Madison Bumgarner: Buy or Sell?
The Giants are in the midst of another deep October run and Madison Bumgarner is leading the charge. The lefty starred in the wild card match up against Pittsburgh and kicked off the NLCS with 7.2 shutout innings against the Cardinals. During the start, he set the record for most consecutive scoreless playoff innings pitched on the road. In 2014, as Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain limped to -0.5 WAR combined, Bumgarner paced the pitching staff with 3.6 WAR and 30-plus starts, something he’s done every season since joining the rotation full-time in 2011. But, for all of the 25-year-old’s success, fantasy owners seem reluctant to make San Francisco’s ace their SP1. Is it time to fully embrace Bumgarner’s ascendance?
Madison Bumgarner has been followed by “but” throughout his career. The lefty dominated as a 19-year old in his minor league debut in 2008 and made his first start for San Francisco the following year (author’s note: despite working for the Giants in 2009, I had to skip class in order to catch the appearance in person). Since joining the rotation full-time, the North Carolina native has been a model of consistency and his performance is trending upward. Yet some funk in Bumgarner’s sidearm delivery and decreased velocity in 2010 (the MPH never returned) has fantasy owners waiting for the other shoe to drop and the former first round pick to succumb to an arm injury, even though the 25-year old has yet to make a trip to the Disabled List.
Bumgarner’s throwing motion alone isn’t enough to dissuade fantasy owners; some of the issue is pitch selection. In short, the lefty relies heavily on his Frisbee of a breaking pitch. PITCHf/x calls it a slider and has Bumgarner throwing the pitch with the second-highest frequency among starters in 2014, which is enough ammo to sink fantasy value by itself. On the other hand, Brooks calls it a cutter exclusively and doesn’t include a slider in Bumgarner’s repertoire.
The pitcher himself says the pitch is a cutter, which Eno Sarris broke down with considerable insight. It’s not much of a shock to learn Bumgarner considers the pitch a cutter, considering its nature as a slider derivative. With respect to the lefty’s longevity, one could argue a cutter inflicts less damage on elbows than a slider. Whether a slider or a cutter, the takeaway is Bumgarner’s usage of the pitch has decreased from 39.20% in 2012 to 33.98% in 2014. Semantics aside, it’s equally important to recognize Bumgarner’s overall performance has improved along with the pitch usage.
Will Madison Bumgarner Continue to Improve?
No matter how you dice it, Madison Bumgarner is a great pitcher. The Giants’ ace has the consistency and performance to warrant his inclusion in the non-Felix/Kershaw tier of starting pitchers. But now is precisely the time to consider trading the towering lefty.
As fantasy owners learn to accept funkiness in pitching motions, partially because a guy like Bumgarner has more seasons with 200+ innings pitched than Stephen Strasburg, Matt Harvey, and Max Scherzer combined, longevity becomes a key component of any fantasy investment. Though Bumgarner has proven himself both effective and healthy (reaching the age of 25 is a huge milestone for pitchers), his pitch usage is still entirely troublesome. He hasn’t thrown his fastball more than 45% over any full season since 2011, and hasn’t cracked 10% change-up usage in any of his full-season workloads (though Bumgarner reached 11.60% over 111 innings in 2010). This season, Bumgarner’s fastball plus change-up usage was an alarming 51.88%.
Of course, the other consideration in trading Bumgarner is a trade partner. With a particularly dominant version over the second half and a phenomenal playoff showing to date, fantasy owners everywhere will be tempted to believe the Giant is ready to anchor a fantasy staff. Yet, despite the fine second half numbers, Bumgarner still only ranked 29th among qualified starters by WAR in the second half (he ranked 20th over the full season). While Madison Bumgarner is a true ace on the mound (and a personal favorite), this is the zenith of his value. Part of being a great fantasy owner is cashing in on valuable assets, and now is as good as it gets for the San Francisco star pitcher.
14 Oct 2014 / Ben Flajole /
1-On-1 ROTO Strategy Session
The Best Of RS
- Can Alex "Chi-Chi" Gonzalez Crack the Texas Rangers Opening Day Rotation?
- Fantasy Baseball Trade Deadline 101: A Former MLB GM’s Take
- Felix Hernandez and Solo Home Run Situations: A Blueprint For Longevity
- JR Graham: Is He Still An MLB Arm For The Atlanta Braves?
- Mason Williams: Is It Time To Label Him A Bust For The Yankees?
- Mike Newman's Top-50 Fantasy Baseball Prospects Scouted in 2014
- Nick Kingham Scouting Report (2014)
- Rangers Joey Gallo, Marlins Giancarlo Stanton And Strikeouts
- The ROTOscouting Baseball Podcast
- Top-10 Fantasy Baseball Prospects By Team
- Will Mike Moustakas Finally Put It Together Next Season?