Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Madison's Missing MPH Mystery Solved

Praise be to Andy Baggarly!  Today he wrote about Madison Bumgarner's struggles and missing velocity, which has mystified Giants fans (and prospect hounds) since spring training started and it was ultimately simple and a series of things:  a busy off-season and poor mechanics that resulted as a consequence.  Read here.

Giants Thoughts

Basically, he spent the off-season more on personal stuff, like getting married (and being married), and thus was unprepared for spring training.  That snowballed into his inability to get his mechanics into shape, which is apparently a hard to achieve thing because of his cross body throwing.  And thus he has had a very poor spring for anyone, let alone one of the top pitching prospects in the minors.  Sabean feels that Bumgarner is essentially in spring training mode still, figuring out things.

It took Tidrow going down, after two horrible starts by Bumgarner in AAA, and straightening out the mechanics, and Bumgarner in his last start was consistently in the low 90's and topped out at 93 when all spring long he was only mustering up high 80's stuff.  That led to him not getting hit around, so he went 6 IP, gave up 4 hits, 2 runs, 1 earned.  Still only 3 strikeouts but only 1 walk, so that would have been a 4 PQS start, a DOM start.

Tidrow is a god!

I thought about why it took the Giants so long to take action and to fix things up.  It makes sense to let him do things on his own.  He's not a child, and you can't watch over everything he does and control his off-season.  He's now a married man, with responsibilities beyond baseball.

I see this as a learning lesson for him on how to better prepare himself in future off-seasons.  In addition, if he was building up any ego over the past two years, this experience should humble him a bit ( a lot) plus make him appreciate all that the Giants can do for him.  This is all part of the journey to where he could learn to be consistently good all the time, and how to prepare himself for that.  The struggling was necessary for that journey, to gain some insight into oneself, to grow up.

And not a moment too soon.  The shiny gloss that Wellemeyer had during spring training is now dulled by the poor results this season.  Admittedly, it is just two starts, and he actually did well for 6 innings against Houston before imploding in the 7th.  Still, that's part of the job, to go longer when the bullpen is cleared out the day before.  San Diego will not be a great test for him, plus the game is in Petco, a known and strong pitcher's park. 

His next start against the Phillies would be a better gauge of where he is.  It would be his fourth start, so the small sampling issue will fade.  The Phillies are a great hitting team.  Still, they are probably the other extreme, they are one of the best offensive teams, if not the best in the NL. 

I think we need to get deep into May before we have a good hand on where he is.   His following starts would be Florida on the road, New York on the road, Houston at home, Arizona on road, Washington at home, and Colorado at home.  Florida and New York would be good tests.  Houston (though Berkman could be back by now) and Arizona not as much, nor, probably Washington.  And Colorado at home would be good. 

So we should have a good view of his current talent set by mid-May after Florida and NY on the road, but a pretty good view by the end of May.  By then, Bumgarner should be out of spring training mode and performing closer to what we have been used to the prior two seasons.  The decision on Wellemeyer vs. Bumgarner can be tackled in mid-to-late May as to what is better for the team.

I am hoping that Wellemeyer does well, both because that is good for the team overall and because then he would be much more valuable in a mid-season trade, should Bumgarner be ready for his close-up. 

It is good also because I think Bumgarner needs the additional time in Fresno.  Clearly, he is not as mature as one needs to be in order to be a MLB starter.  The Giants making him the #5 starter early in the off-season was a head-scratcher when that first came out, but now it looks like the Giants were testing him, to see if he has what it got to focus on the goal, particularly since they probably knew that he was getting married too and would be pre-occupied.  They wanted to see if he could rise to the opportunity.  Obviously, he didn't pass that test but hopefully has learned some lessons.

People also forget (and I count myself among them) that Bumgarner is still only 20 years old.  He is still learning things and immature in many ways, like we all were when we were 20 years old.  And as last season showed, his stamina is not up to MLB standards yet, he was already starting to tire mid-season, when his dead arm (that Krukow said is normal for young guys in their second year in pro ball) cropped up.  He could have more development necessary to stretch out his arm more.

There will be some key factors on when Bumgarner should come up.  Obviously, first off, he has to be doing well, going forward.   Beyond that, the team should be monitoring his velocity and making sure that he is not losing velocity again. 

