Bumgarner the Hitter

Madison Bumgarner is pulling off a feat that was more common towards the beginning of the live ball era: dominance on both sides of the plate. His batting line of .255/.281/.491 more closely resembles his center-fielder’s Angel Pagan (.258/.290/.308) than the other members of the starting rotation like Chris Heston (.227/.227/.273).

With this in mind, it is not a surprise that manager Bruce Bochy has begun to utilize the bat of Bumgarner just as much as he does his arm by playing him at pinch hitter. In an era where most of the starting pitchers today hit around 20 points shy of the Mendoza line, Bumgarner’s new role is making headlines. A managerial decision like this may have been no large news to baseball fans a century ago.

As the Society for American Baseball Research’s Bob Davids informs us that pitchers were some of the first players to be used as pinch hitters when the position was first allowed in 1891. Pitchers before the live ball era showed success in the spot to the extent that, the pinch hitter with the eleventh most hits of all time is a pitcher, Red Lucas.

What seems to be separating Bumgarner far above other starting pitchers who hit this season is his power. His .491 slugging percentage is at least 200 points above any starting pitcher not named Tyson Ross.

Given the context of history, where does Bumgarner’s current season performance at the plate rank among other pitchers historically? Or even some of his modern day peers? To get some insight use the interactive graphics below to see other pitchers with similar or better hitting stats along with their hitting relative to their WHIP or ERA. I hope Don Mattingly does not get a hold of this. 

Bumgarner v. Other Pitcher’s Hitting



Evil Messi is Here, and the World is Better Off for it

Leo Messi dealing with the existential crisis of turning to a life of evil.

Leo Messi dealing with the existential crisis of turning to a life of evil.

On Wednesday, Barcelona and Roma played a friendly, which Barcelona won 3-0. The European champs dominated the game, laying siege on the goal for 90 minutes behind another astounding performance from the team’s first-rate frontline. Leo Messi continued to be Leo Messi, Best Player in the World, by providing the key pass for Neymar’s opening goal before firing home a left-footed shot himself. However, it wasn’t Messi’s performance with the ball that garnered the attention. Instead, it was this exchange of ideas with Roma’s Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa that made the world give a damn about a friendly:

Now, usually we would all wonder what Yanga-Mbiwa did to make the sweet angel from Rosario so incensed. That’s just not like Leo Messi! He’s too quiet and humble on the pitch to do that unless somebody crossed a serious line! The ref saw it as such, and awarded BOTH players a yellow card for what could very well be a straight red for Messi. While we won’t know what was said between the two, we can’t just brush this off as Messi losing his cool. This is just the latest instance of Messi realizing his newest iteration: Evil Messi.

Evil Messi has been developing for about a year now. I first got worried about Leo when I saw the highlights from Barcelona’s 6-0 zerging of Getafe in April. Every player got in on the fun, with each stunning goal outdoing its predecessor. After I finished crying tears of satisfaction from such wondrous football, Messi’s appearance took me aback. As the camera zoomed in on a tight shot, I saw…is that a SLEEVE TATTOO?!

I was shocked. Messi, the little manchild who only cares about scoring goals and winning trophies, got a full sleeve? It broke my heart to see such a nice young man corrupted by the forces around him. But then I looked into it more, and found that Messi’s been sporting a few tattoos before this. However, the sleeve is his most public form of body art to date. While before he was fine with personal, anecdotal tattoos, now Messi was broadcasting his new look to the world. It was an adjustment for all of us, as Messi was no longer the innocent boy who only copped to playing Playstation at a party filled with models.

Messi’s spent a year training under the master, and now he’s ready to access deep, dark parts of himself that he swore he’d never tap. He’s got all the same skills as before. He’s the world’s finest dribbler, can still outrun just about anybody WITH the ball, has remarkable vision and the skill to make passes that only he can, and oh, yeah, he’s one of the best shooters and finishers to ever walk the earth. Take all of that, and add a taste for the embarrassing and you have a perhaps even scarier player. Well, scary for the guys defending him, at least. For the rest of us, it’s a joy to watch:

Leo Messi would normally be happy to just create some space from Boateng, and hammer a right-footed shot home. Evil Messi isn’t here for that. Evil Messi takes on Boateng, a 26-year-old considered athletic among a collection of world class athletes, and disconnects his legs from his nervous system. I’ve seen a lot of people fall in sports, and I’ve never seen someone fall like that. It’s just as funny seeing it the 86th time as it was the first. After making Boateng’s family disown him, Messi proceeds to chip with his weak foot over Manuel Neuer, the world’s finest goalkeeper. This was after getting the first goal on him near post from outside the box three minutes prior. Mind you, he pulled this skull-dragging on Pep Guardiola’s new team, with Messi’s old mentor incapable of any strategy to stop him. Who’s drinking a Coke now, motherfucker.

