Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The New New Kid

Madison Bumgarner got a beer shower in the Giants clubhouse last night, and if he licked his lips to taste the suds, he broke the law.

Bumgarner can't legally order a brew for a few more weeks, but his teammates doused him in celebration of his first major-league win. He threw 8 shutout innings in Milwaukee to precipitate the locker-room precipitation.

Three years ago, Bumgarner was mowing 'em down for South Caldwell High School in Madison, NC. Last September, the Giants gave him a taste of big-league life. Last month, they called him up and tossed him into a nationally-televised start against the big, bad Boston Red Sox.

After 5 starts in the majors, Bumgarner is sporting a 2.53 ERA, that one win, and a very bright future. He doesn't throw wicked-hard, but he's a big, sturdy kid with a ton of stuff and a commanding presence. If you close your eyes when he talks, you hear a little bit of Roger Craig, the former Giants manager. The Humm Baby was also from the Tarheel State and also a pretty fair pitcher.

Bumgarner's arsenal includes a nice little bit of below-the-radar reality. While he was a first-round draft choice (#10, in 2007), he wasn't Number One (see Strasburg, Stephen under the heading of "Pitchers Under a Microscope"). Heck, he's not even the most-scrutinized starter on a staff that includes Tim "The Freak" Lincecum and Barry "Big-Contract" Zito. Staying out of the headlines can be a nice way to build a big-league resume'.

Bumgarner's way-beyond-his-years presence on the mound gives the Giants a very solid starting rotation, three of whom are lefthanders and four of whom are 27 or under. Given the economics of baseball, a young starting pitcher is truly money in the bank (money that can be spent on offensive players). Even if he doesn't spark the Giants into a playoff run this year, he gives their fans hope for next year and beyond.

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