The San Francisco Giants have been known for pulling off some unconventional strategies concerning the batter’s box in the past, but their new pinch hitting strategy may be a new high point in terms of unexpectedness. Basically, San Francisco is relying on a very unexpected player — pitcher Madison Bumgarner, to be exact — to pinch hit and deliver the goods from behind the plate.
Are the Giants really that desperate? True, the official site of the San Francisco Giants admits, the team has a very short bench. But pitchers are notorious for being awful hitters, and Madison Bumgarner does not, on the surface, look to be an exception with his lifetime batting average of.183.
But San Francisco’s manager, Bruce Bochy, points out that Bumgarner has been tearing it up behind the plate for the past few years (by the standards of MLB pitchers), and he claims he would have no problem subbing Madison in for a worse-hitting pitcher if it came to that.
San Francisco’s Bochy recently recounted an incident where he realized Bumgarner could become one of San Francisco’s regular pinch hitters, highlighting both his own optimism about Madison Bumgarner’s hitting abilities and the Giants’ desperation for a deeper bench.
“[Bumgarner] came up and said, ‘Do you want me to get ready?’ I said, ‘Of course.’ He’s a guy that we would use. I think in his pinch-hits last year, he showed that he’s going to give you some good swings. Ideally, it doesn’t happen. I’d like to stay away from it. But we are a little shorthanded.”
Bochy is not lying about Bumgarner’s last few years being great ones in the batter’s box. In the 2014 and 2015 San Francisco seasons combined, Mad-Bum cracked a total of nine home runs and sported an average of.252. The numbers are not great as far as major league hitting in general goes, but they are phenomenal for a pitcher and equal the batting stats of a slightly below average-hitting position player.
“He’s a legit hitter,” continued Bochy.
“He’s not a pitcher I think you hit eighth. He could hit seventh.
Madison Bumgarner is truly a jack of all trades, with his remarkable offensive prowess only bolstering the tremendous pitching that has made him a core component of San Francisco’s dominant pitching rotation — during the 2015 season, he boasted a 2.93 ERA, a 1.008 WHIP, and 18 wins.
Deadspin commented on Bumgarner’s all-around excellence in an article published late in the Giants’ 2015 season.
“Madison Bumgarner is like that kid who is too good for Little League, the best pitcher on his team who also bats cleanup and plays shortstop when he’s not on the mound, and sulks every time his team loses,” they write.
“Except that Bumgarner isn’t beating all the 11-year-olds in Hickory, North Carolina anymore: he’s beating the best baseball players on earth.”
Another advantage of pinch hitting with Bumgarner is that San Francisco would not need to replace the pinch hitter with a pitcher during the next half inning. It seems like a flawless plan!
The only problem with San Francisco using Madison Bumgarner as a hitter, notes CBS, is that injury is a very real possibility for batters, especially when someone with a body as frail as a pitcher’s is at the plate. And Bumgarner, who is a key member of the Giants organization, cannot afford to be injured.
“The Giants can’t afford to lose their best pitcher,” writes San Francisco’s local branch of CBS.
“It’s great to see him hit, when he’s the starting pitcher, but I can’t help but feel that the reward is not worth the risk when he’s not.”
This is not the first time in history a major league pitcher has hit this well, but Bumgarner is definitely up the with the most offensively powerful pitchers ever and is certainly the best-hitting pitcher the San Francisco Giants have ever had the pleasure to employ.
The question is, will Bumgarner soon be appearing in more games than just the ones he starts?
[Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]