That game against Bayern won me over. I’m in full support of Messi’s dark side now. Where previously Messi would dribble past guys and score, it seemed more of the mind of “well, they were in the way, so I had to get past them to score a goal, which I wanted.” Now it’s, “Well, they’re in the way, and I’m getting this goal, but let’s see if I can make this jabroni question all the wrong decisions he’s made that led him to marking me at this very point in time.”

It’s a pleasure to watch, and I can’t wait to see what’s next. Will Messi spend a game trying to make a team score an own goal? Maybe he’ll bring a shiv to a match and shank somebody when they get out of line. Oh, man, Messi might just feed a certain Cristianinho some Lily of the Valley in the middle of the Pichichi race to make that Cristiano guy distracted. Everything is on the table at this point. All I know is, I need to go get some goddamn tattoos so I can do better at my job.

Three players call Chip Kelly racist, media responds by saying “We don’t believe you, you need more people.”

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly (C) pats running back LeSean McCoy on the back late in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver on September 29, 2013.  Denver (4-0) beat Philadelphia (1-3) 52-20 to remain undefeated.     UPI/Gary C. Caskey

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly (C) pats running back LeSean McCoy on the back late UPI/Gary C. Caskey

Chip Kelly is possibly, maybe, conceivably a racist in some way, shape, or form and we don’t want to talk about it.

When I say “we” I’m obviously excluding myself, LeSean McCoy, Tra Thomas and Brandon Boykin. What Boykin said wasn’t even that inflammatory. I wouldn’t expect a middle-aged white man to be able relate completely to a locker room full of young black men. You think Bill Belichick knows what it means when a Patriots player signs a new deal and says he’s about fuck up some commas with all that guaranteed money he’s gonna have? Belichick probably uncomfortably laugh/grunts and mumbles something about the importance of balancing your checkbook and walks away.

The fact that a coach is having a little trouble bridging a cultural gap isn’t really an issue. The fact that a coach is having trouble bridging a cultural gap and is possibly removing players for being part of that culture would be a huge problem. And since none of us are really aware of all the personal interactions in the locker room its impossible to say how much prejudice there is on the coaching staff.

However, the prejudice from the media is pretty clear. The way these accusations are casually and almost unanimously being viewed as nothing more than false accusations from bitter ex-Eagles is ridiculous. If there was a situation where a WNBA coach was being accused of sexism in any form by three or four players on his 15-woman roster it would be taken seriously. There would be an internal investigation of some sort. Maybe that coach faces some form of disciplinary action. But when three or four former Eagles say something about the white coach maybe having some racial bias affect his roster management, it gets swept under the rug and the only person who takes it seriously is Stephen A. Smith’s crazy ass. (If Smith really wanted to make the case that this should be taken seriously he should come out in favor of Chip Kelly. Having a cosign from Stephen A. has never helped anything in the court of public opinion.)

A big part of why Boykin and McCoy were openly mocked by a majority of columnists is that they don’t play hockey. They don’t play a team sport dominated by white folks. They play the second blackest sport there is. This provides an opportunity for people to say stupid stuff like “DeMarco Murray just got signed so Kelly can’t be racist.” Murray was the best running back in the NFL last year. And a much needed addition since the Butt Fumbler is their QB. If Kelly does have racism in his soul, he’s not about to let it get in the way of winning games. And I’m not quite sure where we got this idea that white people can be the overseer of black people and necessarily expect that the white man in charge respects the people who are doing all the physical labor. I don’t expect Kelly to try and field the first all white team since the days of leather helmets. But it at least appears that black players who step out of line on this team will receive less leeway than white players. Which, well, doesn’t sound too different from what regular nonathletic black people deal with at their regular jobs. As a matter of fact, I may or may not be experiencing that at my job right now. (I would never bring this up to anyone I work with, of course. Shady Mcoy has taught me two things: how to throw a good party, and that unless you have hard evidence of a burning cross in your locker, your accusations of racism will be ignored.)

This is compounded by the fact that no one currently on the Eagles will back up the claims of anyone who has anything negative to say about the head coach. Why would they? Who’s trying to be the next Huey P. Newton with his first up during two-a-days just so they can move down the depth chart? Why do that when you can just keep your head down and try to compete for one of these starting jobs? Mark Sanchez went and defended Chip Kelly in the press and if he was smart he went right into Kelly’s office to talk about how well he’s clicking with the first team offense. If we are going to question the word of players who have recently been removed from a team and may be upset, then we need to bring that same level of scrutiny when players still trying to impress the coach are talking good about the coach.

Chip Kelly isn’t a raging bigot. I feel pretty comfortable in that assumption. On a scale of 1 to Hitler, Chip Kelly is probably like a two or a three on the racism scale. The problem is, a lot of white people are two and three on that scale. If they were to acknowledge that Kelly is racist in some form, then they would then have to acknowledge some of their own racial bias. And why the fuck would you want to do that when you can ignore the social issues at play and just watch dudes hit each other really, really hard?