By In Stuff

Mad about Maddy

Madison Bumgarner is, to borrow Jeff Garlin’s phrase, a bowlful of awesome, and I want to be sure that nothing I write here detracts from that. He’s having a postseason for the ages, and he was all kinds of wonderful during the regular season too, and if every player in this World Series was dispersed into an expansion draft Bumgarner would be my first pick just ahead of Buster Posey. The guy has made four World Series starts and allowed one stinking run, one, and that was when he left a pitch up to Royals catcher Salvador Perez with the Giants up 7-0.

Bumgarner is just breathtakingly good, and nothing the Kansas City Royals could have done on Sunday would have made much difference.

That said: The Royals might have done SOMETHING.

Sunday, Bumgarner pitched one of the greatest games in World Series history. He threw a complete game shutout, gave up four hits, struck out eight, didn’t walk a batter. That was a Game Score of 87 — going back forty years, only Randy Johnson’s three-hit, eleven strikeout masterpiece against the Yankees in Game 2 of the 2000 World Series scored higher. Go back more than forty years, and you are in the realm of Gibson and Drysdale and Koufax.

Why was Bumgarner that good? Well, of course, he was that good because he IS that good, because he’s 6-foot-5, hides the ball well, throws in the low 90s, has a nasty little cutting slider, freaks out runners with his pickoff move and throws from a hard angle so that lefties can’t touch him. He also seems to enjoy pitching in big games. He also hits. You know all those things we said about the awesomeness of the Royals bullpen. They are every bit as true about Maddy Bumgarner.

— Wisconsin named its capital after the guy.

— When a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, it is so the tree can avoid Madison Bumgarner.

— Real Rob Lowe is the “don’t be this me” version of Madison Bumgarner.

But let’s look at Sunday’s game from the other team’s angle.

The Kansas City Royals finished ninth in the American League in runs scored. They finished dead last in home runs.

The game was played in San Francisco, one of the best pitchers parks in the game and, therefore, one of the worst hitting parks. The game was played with NL rules, meaning the Royals could not use one of the best right-handed hitters, Billy Butler, as the designated hitter.

The Royals leadoff hitter was Alicides Escobar. Against power pitchers, Escobar for his career is a .234 lifetime hitter.

The Royals No. 2 hitter, and their best hitter, was Alex Gordon. He’s left-handed. Bumgarner destroys left-handers.

The Royals No. 3 hitter, Lorenzo Cain, hit five home runs this year.

The Royals cleanup hitter, Eric Hosmer, is left-handed. Bumgarner destroys left-handers.

The Royals No. 5 hitter, Salvador Perez, has started and caught every single Royals game since August 24. He his hitting .196 in the postseason and .235 for the last two months. I don’t want to say the guy’s tired but from some camera angles you could actually see the Zzzzzz’s over his head.

The Royals No. 6 hitter, Mike Moustakas, is a lefty who has hit less than .200 against left-handed pitchers the last two years. And Bumgarner destroys lefties.

The Royals No. 7 hitter, Omar Infante, has been battling injuries all season and had a 76 OPS+ this year.

The Royals No. 8 hitter, Jarrod Dyson, is a lefty hitting .209 against lefties for his career. And, yet again, Bumgarner destroys all lefties.

The Royals No. 9 hitter was the pitcher because this was a National League park.

Now you tell me: What chance did the Royals have of scoring a run on Madison Bumgarner? What possible series of events could have happened to make it happen? Their best hope was that the Top 4 hitters would somehow put a rally together, but that wasn’t a great hope. I guess Salvy could have run into another high pitch. Roy Hobbs could have shown up. But, when you consider the lefty-lefty thing, the Royals essentially had three pitchers hitting in the lineup: Moustakas, Dyson and, well, the pitcher. That means, basically, no chance.

There was always the hope that Ned Yost would use the righties on his bench — the good-against-lefties Billy Butler and onetime lefty hammer Josh Willingham — judiciously and in prime spots. But that did not happen. I don’t think there’s much point in nitpicking Yost anymore, but it is worth pointing out that Butler led off an inning which was a waste. It is worth pointing out that Willingham (with a career .486 slugging percentage against lefties) did not get to the plate but Jayson Nix (a lifetime .212 hitter who did not have a single hit for the Royals this year) did get to the plate.

It is also worth pointing out that the Royals did not put righty middle infielder and former No. 1 pick Christian Colon on the roster but did put Terrance Gore, who is really, really fast and literally cannot be put into the game as a hitter or a defender.

