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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.