This season was woefully unsatisfying. Not a lost season, or a bad season; some might say, in fact, that it was a great season for the Giants — they did, after all, finish in second place in their division. But it was an unsatisfying season nonetheless. The team set high expectations by winning the World Series in 2010, and they failed to live up to these expectations in 2011. A playoff berth, I figured, was all but guaranteed. I was wrong.
2011 was chock-full of silver linings, though. For one, Ryan Vogelsong‘s story was incredible. He was, in essence, the manifestation of that magnificent element of unpredictability that makes baseball what it is. Pablo Sandoval, at 25, put up a second all-star caliber season after losing a lot of weight in the offseason, and was ultimately the only thing that kept the Giants’ offense from completely collapsing. Matt Cain, who’s widely considered to be a model of consistency, showed exactly why that’s the case. And that’s just to name a few. Among the many silver linings was Madison Bumgarner, and that’s the one silver lining that was most satisfying for me.
I can’t fully explain my fascination with Bumgarner. At least not well. He comes off as calm, cool, and collected, but he also seems to have a lot of personality. Here’s 1000 words on the matter. Bumgarner the player — the on-the-field product — is of course equally (if not more) fascinating, and it’s because of one thing specifically…
Baseball is a game of numbers, and one significant — albeit oft-neglected — number is age. Age is of paramount importance in baseball. It is the rule: it dictates when a player is ready for the majors, how he progresses, when he peaks, and when his skill-set begins to fade. Take the respective cases of Melky Cabrera and Andres Torres. There’s a lot of hope that Cabrera can continue to be 2011 Melky Cabrera — that, given his age, he’s entering his prime. Torres, coming off an extremely disappointing season, has caused many to believe that his career has all but come to an end. He’s on the wrong side of 30, at an age when players typically get worse and worse. A resurgence, while possible, seems unlikely. In these cases, age paints the picture.
Bumgarner, at 22 years old, is way ahead of the curve. He’s an exception to the rule — a rare specimen of refined 22 year old talent. At the age of 21 this season, he finished fourth in the majors in FIP, which speaks volumes about his potential. I’m thus extremely excited about his future — and hopefully understandably so.
Today, Bumgarner received one Cy Young vote. One lone fifth-place vote. He was one of four San Francisco Giants to receive Cy Young consideration, along with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Ryan Vogelsong. Lincecum, Cain, and Vogelsong each had excellent seasons, and I’m quite happy to see them get Cy Young votes; but no vote brings me more joy than that one Bumgarner vote.
When I first sat down to write this article, this is what I came up with:
Madison Bumgarner is awesome!
That one sentence, in its entirety, constituted the previous three drafts of this piece — except I misspelled “is” the first two times. After giving it a lot of thought though, and refining it a bit, I’ve come to what I believe to be the ultimate conclusion regarding Madison Bumgarner:
Madison Bumgarner is REALLY awesome!
So here’s to Bernie Miklasz: for recognizing that fact; for bringing a little more satisfaction to an otherwise (mostly) unsatisfying year; and for pumping a little warmth into this frigid heart of mine. Ya done good, Bernie. Take a week off — you’ve earned it.