Madison Bumgarner was remarkable on Sunday. He was remarkable in Game 1. He has been remarkable this whole postseason. But the Royals went into Sunday’s game with a few pea shooters and a handful of spitballs. They did not play to win. They did not play the infield in when a run was at stake, they did not pinch-hit when they had the rare man in scoring position.

They did act like they had no chance in the world. In the end, that was exactly right.

37 Responses to Mad about Maddy

  1. Yeah. They should have pinch hit for Dyson and Shields in the 5th when Infante as on second with one out. Probably would not have made a difference, but it was their one shot.

  2. Royals Fan says:

    Another anti-Royals column from a jackass. Stop writing about my team. You ran out on them years ago.

    • mmaattw says:

      I’m envious of you. When I read Joe’s curiously long posts about the Royals, I say to myself: “Why wish Joe would analyze my team (Reds) this way.”

    • Come on. Joe is great. If you don’t like him for some reason, don’t read him.

    • Robert says:

      Hate much Royals fan? You need some anger management bro… or at least a two-game win streak.

    • Rick Graff says:

      You’re an idiot! Joe Po is still an avid Royals supporter he suffered through the dark days like all of us then left the Star for a much better job because, let’s face it, he’s too good of a writer for just a newspaper. And everything he said was absolutely correct. We didn’t really do anything to try to get an advantage against one of the best World Series pitchers OF ALL-TIME. I really don’t think there was much we were going to be able to do against Bumgarner anyway, which is why I knew when we lost game 4 we’d be in trouble. But that’s ok the 1985 team had to win their last 2 games at home to win it all!

    • Dr. G says:

      I just don’t get this. I find Joe’s Royals columns about this year’s team to be interesting and in many ways, celebratory. This one is more of a critique, but so what? I want my favorite team to strive and be better – I find reading authors who aren’t “homers” to be much more interesting and thought-inspiring than those that are “homers.”
      My suggestion, if you are looking for a more “homerish” approach, is to go to, click on the Game 5 recap video and play the song “Everything is Awesome” from the Lego Movie in the background.

    • I think your comments might have been better received if you actually challenged something Joe said as being untrue. It’s quite true that the Royals were destroyed in that game, so it’s highly unlikely that ANY management lever could have been pulled to score enough runs to win or tie. But still, wouldn’t you like to think that your Manager was at least aware of the bad matchup his team had on his hands, and was ready to counter that matchup in key situations? Instead, it seemed like he trotted out his newly constituted NL park lineup and hoped for the best.

    • mrpinkfloyd71 says:

      Come on Royals Fan! You guys might be on the spotlight right now, and a lot of that is luck (you guys are really not that good), the only reason the rest of the baseball world knows about KC and are rooting for them is because of Joe.

      • Let’s not get carried away. Very few of my baseball fan friends know who Joe Posnanski is. He has a nice niche, but he’s hardly a national brand. That’s not a knock. Unless you’re on ESPN these days, most people won’t know who you are.

  3. I suppose they also could have bunched all their right hand hitters together at the top of the order, but again, it probably would not have made much difference. There would have been some brutal innings when the lefties were up.

  4. Mikey says:

    2001 for that Randy Johnson Game 2.

  5. John Dawson says:

    Exactly right, Joe And you don’t even mention mishandling his pitchers. We lost that game because we were outcoached, pure and simple.

    • John Dawson, no. The Royals lost that game because one the best pitchers in MLB pitched one of the greatest games in WS history.

    • wogggs says:

      As much as I love to bash Ned Yost, I’m not sure that anything he could have done last night would have mattered. If you want to nit pick something, how ’bout the decision to use Aoki as pinch hitter in game 4 with the score tied, Dyson on first and Willingham and Butler both available?

      When I saw him come to the plate, I figured he was going to sac bunt. Not a decision I’m in love with, but totally defensible, as Yost would be thinking if he can get the lead back, he’ll throw the big 3 for the last 4 innings and win another one run game. Then, he has Aoki swing away, and he grounds into a double play.

      That was bad managing. With Dyson on first, if you are going to have someone swing away, you have to be thinking double, because that will likely score him. There was almost no chance Aoki would smoke a double. Butler or Willingham might have. Those two might have hit into a double play, too, but their upside is driving in a run. The best you could hope for with Aoki would maybe be a single.

