Baseball Thoughts, April 8

Madison Bumgarner pitches today against the San Diego Padres which also means that Madison Bumgarner hits today against the San Diego Padres.There is a group of us -- I call the group "Baseball fans" -- who can't get enough of watching pitchers who can hit the long ball.

Statcast™ lists the five hardest hit batted balls by pitchers since 2015:

1. Madison Bumgarner, 112.5 mph (Opening Day), home run

2. Madison Bumgarner: 112.1 mph (Opening Day), home run.

3. Madison Bumgarner, 111.0 mph (2015), home run

4. Madison Bumgarner, 110.7 mph (2015), lineout.

5. Noah Snydergaard, 110.3 mph (Opening Day), single.

Nobody I know thinks that Bumgarner could make the Babe Ruth move and become a dominant every day hitter. And certainly nobody thinks the Giants would ever consider such a thing. I suspect Maddy will get a chance to DH some in Interleague Play, which is fun, but that's the extent of it.

But here's the question: HOW GOOD would Madison Bumgarner have to be as a hitter for the Giants to make him an everyday hitter? This is still the part of the Babe Ruth story that blows my mind. Look:

Bumgarner entering this year: 100-67, 1,397 innings, 2.99 ERA, 123 ERA+.

Ruth in Boston: 89-47, 1,190 innings, 2.19 ERA, 125 ERA+.

They were essentially the same pitcher, in context. They were obviously very different, you know, because of the differences in their times. Bumgarner strikes out way more batters. Ruth gave up nine home runs in almost 1,200 innings (NINE!). Etc. But they were both big lefties who dominated and were, by the way, ridiculously good in the postseason.

Ruth was definitely a better hitter than Bumgarner, even in context, but that's the point. What would Bumgarner have to do to basically force the Giants to hit him every day? If Bumgarner hit .325 and continued to hit with power -- the way Ruth did in 1917 -- would the Giants even CONSIDER moving him off the mound? What if he led the league in slugging the way Ruth did in 1918 (though by then Ruth was already splitting time more or less 50-50)?

Just fun to think about. I suspect that Bumgarner has just run into a few balls -- no one questions his power -- but realistically he's not a better hitter than any number of Class AA and AAA sluggers who can absolutely mash the ball but do not make enough contact to be every day Major League hitters. But maybe I'm wrong. And for now, every Bumgarner at-bat is pretty much must-see television.

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Polls!

In yesterday's Twitter poll, 49% of you said that the Los Angeles Angels should go back to being the California Angels. Another 35% said "Are you kidding? YES!" the Angels should go back being the California Angels.

Only 13% said they should not go back -- I suspect almost all of these want them to go back to being the Anaheim Angels.

Three percent said going back to the California Angels was the Worst Idea Ever, which is amazing in a world that gave us the WaxVac.

Twitter Poll of the day:

https://twitter.com/JPosnanski/status/850551021717925889

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Random baseball history for April 8:

I randomly chose the Boston Red Sox and randomly chose the year 1972. On this day in 1972 ... the Red Sox didn't play. It's easy to forget that teams started their seasons much later forty years ago and beyond.

So I rechose 1983. On this day in 1983, the Red Sox beat Texas 8-5 to take a share of first place (after three games). The two hitting stars were a 25-year-old kid named Wade Boggs, who went three for five with a couple of doubles (in the leadoff spot! Give it up to Red Sox manager Ralph Houk for putting the slow but brilliant Boggs in the leadoff spot).

The other hitting star was Dave Stapleton, who cracked four hits. There's a great irony to Dave Stapleton's career. He is generally remembered, if remembered at all, as the defensive replacement the Red Sox did not use in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. But Stapleton really came on the scene as a good right-handed hitter -- he hit .321 in 106 games his rookie season and finished second to Super Joe Charboneau in the Rookie of the Year balloting.*

*As a Cleveland fan, it did not occur to me that ANYONE could beat out Super Joe for Rookie of the Year that year, but looking back you could argue that Stapleton had a better year (and it's almost inarguable that Britt Burns, who went pitched 238 innings, went 15-13 with a 2.84 ERA was better).

Stapleton then had a decent offensive year for the Red Sox in the strike season of 1981 -- he didn't walk but he hit for average with some extra base power -- and then he became the Red Sox everyday first baseman for reasons that remain unclear.

"Did you realize," Bill James wrote in the 1984 Baseball Abstract, "that if you graph Dave Stapleton's career you get a drawing of a ski slope? When the Red Sox got off to a hot start in 1982, Stapleton got a lot of credit for it; everybody said that he had moved over the whole infield. They've been cold for a year and four months now, and Stapleton's still in there. Give me Willie Aikens, any day."

Stapleton stuck around as sort of a handyman for a few years after Boston got Bill Buckner ... and to the best of my knowedge he, at no point, distinguished himself as some sort of defensive wizard at first base. He was just a versatile guy. It is true that McNamara had been using him as a defensive replacement in the postseason (including in Games 1, 2 and 5 of that World Series). McNamara's decision to not use Stapleton in that game remains bizarre and unclear and has left the impression that Stapleton was basically Wes Parker out there. I don't think that's right. He was 32 years old already and, after that World Series, he did not play another game in the Major Leagues.

No, not Wes Parker. There was a time, though, when Stapleton could hit a bit.