If the San Francisco Giants do make the 2010 postseason, it will be the result of an honest-to-baseball good team effort.
There have been (and will be) major and minor players in the drama, but the days of Barry Bonds clubbing the opposition into retreat with only minimal contribution from his lilliputian mates have been dead so long, there's almost nothing left to decompose. We're well into a new era of ball at AT&T Park and smacks of classical Marxism on cleats.
Of course, a pair of the Commies are probably too young to have any idea what that means.
The 23-year-old Buster Posey did go to college, so he might be familiar with Karl and his buddy Friedrich. But Madison Bumgarner is only 21 and his 22nd year of life still has that new-car smell so he'd probably be left scratching his head.
Hopefully, he'd use his right arm because the million-dollar left one needs all the rest it can get.
Bumgarner Keeps Going and Going
A couple weeks ago, a buddy of mine offered me "MadBum" for Tampa Bay Ray rockstar and fellow first-year player, Jeremy Hellickson, in our fantasy league. I didn't even hesitate before rejecting the suggestion for one simple reason—innings pitched.
In 2008, the smooth southpaw tossed 141 2/3 innings at Single-A. In 2009, he twirled 141 1/3 frames between High-A, Double-A (the vast majority), and the major-league squad (only 10).
So far in '10, Bumgarner has thrown 161 2/3 innings with 79 coming in the big leagues (including the six against the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday).
Now, perhaps I should have paused despite these details since a little research might've revealed that Hellickson was destined to return to the minor leagues for a transition to the bullpen, but I digress.
The point is that I wanted no part of the San Francisco prospect-turned-reality because the Bay Area has been awaiting the inevitable operation: Shutdown Madison for some time now. Failing a removal to the bullpen, then certainly a sixth-inning cap on the youngster's starts or some similar cautionary gesture.
Well, we're still waiting.
Conservation Has Been Key
The native North Carolinian keeps taking the ball every fifth day and he's showing no signs of relenting. His starts aren't always gems, but his body of work is pretty fantastic when you remember the backdrop is your MLB-average No. 5 starter.
Madison's authored the following line—5-4, a 3.76 ERA, a 1.39 WHIP, a .282 BAA, and a 2.45 K:BB in those 79 IP—all while toiling for a contender and too young to rent a car.
It's no wonder the Giants' brass wants him out there, yet the brain-trust isn't being reckless.
The lefty hasn't thrown over 100 pitches since July 24th against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He hit the 100 mark on August 9th and got close (97) about 10 days later, but he's been hooked before No. 95 in the five other starts since his "epic" in the desert.
"MadBum" has simply been able to be effective with those limited bullets. If he keeps it up, he'll be contributing straight through September, which is dumbfounding. In normal years, he'd be the talk of the city as well as baseball.
But not this year.
Posey's Hogging the Stage
If the pitching phenom is bummed out (I did) by the absence of limelight, he can blame Gerald Demp the Third.
It's almost impossible to overstate how much of a revelation the young catcher has been.
Los Gigantes and their faithful are familiar with blue-chip pitching prospects being the Real McCoy, but the sensation is totally foreign when it's a homegrown hitter. So you can forgive the region if it was a little skeptical in the face of Buster's legendary prowess with the lumber.
And you can forget that skepticism because the city is full of true-believers now.
A slash line of .330/.372/.505 with 10 HR, 52 RBI, and 40 R in 303 AB tends to have that persuasive effect on diamond diehards. All the more so when the statistical goodness comes wrapped in a clutch-hitting bow (that sentence was brought to you by his eighth-inning double on Tuesday that plated two much-needed insurance runs).
Yeah, it's safe to say Posey's offense is the genuine article.
But Wait, There's More
However, the biggest shocks have come while the former Florida State Seminole has been wearing the Tools of Ignorance.
Posey's hitting has been incredible, but it's also been a relief because it's come as a partial realization of expectation. Insane expectation, but still within contemplation.
Contrarily, nobody told us he was this good behind the dish. Or maybe someone did, but the comparable whisper was lost in the chorus of voices going wackadoo over Buster's bat.
Either way, the kid has done a good job with a brutal assignment in the Giants' starting rotation. There's nothing easy about handling guys like Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, and Bumgarner. Even Matt Cain and Barry Zito are no picnic given the heat the former brings and the different breaks the latter can put on that big Uncle Charlie.
As an added little treat, the catcher of the present and future has given the Giant faithful a new favorite thing—the perfect laser from behind the dish that snipes a would-be thief who's convinced the bag is already stolen.
I'm talking about Eric Young, Jr. on Monday at third base and Carlos Gonzalez on Tuesday at second.
You'll notice that both men can fly and trust me when I tell you each had an obscene jump on the attempt in question (or watch Young's for yourself). On both occasions, only an absolute cannon aimed with the aid of crosshairs would record an out and, on both occasions, that's precisely what Buster did.
A lot of attention has been thrown Jaime Garcia's way regarding the National League Rookie of the Year and for good reason; he's been excellent.
But Gerald Demp has been the best rookie and there's still time for the "experts" to realize it.
The Fat Lady Ain't Singin' Yet
With about 30 games left on the schedule, there's plenty of baseball left to be played.
The lads haven't won anything yet, but neither has anyone else. With the San Diego Padres suddenly throwing rods and belching smoke, it's possible even the NL West is still up for grabs.
In other words, the race for the postseason should be a burner.
That means—one way or another—Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey will continue their baptisms by fire; they'll continue to mature in the heat of the pennant race.
And that can only mean good things for the San Francisco Giants' horizon.