bumgarner_velo_chart_edit_2010

What Does Bumgarner’s October Performance Mean For His 2011 Fantasy Value?

San Francisco Giants' pitcher Madison Bumgarner pitches against the Texas Rangers in game 4 of the World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas on October 31, 2010. The Giants defeated the Rangers 4-0 and lead the series 3 games to 1.  UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

After a brilliant eight-inning performance in game four of the World Series, 21-year-old Madison Bumgarner has put himself on the national map. This postseason, Bumgarner has allowed only five earned runs over 20.2 innings with 18 strikeouts. His performance, along with a 3.00 ERA in the regular season, has likely knocked his draft day stock up a few notches. Is it wise to use a high draft pick on him in 2011? 

In 2009, Bumgarner was a highly regarded prospect putting up extremely solid numbers in the minor leagues. However, concern grew as his velocity fell off. By the end of the season, Bumgarner’s fastball was clocking in at 88-89 MPH as opposed to the low-to-mid 90′s heat he had brought into the Giant’s farm system. There were theories as to why this happened. Fatigue? Mechanics? Some even speculated that being a newlywed caused him to lose focus and motivation. Whatever the case, Bumgarner worked things out early in the 2010 season and his velocity returned.

 
The velocity chart below (from fangraphs.com, edited) shows his velocity increase at the big league level in 2010.
 
One of Bumgarner’s greatest strengths is his top-notch command. Never in his professional career has Bumgarner walked over three batters per nine innings. In 111 regular season innings with the Giants in 2010, Bumgarner walked just over two batters per nine which was the 20th lowest BB/9 in baseball (min 100 IP). Along with being able to limit walks, Bumgarner struck out almost seven batters per nine, which was just below the league average. Given his youth, there is room for that number to grow in the coming years.
 
While hitters were able to make contact off of Bumgarner in 2010 (83 percent contact rate), more often than not, it was not very good contact. Opposing batters were held to a 17 percent line drive rate and hit the ball on the ground over 45 percent of the time while popping up weakly to the infield over 10 percent of the time.
All of those factors paint Bumgarner as a pitcher who should continue to be successful at the major league level. However…
 
The issue of innings increases for young pitchers has been hotly debated. The “Verducci Effect” seamed to hold water for a while, but it has been disproved by some. No matter what, we have to consider a big innings increase and it’s potential affects for Bumgarner in 2011. Below is a chart of Bumgarner’s innings increase from 2009 to this point in 2010. It includes minor league innings and postseason innings.
 

Player

2009 IP

2010 IP

Increase

Madison Bumgarner SF

141.1

214.1

73

If Bumgarner has thrown his last pitch in 2010, he will have already seen a 73 inning increase from a year ago. It truly is hard to say with any amount of certainty how this will affect Bumgarner in 2011, if at all. Still, such an increace for such a young arm will certainly give me pause on draft day 2011, should his price run high.
 
As long as he can stay healthy, Madison Bumgarner is going to be a successful major league pitcher. If I had to eyeball a projection for Bumgarner in 2011 it would be an ERA in the mid threes with a WHIP around 1.25 and a slightly increased strikeout rate.
 
I’d gladly draft Bumgarner in 2011, but only if his draft stock doesn’t skyrocket due to a great postseason performance.