Bumgarner’s Accomplishment Goes Beyond Age

Last night, Madison Bumgarner turned in eight scoreless innings in a World Series game, earning the victory for the Giants in game four. Bumgarner also recorded six strikeouts and allowed only five baserunners in the entire outing (three hits, two walks). And, to top it all off, Bumgarner accomplished this as a rookie, starting his first World Series game as a mere 21 year old, only adding to the grandiosity of the achievement. Bumgarner’s heroics was the focal point of the media as the game concluded: after Ken Rosenthal finished his post-game interview with Madison Bumgarner and turned to interview Aubrey Huff, he asked (paraphrasing) “And all that at 21. How does he do it?”

The fact that Bumgarner is even making a World Series start at age 21 is remarkable. Bumgarner became only the 16th pitcher 21 years old or younger to ever start a playoff game, and the latest since Jaret Wright with the Indians in 1997. Unsurprisingly, Bumgarner’s start ranks in the upper echelon of this group. He is the sixth of the 21 or younger group not to allow a run, with his 80 game score ranking 5th (barely besting Bret Saberhagen in 1985′s seventh game) and his .472 WPA ranking 4th (above Whitey Ford in 1950′s fourth game).

Bumgarner’s performance is indeed one of the best among those in his age group. But – and a postseason with as many transcendent pitching performance as 2010 can make us forget this – pitching performances like the one we saw on Sunday night are rare from pitchers of any age. We don’t have to limit the comparisons to other World Series rookies or youngsters to come to the conclusion that Bumgarner pitched remarkably.

The games started by Tommy Hunter and Madison Bumgarner represent the 1,231 and 1,232 pitching starts in World Series history. Only 137 of them have seen a pitcher throw at least eight innings and allow zero earned runs. The number drops to 27 when we restrict ourselves to the modern era (1969-present) and only 13 in the Wild Card era (1993-present). Bumgarner’s game score of 80 ranks tied for 84th all-time. Only 19 pitchers have bested that game score since 1969, and only seven (Roger Clemens, Cliff Lee, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Chris Carpenter, Josh Beckett, and Randy Johnson) have done it since 1993.

There’s no doubt that Bumgarner’s age makes his achievement more impressive, both from the emotional and mental aspect as well as the sheer difficulty of accomplishing something of this degree in one’s first 22 years on this planet. But the greatness of this start goes beyond Bumgarner’s age. Rarely do we see pitchers dominate opposing hitters as Bumgarner did in the World Series, regardless of their age or experience level, and that’s what truly makes Sunday night’s start one for the ages.

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Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.

33 Responses to “Bumgarner’s Accomplishment Goes Beyond Age”

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  1. Justin says:

    I think the best part for Bumgarner is that he overcame that drop in FB velocity. For a while we were talking about this guy losing his top prospect status because he wasn’t breaking 90mph. Last night he was dialing it up to the mid 90s at times and making batters look foolish.

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  2. this guy says:

    Geez, why do you guys need to dramatize so much? It was a great game where an unfamiliar pitcher had command of 3 pitches, which eh doesnt always have. I’m very excited for him as I like the way he pitches, but this article is quite unnecessary. We all saw what happend. This is just fodder.

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    • Joe says:

      If you can’t enjoy a 21 year old kid making a fantastic and rare start, then watch another sport. The post just puts that into perspective, it didn’t talk about his childhood or what we were all doing when we were 21. Get over it.

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      • this guy says:

        I enjoyed it a lot. I didn’t need to read that it was “amazing” on a site that is trying to be known for quantitative analysis.

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      • Wally says:

        Right, and Jack didn’t do anything to attempt to quantify just how amazing of a start it was…

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      • Joe says:

        The short article merely described how rare it is for a pitcher that age to pitch in the WS and on top of that pitch a great game. Go watch the Cowboys or something…oops, sorry.

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    • Wally says:

      Actually, we all didn’t see it, jack ass.

      And if your argument is that this blog post was pointless, doesn’t that make your comment in said blog post even more pointless?

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      • Bigmouth says:

        Whoah… it’s like the little Indian lady on the Land ‘O Lakes Box!

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      • Wally says:

        Sure is, my post is meaningless, as is yours, now mine again. But I’m not the guy overly concerned with that.

        Also, you ever cut out the box of butter she’s holding then folded her knees up to fill the space where the box was? Nice little trick.

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  3. this guy says:

    Fluff pieces like this are supposed to be beneath Fangraphs. You guys need a mission statement.

