With yet another brilliant start in a 4-1 win in Tampa Bay on Friday night, Giants’ starter Madison Bumgarner made a little bit of franchise history. The lanky lefty is currently on a nine-start streak of pitching at least seven innings while allowing two earned runs or less. That stands as the second-longest in franchise history, behind Ferdie Schupp of the then New York Giants, who had 12 such starts between the 1916 and 1917 seasons. This impressive streak has not only produced the lowest ERA of Bumgarner’s young careeer (2.69), but it’s also planted the 24-year-old firmly in the middle of the Cy Young race.
The Giants’ de facto ace is showing no signs of slowing down either, especially after tying his season-high in strikeouts with 11 against a baffled Rays lineup. He was clinical with slider, throwing the pitch a season-high 53 times with an impressive 35 of those tosses going for strikes. That’s been par for the course for Bumgarner this season because no pitcher in baseball favors his slider as much as the Giants’ lefty.
Major League Baseball fans everywhere should be a bunch of happy campers today. We’ve been blessed by the Baseball Gods with a star-studded World Series match-up between the American League champion Detroit Tigers and the National League champion San Francisco Giants. There is MVP and Cy Young hardware all over the place in this series. We have the presumptive 2012 MVP winners in Miguel Cabrera and Buster Posey, seated to your left (although there are MVP arguments for other players, Mike Trout in particular). Over in that corner you have the 2011 AL MVP/Cy Young winner in Justin Verlander. Turn around and you can catch a glimpse of Barry Zito, the 2002 Cy Young winner. Just strolling in the door is Tim Lincecum, the winner of the 2008 and 2009 Cy Young awards in the National League. It’s ridiculous how many big names are in this series, and we haven’t even mentioned the perennial All-Star types like Prince Fielder and Matt Cain. Every single playoff series, except for the ALCS, has been remarkably balanced and has gone the distance this year, and with two evenly matched competitors set to take the diamond tonight, you can expect more evenly matched world-class baseball. Here’s some of what you should be keeping your eye on in the games to come.
The San Francisco Giants were able to eke out a much-needed win over Cincinnati last night to avoid a sweep, keeping their 2012 World Series chances on life support. San Francisco was able to use a familiar formula to get the win as they bled the Cincinnati offense dry while taking advantage of every opportunity and miscue available to gain a hard-fought 2-1 win in 10 innings. The Giant’s scratch-out-just-enough-to-win formula, known to their fans as “Torture”, has proven to be a highly successful way to win for this franchise in particular, and last nights game must have felt a little like 2010 for Giants fans. Only the Dodgers have won more games while scoring 2 or fewer runs than the Giants have over the past 3 seasons, and while it’s not a viable way to consistently win games, it’s nice to know you can get a win when the offense isn’t performing. Last night was no exception as San Francisco struck out 16 times total and mustered just 3 hits. Some other notes from last nights game:
If we’re going to talk about the Brewers, the most appropriate place to start would be with Ryan Braun. The defending NL MVP has been tearing up National League pitching over his last 25 games, hitting .356/.421/.6 with 6 homers, 7 doubles, 18 RBI, while going 7 for 8 in steals. Braun now leads the NL in homers, slugging percentage, OPS, total bases, while ranking 2nd in WAR and RBI. This type of production has vaulted the Milwaukee offense to the top of the National League in runs scored and back into the playoff hunt, which is going to present what may perhaps be the season’s most interesting scenario: What happens with the NL MVP award if Ryan Braun continues his tear for the next two weeks and the Brewers sneak into the playoffs?
With one month of the 2012 regular season left things have gotten absolutely chaotic in the chase for the NL MVP award. The frontrunner for the award has fluctuated throughout the 2012 season, so much so that baseball fans might feel like they’re riding a roller coaster due to all the ups and downs on the leader board. First up was Joey Votto, who was in the midst of a potentially historic season before succumbing to an injury that’s had him riding the pine since mid-July. Next up was Andrew McCutchen who, much like his team, has been mired in a nasty slump of late. The Pirate centerfielder is hitting just .245/.324/.316 with 1 homer, 4 doubles, and 13 RBI in his last 111 plate appearances (28 games). He’s firmly entrenched in this race however, because even with the slump McCutchen still leads all NL hitters in OPS+, runs scored, and hits. But his struggles of late have opened the door to a new crop of potential MVP candidates, all of whom boast strong numbers and nearly every player is on a competitive team. Let’s take a look at the field of candidates and break down their odds of taking home the hardware at the end of the season. Bold numbers indicate the player leads the league in the statistic
The stretch drive in baseball has finally arrived. It’s September, which means that each and every Major League team has about 30 or so games to make one final push toward October. Some teams like Texas, New York, Detroit, Cincinnati and St. Louis were expected to be here, possessing teams that lived up to their early season potential. Other teams like Baltimore, Oakland, Pittsburgh, and Washington have surprised this year, finding themselves in a position to chase a playoff spot. Others (Boston and Philadelphia) have been far more disappointing in 2012 and won’t be participating in the October fun this year. With just one month left it’s a good time to survey the field of contenders to try to find the teams that have the best chance to make some noise come playoff time.
2012 is seeing some of the most impressive individual seasons in recent baseball history for a catcher, the toughest position in the game, and the one that requires a player to take the most beating. Catchers’ bodies subject to all manner of abuse – from blocking balls in the dirt to foul tips that miss the padding – they are constantly under assault. This season, three backstops, Carlos Ruiz of the Philadelphia Phillies, Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants and Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals, have overcome all the physical demands to excel at not only an All-Star level, but maybe even an MVP level. (Granted, Posey does spend some time playing 1st base). Although right now that honor goes to Andrew McCutchen, who is playing like his long flowing locks are on fire, the three players are worth entrants into the discussion. But who’s the superior player? If we were to determine an All-Pro type team, which catcher would we most want? Let’s take a look, and discuss the merits of the two finest backstops in baseball.