Bruce Bochy came out today and declared that his Opening Day starter for 2014 will be southpaw Madison Bumgarner.
This might come as a surprise. With Matt Cain getting the nod last year, many expected Bochy to go with Cain yet again. But when looking at the 2013s that each guy had, it was really a no-brainer to pick Bumgarner. The lefty was 13-9 with a 2.77 ERA in 31 starts with a 1.03 WHIP. His WHIP and ERA were both major league career-lows and were both 5th in the National League. Opponents hit just .203 off of him (3rd in the NL), and he had 199 strikeouts to just 62 walks.
He was also an All-Star for the first time in his young career, and Bumgarner finished 9th in the NL Cy Young voting last season. He really didn’t get enough recognition in large part because he pitches in the same division as the reigning Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, also a lefty, also dominant. Kershaw was 16-9 last year with a miniscule 1.83 ERA.
Many people are saying that this could be Bumgarner’s year, not only to gain national recognition, but also to win the Cy Young. I love the move by Bochy to put him on that big stage and give him the Opening Day nod. If you’ve watched the Giants in the postseason over the last few seasons, you’re familiar with how well Madison has performed. Perhaps most impressive was the 2010 World Series when, at just 21 years old, he pitched eight shut-out innings against the Texas Rangers in Arlington in Game 4 to give San Francisco a 3-1 series lead. Lest we think he’s inconsistent, Bumgarner also threw seven shut-out innings just for fun against the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 World Series. I mean, he has yet to give up a run in a World Series game. Oh yeah, and he’s 24. Let’s put him in a bigger stage and watch him go. I think it’s going to be one of the most fun things to watch on the 2014 Giants, and I’m glad that we only have to wait for the first day of the regular season to see it.
the ‘Posey” rule:
In case you missed it, Major League Baseball came out with a new rule regarding home plate collisions this past week, and it almost seemed like they took some advice from our very own Hunter Pence.
Back in January, at Giants media day, Pence said that plays at the plate are difficult to define as dangerous or not because the rule wasn’t clearly defined.
“There becomes all these unwritten rules between teams of what can you get mad at or not get mad at. If they do write a rule, then everyone understands what the rule is, and it makes a lot more sense to everyone. Everyone understands what needs to be done.”
However, he had solid ideas on how to better clarify what’s allowed and what isn’t.
“We had a pretty good discussion about things that are possible…if they could make lanes. If the catcher’s in front of the plate, the runner could be in danger if he can’t go through a catcher that’s sticking his leg out, but also, it’s almost insane to have a catcher standing in front of home plate like a sitting duck and a base runner just plowing them. Think of in football – they have pads on and they don’t let them just hit the guy trying to catch the football…There needs to be a safe spot for the catcher, but also the catcher can make the decision to be in the danger zone, and the runner has to have a zone that he can go through.”
When asked for clarification on who he shared these ideas with, Pence said that he’s had discussions with someone who was asked for their opinion by MLB.
The actual rule that came out on February 24 (yesterday) generally states that:
1. A runner maybe not run out of a direct line to home plate just to force a collision. If they have a clear path to home without going through the catcher, they have to take it. If the runner goes for the collision rather than the plate, the umpire has the right to call him out, regardless of whether or not the catcher maintains possession of the ball.
2. The catcher may not block the plate unless he has complete possession of the baseball. The runner may be called safe if the catcher attempts to block the plate without possession of the ball.
In other words, it seems like MLB is trying to eliminate collisions just for the sake of collisions. It has been met with mixed reviews from players and coaches around the league but seems to be a step in the right direction. After the horrifying collision at home plate in 2011 that left Buster Posey with several torn ligaments and ended his season (it’s still hard to talk about, I know), we knew that a change was coming. It seemed that Scott Cousins slide was a clean one (don’t be too angry at me, Giants fans!), but Posey didn’t have full possession of the ball and wasn’t properly set to block the plate. Under the new rule, supposedly, Posey would need to have iron-clad possession of the baseball in order to block the plate. Would this rule have prevented that collision? Who knows. But it’ll be interesting to see if it makes a difference this season and lowers home plate injuries.
I guess my point it is essentially that MLB is trying to protect their players as best as they can. Also, that Hunter Pence is a genius. We should probably all listen to him more.
Also, I’m headed to Scottsdale in a week and a half and will be blogging from down there, so be sure to stay tuned! Can’t wait!