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Bumgarner gives opener equal treatment

March 30, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO -- As Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner sees it, he's perpetuating a dying art.Bumgarner wishes he were Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Ferguson Jenkins or anybody from that 1960s golden era of pitching when a starter took the ball at the beginning of the game and wasn't expected

SAN FRANCISCO -- As Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner sees it, he's perpetuating a dying art.
Bumgarner wishes he were Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Ferguson Jenkins or anybody from that 1960s golden era of pitching when a starter took the ball at the beginning of the game and wasn't expected to relinquish it until the final out.
Bumgarner also has little use for modern statisical tools that attempt to explain pitching, such as spin rate or BABIP. He figures that no number can calculate the depth of his passion or competitiveness. Measuring his drive for perfection is impossible.
Thus, Bumgarner approaches Sunday's Opening Day start against the D-backs at 1:10 p.m. PT with minimal fuss. He delivers the same extreme effort whenever he pitches. Most observers regard Opening Day as special; Bumgarner feels that way each time he takes the mound.

That, he senses, was the approach of his distinguished predecessors.
"I'm definitely more of an old-school guy. That's the way I like to play the game," Bumgarner said. "Everybody's got their own deal that they like. A lot of guys are buying into the new-age stuff. I'm more of an old-school guy. I'm glad that the Giants haven't completely bought into that, and they keep running the team I think the way it should be."
Bumgarner understands the hype surrounding Opening Day. He simply prefers to ignore it. This attitude partly explains why he was able to cope with the pressurized atmosphere of pitching five innings of relief in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series.
This will be Bumgarner's fourth consecutive Opening Day start. He's 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his previous three openers, two of which occurred at Chase Field -- the site of Sunday's lidlifter. He yielded four unearned runs in four innings and received a no-decision in a 9-8 Giants win on March 31, 2014. His next opener at Arizona was more typical: one run and six hits allowed in seven innings on April 6, 2015, as the Giants triumphed, 5-4.
"He doesn't let anything get too much or too big for him," former Giants teammate Jeremy Affeldt said. "Something about him enables him to stay super calm."
No wonder Bumgarner owns a 52-37 career road record, including going 6-2 with a 2.80 ERA in 14 starts at Chase Field. This, too, he waves off.
"I try not to get into that, where I'm liking to pitch somewhere and not liking to pitch somewhere. I try to keep it all the same," said Bumgarner, 27. "I don't know what my numbers are at a lot of places. It keeps you from dreading it when you go in there. I'm sure there are places that I like to pitch at where my numbers probably aren't that good."
Bumgarner's numbers are almost universally good. He's coming off a 2016 season in which he struck out 251 batters, the most by a left-handed pitcher in franchise history. He thus became the fifth Giants pitcher to strike out at least 200 batters in three consecutive seasons. The others are Hall of Famers Marichal, Christy Mathewson, Amos Rusie and two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Timothy Lincecum. Last season, Bumgarner also finished 15-9 despite weathering eight games in which Giants relievers squandered a lead that he bequeathed to them.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.