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Is Madison Bumgarner overrated as a hitter?

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The Giants opened up the regular season in Arizona against the Diamondbacks on Sunday afternoon. It featured what is still considered a marquee pitching match-up, Madison Bumgarner and Zack Greinke.

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.

Scott Boras: Astros players don’t need to apologize

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Ken Rosenthal spoke to Scott Boras about the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. Boras’ take: the Astros need not apologize for what they did. They were mere babes in the woods who were ignorant of everything. I wish I was making this up. Scotty Baby:

“I’m doing what my organization is telling me to do,” Boras said on Wednesday, describing the hypothetical mindset of a player. “You installed this. You put this in front of us. Coaches and managers encourage you to use the information. It is not coming from the player individually. It is coming from the team. In my stadium. Installed. With authority.”

The analogy Boras used was the speed limit.

A man driving 55 mph in a 35-mph zone only believes he is speeding if the limit is clearly posted. Likewise, Boras said Astros’ players who committed infractions only should apologize if they were properly informed of their boundaries.

It’s worth noting two things at this juncture: (1) Scott Boras represents José Altuve and Lance McCullers; and (2) He’s 100% full of crap here. Indeed, the contortions Astros players and their surrogates are putting themselves through to avoid accountability is embarrassing.

The players knew what they were doing.  Please do not insult me by saying they didn’t. Boras is doing what he thinks he needs to do to protect his guys. I get it, that’s his job. His client Altuve in particular stepped on it last weekend when he and other Astros players tried to play the “we’re going to overcome this adversity/no one believed in us” card which played terribly, and the super agent is trying to clean up the mess as best he can. Hat tip to him for his hustle, which he has never not shown. Guy’s a pro.

But he can only do so much because this all remains on the Astros’ players. Yes, the formal punishment is on the manager, the general manager and the club, and I agree that it had to be given all of the complications of the situation, but now that that’s over, it’s time for some honest accountability. And we’re getting zero of it.

Which is insane because the players were given immunity. They’re 100% in the clear. That they cheated has angered a lot of people, but it does not make them irredeemable. As I have noted here many times, lots of others did too. But their lack of accountability over the past couple of weeks speaks very, very poorly of them.

“We crossed a line. No question. We’re sorry. We don’t think it caused us to win anything we didn’t earn, but we see how we created that perception ourselves through our own actions. We shouldn’t have done that. Going forward we’re going to be better. Again, we’re sorry.”

That’s about all it’d take and it’d be done. It’d be pretty easy to say, if for no other reason than because that’s probably what’s gone through their minds anyway. They’re not bad people.

But they’re also observers of America in 2020 and, I suspect, everything they’ve seen, consciously or unconsciously, has counseled against them saying those very simple words or something like them.

Everything that’s going on in America right now — politics especially — tells people that the path to success is to cheat, steal and lie in order to benefit themselves and themselves only. It’s also telling them that, if they get caught, they should lie and deny too. It works. The media, for the most part, will not call anyone of status out on a lie, even if the lie is ridiculous. At most it will repeat the denial like a stenographer reading back from a transcript fearing that to do any more would be to — gasp! — reveal an opinion. “Shlabotnik says that he was cloned by Tralfamadorians and it was his clone, not him, who stole the signs.” Heaven forbid someone add the word “falsely” in there. They won’t because if they do they’re going to be accused of being “biased” or “political” or whatever.

If you see that — and we all see it — why wouldn’t you be predisposed to avoid apologizing for anything? Why wouldn’t you try to offer some canned, facially neutral talking points and hope that everyone is satisfied that you’ve spoken? Why wouldn’t you, having done that for a few weeks, begin to believe that, actually, you’re right not do say anything more. And  that, maybe, you were never in the wrong at all? That’s were we are as a country now, that’s for sure. And given that sports reflects society, it should not be at all surprising that that attitude has infected sports as well.

Astros owner Jim Crane tells Rosenthal that there could be an apology in spring training. “Quite frankly, we’ll apologize for what happened, ask forgiveness and move forward,” Crane said.

One thing I’ve learned in life is that when someone says “quite frankly,” what follows is going to be insincere most of the time. Another thing I’ve learned is that, in comments such as Crane’s, the emphasis is strongly on the “move forward” part of things. He wants an apology to put an end to a bad news cycle. When it comes, it will be P.R.-vetted and couched in the most sterile and corporate language imaginable. It will be anything but sincere.

In the meantime, the rest of the Astros don’t seem to want to offer an apology at all. Why should they? What’s making them?