Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Magnificent Madison Bumgarner

Bumgarner capped a stellar postseason with a marvelous World Series (Yahoo)
Even before last night, we knew Madison Bumgarner's 2014 postseason run was spectacular, one of the best ever, in fact. We knew it represented a pitcher at his absolute best. We knew we were witnessing a level greatness rarely sustained for long during playoff time.

What we did not know, however, was how that run would end. We knew Bumgarner was going to make a relief appearance in Game 7 three days after spinning the first Series shutout in over a decade. Nobody could have known how long he'd stay in or how effective he would be.The general consensus was that he'd pitch one to three innings.

He went five, closing out the game and the series with the most memorable postseason relief appearance this side of Pedro Martinez.

Bumgarner, as he was all month, was absolutely nasty. Once again he proved to be the Royals' kryptonite, muting their bats over five scoreless innings. Kansas City managed just two hits against him, both singles. For the third time in the series, they were completely and utterly helpless against him.

They were hardly the only ones looking overmatched against him this fall (his ERA this postseason: 1.03). First he blanked the Pirates on the road in the wild card play-in game, and that was just the appetizer. He turned in seven strong innings in his lone NLCS start versus the Nationals, then seven and 2/3 scoreless frames in St. Louis in Game 1 of the NLCS. Back at home for Game 5, he went eight innings and allowed three runs in the pennant clinching game.

By the time the World Series rolled around, the 25 year-old southpaw was all warmed up. He pitched the Giants to an easy victory in Game 1 with seven innings of one-run ball. He hurled a four-hit shutout in Game 5 to bring San Francisco within one game of the title. And, after Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson faltered in Kansas City, Bumgarner took his team all the way with five scoreless frames.

MadBum was as deserving as a World Series MVP possibly can be. He put the team on his back, carried them on his shoulders, and delivered them to their third World Series title in five years. While he was credited with the save in Game 7 (Jeremy Affeldt got the win), for all intents and purposes he won three games in this series.

Bumgarner's stat lines from this series are just ridiculous. There's the one earned run in 21 innings, of course, which works out to a 0.43 ERA. He walked only one batter over that span (Lorenzo Cain in Game 1) and allowed just nine hits (only three of which went for extra bases), resulting in a 0.48 WHIP. Of the 74 batters he faced, he retired 63 of them (85 percent), 17 by way of the K. Opponents batted just .127/.151/.197 against him, and he threw 70 percent of his 291 pitches for strikes.

What we saw was a great pitcher at the peak of his powers, and the result was probably the best postseason any pitcher has ever had. Even more incredible is that Bumgarner was able to do what he did after tossing a career high 217 and 1/3 innings during the regular season. Including his five inning relief appearance, he basically made 40 starts this year and remained sharp to the last out.

Bumgarner's been a great pitcher for several years now (did you know he was a two-time All-Star?), but this World Series felt like his coming out party the way 2003 was for Josh Beckett. Madison Bumgarner is now a household name the way Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander are. The best part is; he's barely 25.

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