loss in the series finale, Tromp discussed the reaction to his promotion to the Giants' active roster in Aruba.

"So when I got called up," Tromp told reporters via Zoom Sunday. "The Prime Minister of Aruba texted me, and also our Minister of Sports also texted me and congratulated me. That was nice, it makes me feel like I'm doing the right thing and moving in the right direction."

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Tromp's first MLB home run was an absolute rocket and came at a critical moment in the game, tying the game up in the bottom of the sixth inning.

He's been in the minor leagues since 2013, beginning his professional career within the Cincinnati Reds organization. Playing just 26 games in Triple-A last season with the Sacramento River Cats, Tromp impressed the Giants' staff enough in Summer Camp to earn a spot on the 2020 active roster once his sore hamstring healed up.

[RELATED: What you might've missed in Giants' 9-5 loss vs. Rangers]

Tromp discussed more of how the people back home in Aruba celebrated his MLB debut following Friday night's game.

"The community back home, they're going nuts, I'm going to be honest with you," Tromp said. "It's crazy, people are celebrating, the whole island is basically celebrating. I love it. We're such a small island and this is very important to them because it puts us on a bigger scale and shows the world that a small island can also do big things in life."

Aruba's population is just over 100,000 total. Along with fellow native and Boston Red Sox infielder Xander Bogaerts, Tromp is representing the island nation with pride in this bizarre 2020 season.