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  4. Ace says:

    I enjoyed the piece – thanks guys. Fangraphs overall coverage has made this WS more enjoyable for this Giants fan.

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  5. Pat says:

    Agree with Ace. Thanks Dave and Fangraphs for some great world series analysis.

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  6. Ken says:

    I hear Sandy Koufax dressed up to go Trick-or-Treating as Madison Bumgarner last night.

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    • Wally says:

      No, I have it on good authority from Elvis that it was actually the ghost of Christy Mathewson who had apperently taken over Madison Bumgarner’s body. He also said that Christy will be ready to go on 3 day’s rest if game seven is necissary.

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  7. CircleChange11 says:

    All the other stuff aside …

    Wouldn’t this be the EXACT type of situation that FG would frown upon placing too much weight on?

    I’ve heard all the comments before, only when I am defending another pitcher.
    Madison cannot control who he plays for. He cannot control when he pitches. He cannot control whether it’s the playoffs or not. So, by celebrating a shutout just because it is the World Series is to reward him for something he cannot control. Had he thrown a shutout against Seattle no one would care. We’re just rewarding a SSS here.

    I think those comments are full of crap, and throwing a shutout in the WS IS a big deal, much bigger than a shutout in May.

    The fact that Bumgarner is even making a World Series start at age 21 is remarkable.

    The fact that he is making an MLB start at 21 is remarkable. That SF made the World Series (I’ve read they have the dumbest GM around, and make a bad of bad signings, and over-pay for other team’s cast-offs, and on and on, and on and on, and on) is remarkable. So, that he is starting a WS game for the SF at age 21 must be just unbelievably, amazingly, incredibly, remarkable.

    Yes, I’m being a little sarcastic and I am taking jabs at certain FG authors who don’t seem to get much right, but just being an MLB starter at 21 is amazing.

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    • Jason B says:

      “…am taking jabs at certain FG authors who don’t seem to get much right” – twice you’ve commented to this effect today. Kind of a sweeping generalization, just like the kind you’re casting dispersions on, no?

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  8. george says:

    Sure made it nice that he only had to get 22 outs for those 8 innings – first base ump needs a reassignment

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    • Viliphied says:

      A: It was 23, the ump only called one guy out who was safe, and B: It’s back up to 24 if you throw in Uribe’s error.

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  9. Scout Finch says:

    Wow! This is an unreal rotation! The 5th starter, who did not make any of the postseason rosters, also has a Cy Young on his mantle.

    Now the 4th @ 21 Yrs throws 8 scoreless in the WS!

    While I agree that Bumgarner will have plenty of games where he is around the plate too much and will get hit around from time to time, he has serious moxie and is not afraid of any situation. Case in point, last night.

    It will be interesting to chart his growth in years to come. Is there a CY in his future?

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  10. bowie says:

    Bumgarner pitched well, but he also had great D and a bit of luck on his side.
    He allowed 19 balls in play, including 6 line drives, and only 3 balls fell in as hits.
    Burrell not in LF was a big help to Bumgarner.

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  11. Good thing they picked Cody Ross and Madison Bumgarner over Jose Guillen and Barry Zito, huh?

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  12. this guy says:

    Ok fine. The great “saber” site will be used to point out an outlier performance given age, which takes all but 3 seconds on any player profile page to see, and was probably mentioned 1 zillion times over the past couple days, over the course of ONE baseball game.

    Good job guys. Great article. Maybe next time you can “uncover” the player’s height, or weight. That would save me the trouble of bringing up a player’s profile page too. Awesome work guys. Keep it up.

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    • Wally says:

      Really, you can look up how often some of a similar age has made a similar start as determined by game scores in a profile page? What site is that?

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  13. DownwiththeDH says:

    To support the relevance of Bumgarner’s start and this article, look at where he pitched, the team he was facing and what they did to the previous lefties they faced. Lefty opponents had something like a 5.50 ERA against Texas and producing roughly and .800 OPS in the playoffs. Sure it would be nice to see the adjusted numbers, but it can’t be too far off, look at the quality of the pitchers faced: Price 2x, CC 2x and Pettitte.

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  14. Kazinski says:

    Hey it wasn’t exactly “The Road to Serfdom” in terms of analysis and sheer analytical insight but. somebody had to say something about his game. Bumgarner pitched 216 innings between AAA, the regular season and the postseason, and his last 8 were probably the best 8 he had put together. Small sample size, so what? The whole history of the world series is a history of small sample sizes. He pitched a great game and there is nothing wrong with recognizing that.

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