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.