If Wellemeyer continues to struggle and a move needs to be made, as I think about that, the more I think the better move would be to bring up Kevin Pucetas so that we may have the opportunity to evaluate how he does as a major league starter.  That would effectively be his audition and if he does well enough, he could become a trading chip, and if he pitches really well, we could ride him to the end of the season, and wait for 2011 to give Bumgarner a chance to be the fifth starter.

It all depends on need, but if we can get by without Bumgarner as the fifth starter, I would rather we bring him up in late August into the bullpen.  Our bullpen should be starting to drag by then, and a fresh young arm would help energize it.  In addition, he's a heck of a pitcher when he is on, so he would help to secure more leads and convert them into wins.  He could be like our K-Rod that the Angels had in the 2002 playoffs, the wild card unknown who could dazzle the hitters into submission, as needed.

That is basically what I want to do with Buster Posey too, bring him up near the end so that he's a fresh young great hitter who we have coming off the bench.  I drool over the advantage that would give us over other clubs in the playoffs.  In addition, he would be perfect should we reach the World Series, as he could then be our DH for most games, and jump in and start at catcher, allowing Molina a rest to keep his bat rested and ready to hit by DHing.  (FYI, Sabean in a recent interview noted that money and service time will not be factors in when to bring up Posey, that it has never been a factor, his coming up will be a baseball decision). 

Both their times will come eventually, but if things work out right, we can have them both on our bench ready to contribute in significant roles during the pennant race and then the playoffs should we make it in.  Either way, they look like, with another season under their belt, they will be ready to take starting roles for us in 2011.

People say that Sabean sucks, but you need to see the big picture of where the team is evolving.  Creating a winning team is very rarely a revolutionary change to suddenly you are a winner when you were losing big time before (and FYI, Sabean was one of the few to do such a thing), it is usually an evolution as prospects, who mature at varying rates, join the team and start to produce.  Once you get a critical mass, like we did last season, then you can start looking forward to competing for the division title, and then the following year, you add other pieces to fill gaps and hopefully seal the deal that year or the following year after that. 

This requires patience, which is very lacking into today's 24x7 world of instant gratification and ADD epidemic.  Rebuilding takes time.  Time for the good prospects you now have access to because you are drafting in the first third of the first round (where the odds are 20-45% of finding a good player) instead of the last third of the first round (around 11%) to develop (typically need 2-4 years to develop into MLB players, then additional years sometime to develop into good players).   Time for your international free agents to mature and develop.  Time for the right free agents to pop up to fill your gaps (and sometimes they never show up, so you need to trade for them). 

And meanwhile, your current 25 man roster is aging too, so you can't be overly patient either.  You need to find that balance, as we all need to do in life, no matter what we do or who we are.


  1. Thank you obsessivegiantscompulsive. I enjoy your insight and in this case, breaking news! I'm glad to see someone not saying the same ol' same ol' Keep up the good work.

  2. I have to say that this could not have come soon enough. This is a much better explanation then that he was hurt but couldn't find it ala Noah Lowry.

    I am relieved that this was a much stronger start the. The previous ones hopefully this continues and builds and I can back away from the ledge.

  3. Thanks for the link to the article OGC. The only thing I don't understand is if he wasn't throwing downhill and that was his mechanical flaw then why couldn't rags have helped him with that in spring training? It seems like he shouldn't have needed Tidrow to go to Fresno and figure him out when he was with the big league team during spring training.

  4. Thanks for the comments.

    Ben, very good point, one would think that Rags would be able to diagnose something like that, I don't know why he wasn't able to do that.

    I can only guess that he is not familiar enough with Bumgarner's mechanics and with a cross body throw - which most people advise against because it is suppose to be hard on the body, and thus he don't see it often.

    Still, with Bumgarner so valuable a prospect, if I were the owner, I would have assigned someone to know how Bumgarner looks like when he is going good and when he is going bad and be able to diagnose his problem quickly in spring so that we would not have to go through all this.

    Hopefully Bumgarner hasn't hurt himself trying to fix himself all this time.

  5. I think Sabean's record speaks for itself......17 years and not one championship despite having one of the best players in the game. That's premium suckage.

  6. Actually, that's 14 years Sabean has been GM of the Giants.

    If you can't appreciate what Sabean has done rebuilding, Boof, you should not read here because I'm going to be praising him for a while.

    That's three premium ace quality starting pitchers plus a premium closer and premium set-up men, plus a premium 3B and it looks to be a premium catcher. We're almost there.

    And if Bumgarner regains his velocity, that would make four.

