You’ve heard of Orange Fridays, right San Francisco Giants fans?
Well, April 21, 2017 was Black Friday for the Giants.
First came news that – actually when I saw the first tweet about this I thought it was a joke, a bad, bad joke – that Madison Bumgarner would be placed on the disabled list with sprained pitching shoulder and bruised ribs sustained in a dirt-bike accident during the Giants off day Thursday in Denver.
Then, on Friday night, when Giants fans needed a glimmer of hope to raise their spirits, the Giants lost in particularly painful fashion to the Colorado Rockies.
It started with the Giants’ team bus backing into a parked car on the way to Coors Field.
First the Giants teased their fans by taking a 3-0 lead in the second inning thanks to contributions from players who hadn’t contributed much of anything over the last week (or three weeks) – Eduardo Nunez, Chris Marrero and Denard Span.
But that all unraveled in the fourth inning when the Rockies became the first National League time in 67 years to hit a grand slam and an inside-the-park home run in the same inning. And just to make matters more painful, in 29 other big-league parks, both home runs likely would have landed in the glove of Hunter Pence.
The first was Trevor Story’s grand slam to right, which off the bat looked like a routine fly ball to right. But it kept carrying to the short porch to right – a lot like Miguel Cabrera’s home run in the 2012 World Series – for a grand slam. It was the first grand slam that Johnny Cueto has allowed in his career.
Later in the inning, Charlie Blackmon hit a line to Pence in right. Pence, fighting the lights the entire way, slipped on the soggy turf and the ball shot past him for a two-run inside-the-parker. To make matters even more fun, Pence said his knee was “a little twisted” on the play. Pence was out of the lineup Saturday.
But the fun didn’t end there. The Giants were in position to tie the game in the eighth with two on and nobody out. Bruce Bochy pulled back Conor Gillaspie as the pinch hitter and sent up Gorkys Hernandez with his .067 batting average (0-for-23 since the 2nd day of the season) to bunt.
Hernandez took two balls, tried to take a third but couldn’t get out of the way and the high-and-tight pitch went off his bat for a foul ball. Then with a 2-1 count, he TOOK a strike instead of bunting, then flied to right. The Giants didn’t score.
And it does not stop there. Melvin Upton Jr., signed to a minor-league deal to add depth to the Giants’ suffering outfield, was hit on the hand with a pitch at extended spring training. He’ll be out eight weeks after having surgery.
It all left Giants fans asking one question: Now what?
And by “now what” they meant what will the Giants do without their best pitcher for two months.
Two months. That’s estimated time Bumgarner will be out, according to a couple of national baseball writers.
But Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle says such estimates are pure projections until Bumgarner is seen by the team doctor. That won’t happen until next week.
In the short term, the Giants called up Chris Stratton from Triple-A Sacramento fill Bumgarner’s spot on the roster. Stratton will be used in relief, likely just long relief as he has been starting for the RiverCats.
Ty Blach will take Bumgarner’s spot in the rotation on Tuesday against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers.
For anyone looking for a ray of sunshine, the last time Blach and Kershaw went head-to-head on Oct. 1 of last season, Blach held the Dodgers to no runs on three hits over eight innings as the Giants won 3-0.
Blach has been pitching out of the bullpen this season, allowing three runs (all earned) on two hits and three walks over 5.2 innings. However, three runs, two hits and two walks came in one outing in Arizona. Take that out,and Blach has thrown 4.2 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and one walk.
But replacing Bumgarner isn’t about replacing him strikeout for strikeout, earned run for earned run.
It’s about giving the Giants the chance to win.
As I mentioned, tongue in cheek, in a tweet: “Just remember that without Bumgarner, the Giants would be 6-10 right now.”
That’s because that Giants are 0-4 in Bumgarner starts this season — not that any of that was Bumgarner’s fault.
But last season, the Giants were 20-14 in Bumgarner’s start, which is on par for most seasons. They were 19-13 in his starts in 2015 and 2012, 20-13 in 2014 and 11-7 in 2010.
So 20-14 is a .588 winning percentage. Now if Bumgarner misses two months, that would be about 12 starts.
To maintain a .588 winning percentage over those 12 starts, the Giants would need to 7-5 in the starts that Blach (or potentially Tyler Beede) makes during Bumgarner’s turn in the rotation.
That doesn’t seem unattainable.
Baseball is a team sport. And when one players goes down, it’s up to the team to pick up the slack.
If the Giants could stay in the playoff hunt well into September without Buster Posey in 2011, they could certainly stay in the mix until late June without Bumgarner.
But they need contributions from up and down the roster. That includes the five players who were projected to make up the Giants’ bench when the season started – Nick Hundley, Aaron Hill, Conor Gillaspie, Chris Marrero and Gorkys Hernandez.
Right now, only Hundley (.257) is holding up his end of the bargain. The other four have combined to hit .126.