Madison Bumgarner

Giants’ rotation is what we thought it was (except not really at all)

The Giants owe a debt of gratitude to Clayton Kershaw, both for keeping their business model (“We’re the opposite of the A’s, because our shit works in the playoffs”) looking golden and calming everyone down about Madison Bumgarner.

I’ll admit it: Bumgarner’s shortest outing in years against the Padres would’ve looked a lot worse (to me, anyway), and a lot more like something that could be related to post-postseason fatigue (to me, anyway), if Kershaw wasn’t getting lit up by the D-Backs at the exact same time. It’s baseball, and slight mechanical tweaks made by the ones who understand best how to implement them can change seasons with startling immediacy. The smart money says that’s what’ll happen with Bumgarner and Kershaw.

It’s only been a week, but the performance of the Giants’ rotation was weird and unpredictable enough to leave anyone watching these games feeling like they rode the Zipper too many times at the county fair. The main bouts of queasiness come from the outings put forth by Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong and Jake Peavy, but the bright spots aren’t bankable yet either.

— Bumgarner’s delivery on Saturday came with a flaw that caused his pitches too come in on a plane that was too flat to fool big league hitters. It’s probably an easy fix, unless it’s a symptom of a far greater problem.

— Vogelsong is a creature of habit who was asked to prepare for long relief duties, then thrown into Game 2 as the starter, then asked to take his lumps as a long reliever after three days rest. Does he just need time to figure out his role, or does he even have that luxury this year?

— We all thought Peavy was headed for the DL a few days ago, then some sort of adjustment fixed the problem in his back. He looked great early, then tired out quickly. Is that something that’ll go away in a start or two, or is that the pitcher he is now — a guy who can get through the order twice and then all bets are off?

***

Just as we can’t project the rest of the season based on what we’ve seen so far from Bumgarner, Vogelsong and Peavy, the good starts guarantee just as little.

— Chris Heston was phenomenal, with a darting fastball, tight curveball and a devastating changeup he used almost as a secret weapon. But all the scouting reports in the world don’t equal real life experience, and Heston had unfamiliarity on his side. The scouting reports on Heston are going to get a lot more precise now that he’s a regular member of the rotation.

— Tim Hudson walked five and gave up five hits on Friday, but survived without allowing a run anyway. At times he brought to mind the same pitcher who made the All-Star team last year, but the Giants can’t expect consistency throughout 32 starts from a pitcher who made 457 of them before this season.

— Tim Lincecum looked really good on Saturday, and not just because he pitched seven shutout innings. Lincecum looks one of those guys who’s incapable of being even the slightest bit overweight, but he looked as physically stout yesterday as I can remember. Our worst memories of Lincecum over the past few years have come during road starts in humid cities, with the wispy hurler sweating buckets and looking exhausted by the end of the first inning. Maybe the prospect of a contract year and a tenuous spot in the rotation caused Lincecum to not just reconnect with his father, but change his workouts and lifestyle as well.

That being said, Lincecum looked dominant against the Padres, a team he could probably defeat throwing left-handed while mono-stricken. Still, it was a great first step.

***

We’re impatient — or at least I am, as I’d love to take what we saw this week and project what it means for the Giants, who started the year 3-4. All we can safely assume is that it’s going to be a struggle, and Bruce Bochy is going to have to finesse this rotation all season long. But we already knew that, right?

Extra BASGs

— Matt Cain is still available to pitch this season, which the Giants have to consider a victory after we heard about “forearm tightness” on Opening Day.

— Casey McGehee’s a Bay Area guy (I consider the Santa Cruz area as part of the greater Bay Area, because I never felt disconnected when I went to UCSC), so he’ll understand this advice.

He hella needs to chill out.

The poor guy crumbled out of the batter’s box on Saturday due to a bone bruise in his knee, an injury that apparently occurred on Opening Day. Maybe that’s why he’s been overanxious at the plate and jumpy in the field, but it sure seems like he was trying to replace Pablo Sandoval and earn a contract extension in the first week of the season. Once he relaxes — and why not, it’s not like Bruce Bochy is going to replace him with Joaquin Arias — he’ll get nightly praise from Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow and regular standing ovations in no time.

— Then there’s Nori Aoki, who might get a bobblehead day by June at this rate. (Might I recommend one with Aoki running through Roberto Kelly’s stop sign at third base?)

— Justin Maxwell made a fantastic catch against the right field wall during Sunday’s loss … with a guy that big and strong, you’re left to wonder why he was available.

— Buster Posey is 28, which means he’s ENTERING his prime as a hitter. It’s crazy to think about, since he won an MVP at age 25 and already has three World Series rings as the full-time catcher, but according to a Baseball Prospectus study in 2010, a hitter’s prime comes when he’s either 29 or 30 — 30.0 is the average age when on-base percentage skills are at their highest, with batting average peaking at 28.4 and slugging at 28.6.

What’s my point? Posey looks like he’s at the top of his game as a hitter, and it’s going to be very difficult for Bruce Bochy to take him out of the lineup … not like it’s ever easy.

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