    I would also note that your record speaks for itself, at least this season. You come out when things are bad and grouse, yet what you wrote here you could have written at any point during the period when the Giants were going good.

    I'll make the point that when the team don't have the greatest hitters around, when you take out two key cogs of the offense, it is going to hurt and you will have games like the last two days where the pitchers pitch their hearts out only to not only not get the win, but sometimes be saddled with the loss, as poor Sanchez was even with his one-hitter.

    Still, I think the Giants are in good shape to contend this season and, as with any other team in any other season, if they can stay relatively healthy, they can win the division title, which their early season success showed that they can do with their lineup and their pitching and fielding.

    These losses hurt, but I still feel good about our chances to win and to win the division title. I don't need a stretch of wins to say that.

    The key is to stay in the pack for the first 2-4 months, at which point when we bring up Posey and/or Bumgarner, that should give us enough of a push and energy to put us up top.

    I am liking what I am hearing about the Giants clubhouse this season. There is a lot of camaraderie to go with the chemistry that I hear a lot of on the radio. Huff is a pretty laid-back guy, fun-loving, and I think that will help loosen up guys. DeRosa on the other hand, reminds of a bit of a nicer Jeff Kent, a red-ass who is very competitive and wants to win badly. That plus Uribe and Zito, plus, of course, the lead Giants guys, Lincecum, Cain, and Sandoval, makes for a pretty loose fun-loving team that is likewise pretty hard-core competitive.

    I think the Giants are in great shape for the next 5-7 years. I was encouraged to read in this year's media guide that Sandoval, a natural lefty, learned to throw right-handed so that he could play catcher, in order to be one of the leaders of the team. I think he'll be part of the future leadership on the team.

    Cainer is the image of hard-core competitive.

    While Lincecum's laid-back, so what attitude is backed by a guy who has a huge chip on his shoulder, competitive to the core, and whose career is one big middle finger to every person who has ever doubted his abilities.

    I also think Posey will also be part of the future leadership as well, once he comes in and gets acclimated and integrated into the team.

    The Giants look to be in good shape for the future, that is all I'm worried about, sure Sabean has not won it all, but I have not let that bias me about how the Giants have been shaping up the past few years, all I have focused on are these: is the team headed in the right direction? Do I think the team look to be able to eventually win it all? Do we have the right pieces? I think we do and that is why I have supported Sabean both times he got 2 year extensions in recent years. And if we keep on progressing, I'll be there supporting him for another 2 year extension.

  7. Comparing DeRosa to Kent is almost like comparing Obama to Bush. DeRosa is a very smart guy. Kent on the other hand may be the betterballplayer. Note when Bush, vs Obama toss out the first pitch of an opening game. Bush played some baseball. Obama is a basketball player. The giants may have 4 or 5 guys in the minors that may be able to pitch similarly or better than Wellenmeyer. Pucetas, Martinez, Bumgarner (soon), Hacker, and Sosa. To nambe a few.

  8. One more comment. It seems to me that it is better to fix this kind of problem as soon as possible. Firstly because of muscle memory and we do not want his central nervous system to get used to throwing the ball poorly. Secondly, an off kilter delivery could be more likely to lead to injury. So it behooves the giants to try to fix problems like this ASAP, and not to let them linger and have the 20 year old kid try to figure out what is wrong, as he ends up hurting himself.

  9. Yeah, good post - even better in the "posts". I like the clubhouse situation too, there was the spectre of Bonds, then will they lose 100 games, now it seems the ballclub is a ballclub. Being loose will benefit everyone.

    I also agree with the Wellemeyer/Pucetas thought. Of course Wellemeyer is not as bad as he's shown, so we're due some more realistic average outings. If not, if one still assumes that MadBum has the (eventual) 5th spot to lose, if Wellemeyer isn't cutting it, Pucetas should get a shot. Because it's more likely than not that this will be his only shot. The Giants need to know if he's a trade chip/bullpen guy/fifth starter or what. And if the Giants have an embarrassment of riches, other teams need to see that.

    Yes, a little disturbing that Righetti didn't notice Bumgarner's mechanics, but then again... maybe he did. There's been an awful lot of guys who cruised to the majors and then never did much - and exactly, this is a 20 year old kid who is used to blowing everybody away since he was probably 10 years old. Nobody (nobody) succeeds longterm on pure raw ability - it takes both mental and physical work. Better to learn it now when it's a maybe the team will/maybe the team won't kind of season.



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