Greinke is coming off of a disappointing 2016 showing, his first season with the D-Backs. He surrendered a run in the second inning on a Joe Panik sacrifice fly, bringing Bumgarner to the plate. Bumgarner, of course, is almost as well-known for his hitting as his pitching. He has 14 career home runs, all of them coming since 2012. The only pitchers that even come close to that are Travis Wood (seven) and Mike Leake (six).
Understandably, Greinke pitched Bumgarner carefully. He got ahead in the count after Bumgarner fouled off a first-pitch fastball. He then threw a slider outside, which set Twitter abuzz. Pitchers typically just pump fastballs against other pitchers. And even good-hitting pitchers are usually the worst hitters in their lineups. Greinke continued to tiptoe around Bumgarner, eventually walking him on seven pitches. The big question, then, is: was Greinke right to fear Bumgarner that much?
Since 2014, Bumgarner has out-homered seven of his position player teammates (min. 250 plate appearances), including Gregor Blanco who came to the plate a whopping 1,090 times. Only one of those seven players is still on the team: Denard Span (11 HR in 637 PA), who was in Sunday’s Opening Day lineup.
Bumgarner has had 12 position player teammates put up a lower slugging percentage since 2014. Three of them are current teammates and in Sunday’s lineup: Brandon Crawford (.427), Joe Panik (.403), and Span (.381).
Bumgarner has had 16 position player teammates since 2014 put up a lower isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average), which is arguably a better statistic to use to determine a player’s power. Those include Crawford (.167), Panik (.123), and Span (.115) as well as Buster Posey (.159) in Sunday’s lineup.
No, Bumgarner shouldn’t be batting cleanup in the Giants’ lineup, but he is rarely the least-threatening bat in the lineup, at least when it comes to power.
As if on a karmic quest, Bumgarner drilled a solo home run off of Greinke in the fifth inning, doubling the Giants’ lead to 2-0. It went 416 feet and was measured at 112.5 MPH off the bat, the hardest-hit home run by a pitcher in the Statcast era.
Bumgarner is rightfully respected when he steps into the batter’s box. By the way, after his first two plate appearances on Sunday, Bumgarner is up to 15 career home runs. Since the start of the 2014 season, he’s now hitting .230/.281/.443 (.724 OPS) with a .213 ISO. That’s decent, even by position player standards. The major league average OPS last season was .734.
Update (6:14 PM ET): Bumgarner clobbered another homer, this time off of Andrew Chafin, in the top of the seventh inning. Updated stats: 16 career homers. Hitting .234/.281/.459 (.740 OPS) with a .225 ISO since the start of the 2014 season.