  6. wogggs says:

    I looked at this series and figured the Royals would lose the 2 Bumgarner starts, which they have. The key is to figure out how to win 4 out of the remaining 5. So far, they won one where the Giants bullpen failed massively (and the Royals lost game 4, when their bullpen failed massively) and won the one game that was played pretty even on both sides. If they are to win the series, they likely will need to win two games that play pretty evenly on both sides, as it is foolish for either team to count on massive bullpen failures again. They also need to figure out how to get Sandoval and Pence out more than half the time. It is a tall order, but I still like the Royals’ chances in game 6 with Peavy on the mound for the Giants. Game 7, well, as Billy Beane likes to say, that is a crapshoot.

  7. I did not think of it at the time, but he should have walked the 8th place hitter in the second inning and then pitched to Bumgarner with the bases loaded. He was a strikeout candidate, which would have meant they could not have scored a run on an out.

  8. If you were a general manager, and you had to choose between Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw, who would you pick?

    Their careers essentially overlap. They are both lefty starters of about the same age who piled up their stats in pitchers parks in the same light hitting division.

    Would you go with a pitcher like Bumgarner, who has been good during the regular season

    67-49, 3.06, ERA+ 116, averaging 217 IP 194 H, 204 K, 52 BB, with 0 CYA

    but Christy Mathewson in the post-season

    I meant to say 7-3, 2.27, playoff MVP, possible World Series MVP.

    or would you pick Kershaw, who has been a stud from April-September

    98-49, 2.48, ERA+ 151, averaging 223 IP, 168 H, 234K, 69 BB, with 3 CYA

    but a dud in October

    1-5, 5.12, playoff LVP

    Me, I want Bumgarner. I want the guy who stays cool under playoff pressure versus the guy who tightens up. Coincidentally or not, the Giants just happen to be going for their third World Series title in the 5 years Bumgarner has been pitching for them, even as Lincecum, Zito and Cain have struggled. Meanwhile, Kershaw has lost elimination games in consecutive years, establishing new records for playoff futility along the way. You talk about small sample sizes, but if you’ve been paying attention to the games, haven’t we seen enough of Kershaw and Bumgarner’s post-season performances to form a legitimate opinion?

    • David says:

      Yeah, gonna have to just dismantle everything you just said. Kershaw has started 8 postseason games. That’s not nearly enough to form a legitimate opinion.

      The regular season is about ten times as long as the postseason, so yes, I want the better pitcher in the regular season.

      Kershaw has about 40 WAR so far in his regular season career; Bumgarner has 15. And no, postseason performance doesn’t make up for that. It wouldn’t make up for that even if Bumgarner had a 1.00 ERA and Kershaw had a 7.00 ERA, given that Bumgarner only has 12 postseason starts anyways.

      No one in their right mind would choose Bumgarner over Kershaw. It’s not even close.

      • Kershaw has been pitching for 7 years, Bumgarner for 5 (he had a cup of coffee for a 6th), so if you give Bumgarner an extra 2 years worth of WAR the difference is more like 20. That’s roughly 2-3 wins a year for Kershaw over Bumgarner over a 162 game season. Most years, that’s not enough to make a difference between making the playoffs and missing them.

        Meanwhile, Bumgarner has been worth an extra 2-3 wins a year over Kershaw in the playoffs. That’s the difference between advancing and being eliminated. Which is why the Giants are on the verge of their third World Series title in five years and the Dodgers have yet to see World Series action.

        As you said, it’s not even close.

        • Bono says:

          So the difference between the two is roughly the entire career of Hiroki Kuroda. And, what? If the difference between the two is 20 WAR over 7 years that’s 3 wins per season which absolutely is enough to make a difference in getting to the postseason if you are within 3 games of getting into the postseason.

          The mistake you’re making is thinking that Bumgarner’s 12 postseason starts are a better indicator of the pitcher he is than the 148 he has otherwise, which is going to get you into trouble when making decisions. Countless studies and analyses have concluded that there’s no clutch performance skill and that, over time, players will play like themselves in just about every situation. So if you take Kershaw you have a much better chance of getting to the postseason where it’s more like he’ll pitch like his excellent self going forward than that he’ll be considerably worse. And if you pick Bumgarner you’ll have less of a chance of making the postseason where he’ll be much more like to not be this good going forward. So you pick Kershaw.

      • Bumgarner is quickly becoming this generations Jack Morris.

        In defense of Kershaw, in some of those games he was humming along like his usual unhittable self, seemed to tire & gave up a big inning. Mattingly could have been more aware/tuned in to his pitcher (especially in those games he was pitching on short rest) & ready to make a pitching change. But Mattingly is another one of those “challenged” managers that seems befuddled in key situations.

