Madison Bumgarner is, against substantial evidence suggesting otherwise, a real human being. It’s easy to forget that when he’s doing superhuman things while comporting himself as some sort of sneering contemporary of Paul Bunyan.
After presumably spending his offseason chopping down redwood trees and pulling a stagecoach with his teeth, the Giants pitcher wasted no time adding to his legacy on Opening Day. He retired the first 15 Diamondbacks hitters, enough to make one Google the existence of a season-opening perfect game. He also blasted two no-doubt home runs himself.
For a time it looked like the quintessential Bumgarner game — dominating in all facets of the game like a oversized kid from a rival Little League. But, as with many folktales, the truth was somewhat more complicated than the obvious narrative. Bumgarner surrendered three runs in the sixth. The Giants retooled bullpen surrendered leads in the eighth and ninth innings, falling victim to the same problems that haunted them last year.
The solo blasts were the 15th and 16th of Bumgarner’s career. Simply put, when he makes contact, the ball goes far. Perhaps this is the year he’ll talk himself into the Home Run Derby. Major League Baseball would be well-served to trust him as a draw. He’s a fierce competitor and wouldn’t allow himself to embarrass himself or the game.
Bumgarner is now on pace to hit 65 homers this year, even if he only bats every fifth day. He’s on pace to hit 100-plus if Bruce Bochy gives him a few pinch-hit opportunities.
Nothing is more misleading than a post-Opening Day pace observation but the point is that Bumgarner is uniquely qualified to dig deep and create mythical moments. There is something so raw and powerful about his pitching and hitting that makes him seem like a character ripped from the pages of a book.
And perhaps that why the 65-homer idea doesn’t feel as ridiculous — because Bumgarner at times seems capable of anything. There’s precious few players who can capture the imagination in such a way.
It’s obviously ridiculous to compare him to Babe Ruth, but he’s the closest thing we’ve seen in a long time — and that’s good enough to conjure up a little magic.