Madison Bumgarner: Temper Expectations

The transformation of Madison Bumgarner into a fantasy ace is nearly complete. Over the last 2 seasons, he is 21st in ERA, 8th in FIP and 18th in WHIP. Last season, he was selected after some other comparable pitchers since he was not a known and/or trusted quantity yet. I would expect him to reproduced his excellent 2012 season except for his last 7 starts. They are a warning sign of possible future struggles.

The 23-year-old’s 2011 and 2012 season were nearly identical.

Stat: 2011, 2012
K/9: 8.4, 8.2
BB/9: 2.0, 2.1
ERA: 3.21, 3.37
SwStr%: 9.2%, 9.0%
GB%: 46%, 48%
HR/9: 0.5, 1.0
BABIP: .322, .276

The only out of place values are his HR/9 and BABIP. They offset each other and his ERA’s end up similar.

Through 25 start in 2012, the left-hander had a 8.4 K/9, 1.7 BB/9 and 2.83 ERA. Then, he ran into problems. First, he lost ~ 5 MPH off of his fastball over the last 7 games. (During his 3 postseason starts, which are not included in the following graph, he averaged, 89.7, 89.4, and 89.7 mph).

During those seven games, he struggled in every facet of the game compared to earlier in the season.

2012 Season ERA BABIP K/9 K% B/9 BB% Zone%
First 25 Games 2.83 0.261 8.4 23.5% 1.7 4.7% 52.5%
Last 7 Games 5.89 0.354 7.6 18.6% 5.7 10.2% 49.1%

Those last seven games, when he was struggling to maintain velocity, weren’t productive. His ERA doubled. His BB/9 tripled. He had problems finding the strike zone (drop in Zone%) and when he did, the ball got batted around pretty hard (nearly a 100 point jump in BABIP).

The breakdown’s cause points to two possibilities. First, he could have been wearing down as the season went on. Looking at the above velocity chart, about half way through the 2011 season, his velocity dropped a mph or two. His results though didn’t suffer with his ERA, K/9, WHIP and BABIP all improving from the 1st half of the season to the second half.

The second possible for the loss in velocity and production could be an injury. In the game before the start of the breakdown, he threw a season high 123 pitches. During the game, he saw a significant drop in his velocity, which rarely happened to him during a game.

Finally, the drop in velocity never stabilized during the season. His fastball speed can be monitored during spring training since he will pitch in the Arizona which has PitchF/x cameras in some of the stadiums. Reports of him averaging over 90 mph will be nice to hear going into 2013. If the speed is back up, he probably wore down as the 2012 season ended. If it is still down, he may have injury issues.

Madison Bumgarner was looking to becoming a fantasy ace. Over the last few games of the 2012 season, he fell apart. Going into the 2013, I would be cautious of acquiring him unless his fastball speed is back up and constant.

Thanks to BrooksBaseball.net for the PitchF/x charts.




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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

16 Responses to “Madison Bumgarner: Temper Expectations”

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  1. john says:

    This is interesting, but it’s not terribly useful. In leagues where he’s available in the draft, he won’t be available after the draft. If it’s a keeper league, this isn’t enough information to make a keep/drop decision.

    This is a binary decision: buy or sell?

    Caution is what we’re trying to measure. Don’t sit on the fence!

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    • majnun says:

      Who said after the draft? Drafting before spring training is weird.

      As for keeper leagues to me this reads as a drop in stock.

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  2. Menthol says:

    In a redraft league, who would you take first: MadBum or Matt Moore?

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    • Jeff Zimmerman says:

      Without any more information, MadBum, Moore’s +10% BB% scares me.

      Both experienced drop in speed at the end of the season.

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  3. Jameson says:

    You forgot to mention the mechanical flaw which was addressed and corrected at the end of the year.

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    • Rick11 says:

      When exactly was it corrected? He had his worst FIP and BB rate of any month in Sept/Oct?

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      • Jameson says:

        In the playoffs.

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      • Keian says:

        I don’t believe the mechanical “fix” in the playoffs ever amounted to an increase in velocity. He still struggled, just got lucky.

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      • Jameson says:

        You failed to comprehend my my very simple observation. The much talked about mechanical flaw which was fixed in the playoffs was not mentioned in the article. Nowhere did I claim to have evidence this led to an increase in velocity or improved walk rates.

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      • Near says:

        This “mechanical flaw” fix is hindsight bias retroactive to Bumgarner’s win over the Tigers. His process was poor but the results were very good. It helps going against a team that was hitting .253/.329/.395 against LHP during the regular season, versus the far deadlier Cardinals and Reds. I’m not going to trust a one game sample.

        I’ve had Bumgarner for the past two seasons and I love the WHIP, K and ERA, but the spike in HR worries me. He hasn’t made any noticeable improvements in his game and took a step back this year with his home run tendencies. His ERA might be a product of AT&T Park, and if he continues to be a home run magnet his fantasy value will disintegrate. I’m definitely going to be bearish toward him next season, but there’s always a chance for rebound.

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  4. john says:

    Bumgarner has more experience than Moore…better track record, too. I’d stick with MB. But you’re probably more interested in the author’s opinion.

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    • Menthol says:

      No, my question was for everyone. Discuss. :-)

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      • Tempered Discussion on the Nucleus Realm of Nitrous Oxide says:

        I’m a big fan of Mike Minor personally. I’m predicting Cy Young, maybe 220-230 IP, 1.00-1.05 WHIP, 2.60-2.80 ERA, 230-240 K’s.

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  5. Menthol says:

    I like Mike too. I drafted him last year, gave up on him after his slow start, but then picked him up again later. I definitely have my eye on him for ’13.

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  6. KyleCRhoads says:

    I think the fact that 95% of his pitches are within 5MPH of each other is staggering. He’s not really keeping hitters off-balance is he?

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  7. maddiepalmer says:

    MadBum or Latos all things equal?

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