      • Brett Alan says:

        I agree about 8 games not being a sufficient sample size…especially since 5 of those 8 starts have been against a team, the Cardinals, that he has had some trouble with in the regular season, too. The only series in the postseason against someone else since he became a superstar, he went 2-0, allowing only one earned run in 13 innings. So he doesn’t even seem to have a pitching-in-the-postseason problem; he seems to have a pitching-in-the-postseason-against-the-Cardinals problem.

  9. thitchner says:

    Joe, I’m not sure how the Royals not playing the infield in (as you mention in the last paragraph) goes along with “they acted like they had no chance in the world.” Playing the infield in is what you do when giving up a run is an intolerable consequence, so much so that it’s worth making a hit more likely (and with a runner on second last night, a hit would have given up two runs). When Crawford was batting the score was 0-0, so it seems like playing infield-in would have been the real “we have no chance in the world” play. (It may still have been the right decision, of course; I just don’t see how it plays into the rubric you set for the rest of the post.)

    • I believe that if Yost would have played the infield in, Joe would have criticized the move (and rightly so). I don’t know any manager who would have played the infield in early in the game with the score 0-0. The key was not to give up a big inning, which playing the infield in can cause. If the score was 2-0 or 3-0, with Bumgarner on the mound, you may make that move. But if you are so unsure of your team that you don’t feel you can overcome a one run deficit with most of the game in front of you, then you have no chance anyway.

  10. Ross says:

    I wonder if in the World Series expansion draft Joe mentions, if he could take all 3 of the closing law firm as one pick, if that trio would be his top pick.

  11. shagster says:

    In reading Joe’s notes about KC’s hitters, I think folks continue to overlook the Giants hitting. None of them are lost at the plate. They seem to be hitting up and down the line up. They were hitting early, now they’re hitting late. Against KCs two (of three) relievers.

    Re Kershaw, it is safe to say the ONE TEAM the Giants hitters did not want to see in the playoffs was Kershaw & Greinke’s Dodgers. A distant second the A’s. The rest? As Joe said, they’re “fine with that.”

  12. Anon says:

    More to the point on the Royals – none of their regulars have done much against pitchers of EITHER hand this year. LH bats against righties, nobody is over .800 OPS. RH bats against righties, nobody over 800. LH against lefties, only Aoki (surprise) is over 800. The only players who have an OPS over 800 in this type of scenario are Butler, Cain and AOki against lefties. That’s it. They also have Willingham who has a small platoon split over his career and to be fair, Gordon hit lefties pretty well this year too (787 OPS) although he has a pretty normal platoon split for his career.

    (The Aoki thing is not a fluke either, he has a reverse platoon split for his career.)

    So they have 5 guys that can hit lefties and only 2 of them got more than 1 PA and a 3rd got 1 PA and in a low leverage situation at that. Meanwhile, Hosmer/Moustakas/Dyson can’t hit lefties at all and got 9 PA with 1 hit and o BB and stranding 4 runners.

  13. :-) says:

    After Tuesday night’s game, you can rewrite most of this article and subsitute the work “Yordano Ventura” for “Madison Baumgarner”, subsitute “Royals” for “Giants” and vice versa. Subsitute “Bruce Bochy” for “Ned Yost”

  14. roundeye11 says:

    Here’s the thing Royals’ fans: Because of this fluky, wonderful, astonishing, invigorating, fluky run, your team is likely saddled with the mishandlings of Ned Yost for four more years. Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely, positively pulling for the Royals, but they are winning in spite of Ned Yost, not because of Ned Yost. To put it another way, Ned Yost is not (hopefully) leading the Royals to a championship, he is following them.

    • :-) says:

      How do you know he is a bad leader? Because of a few questionable X’s and O’s decisions? The CEO at the hospital where I work tells us that the #1 sign of a good leader is–“are his people willing to follow him”. Yost’s leadership should be measured by the players willingness to follow him. By all evidence, he has their confidence and is doing a good job.

    • MikeN says:

      I’m happy with that. I wouldn’t care to watch the Royals with a different manager even if they won ten more games.

  15. MikeN says:

    Yea, this team is terrible. I have no idea how they made the playoffs, and they had the first wild card spot, and even had the division lead in September. Yet I hear criticism that but for the manager this team would have run away with the division. Whatever.

  16. MikeN says:

    If the Royals win with Ned Yost bunting in the first inning and sending in a pinch runner in the second, it’ll make some heads explode.

  17. Perez DID run into a high fastball — actually 3 or 4 of them — in the last AB of the Series. He popped the last one up to end the game. And he wasn’t even that close to getting a hit on the others.

    Timing is everything. He hit a high fastball for a homer when it didn’t matter. And didn’t when it did.

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