The San Francisco Giants first regular season series in the books, with the Arizona Diamondbacks taking three of four to open up 2017 with a series win. For the D-backs, it was a very encouraging start to a campaign that they hope is all about turning heads. From the Giants perspective, however, things did not go quite according to plan.
In many respects, this four-game set was a microcosm of the team’s storylines from last season. From sporadic offense, to world-class defense, to bullpen disasters, to ‘Madbum’ magic, the past four games had a little bit of everything that we have come to know and love (or hate) about Giants baseball. In the end, there was more bad than good on the San Francisco side, which led to them dropping their first season-opening series in five years.
Key Takeaways from the San Francisco Giants Opening Series
Although a 1-3 start certainly isn’t the most ideal way to kick off the regular season, results at this point aren’t the be-all and end-all. What’s more important is the information that can be drawn from the first glimpse of the 2017 Giants in a meaningful regular season setting. Here are three key takeaways from the first four games:
Madison Bumgarner is Not Human
On Opening Day, Madison Bumgarner was nothing short of super human. Sure, he took a perfect game into the sixth inning which is impressive enough on its own, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary for one of the game’s elite aces. What makes Bumgarner truly remarkable is his bat, which was on full display in game one on Sunday. With his two home runs at the dish, Bumgarner became the first pitcher ever to hit multiple long balls on Opening Day.
He’s paid to pitch, not to hit, but you wouldn’t know it when you come to the ballpark on Bumgarner’s turn in the rotation. Bumgarner may already be the best pitcher in MLB postseason history, and apparently he is gunning to become baseball’s best power-hitting pitcher as well. With 16 career round trippers to his name, he needs 22 more to surpass Wes Ferrell for most all-time. It doesn’t appear likely, but then again, nothing is out of the realm of possibility with this man. Still want the DH in the National League?
The Bullpen Validated All Preseason Concerns
Unfortunately, Bumgarner’s masterful Opening Day performance outlined above was overshadowed by an occurrence that has become all too familiar for Giants fans: a blown save. Or, rather, two of them in the same game. One in the eighth, one in the ninth, and the latter of which being charged to the man who was brought in precisely to put an end to the Giants ninth inning madness in Mark Melancon.
Needless to say, watching the Giants implode in the bottom of the ninth on Opening Day – the first meaningful game since having their season ended in the same fashion six months ago – was a painful sight to say the least. But despite Melancon’s poor showing in his Giants debut, one has to believe that the veteran right-hander will bounce back and settle in with his new club over the next few weeks. The bigger concern is with the bridge from the starters to Melancon.
Derek Law, Ty Blach and Neil Ramirez all surrendered earned runs in the series, while Cory Gearrin allowed two hits and three walks in an inning and a third. The Giants did receive decent outings from George Kontos and Hunter Strickland, but with Will Smith’s season-ending injury compounding matters further, the Giants bullpen is extremely thin with minimal confidence.
We knew the bullpen was a major question mark coming into the season, and the past four games only reinforced that sentiment. But ultimately, one of two things are going to happen. The likes of Law, Gearrin and Strickland are either going to step up, do their jobs, and perform to the standards that the Giants have come to expect of their relievers, or they will continue to struggle and hold back what is otherwise a World Series caliber ballclub from reaching it’s potential. We’re going to find out which it is sooner rather than later.
The Value of Eduardo Nunez
If there was one bright spot for the Giants in the desert outside of Bumgarner, it was the play of Eduardo Nunez. More specifically, the speedy Nunez showcased just how valuable he can be to a Giants order bereft of base-stealers. Over the off-season, the Giants front office stated a desire to become more aggressive running the bases, and the first four games proved they actually meant it. Therefore, it came as no surprise to see Nunez front and center in the execution of that strategy.
New third base coach Phil Nevin was aggressive sending runners, including the play in game two of the series where Nunez scored from second on an infield hit. On the other side of the diamond, Nunez received the green light from Jose Alguacil and didn’t disappoint, stealing three bags in three attempts while reaching base eight times in 17 plate appearances. Those numbers obviously aren’t sustainable for an entire season, but they illustrate the immense impact Nunez has the potential to make. If he can continue to get on base at an efficient clip, Nunez’s elite speed will be an invaluable weapon for Bruce Bochy to utilize in the Giants attack.