Madison Bumgarner tossed a four-hit, complete-game shutout against the Kansas City Royals Sunday night, nudging the San Francisco Giants one step closer to a third World Series title in five years.
Bumgarner’s gem last night serves as just his latest example of postseason brilliance and has ignited a conversation about his place among big-game pitchers of the past. He’s making a strong case for himself.
Dating back to 2010, on October’s grandest stage, the unflappable 25-year-old (It’s hard to believe he’s still so young) has an almost non-existent ERA of 0.29 through his first four World Series starts. That would be the lowest mark of any pitcher with at least 25 innings pitched.
Let that sink in for a second; re-read that sentence if you have to.
And with such a miniscule ERA in the World Series, it’s probably no shocker that Bumgarner has won all four starts, making him the first pitcher to win his first four starts in the Fall Classic since Lew Burdette of the Milwaukee Braves in 1957-58, according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark.
Although Bumgarner saves his best for the World Series, he is no slouch in the other rounds. He has a career regular-season ERA of 3.06, which is nothing to sneeze at, but he drops it to 2.27 in the playoffs.
Bumgarner is also a proven workhorse with the ability to go deep into games and preserve the bullpen. In fact, he has gone at least seven innings in all six of his starts this postseason. That makes manager Bruce Bochy’s job so much easier, especially when every decision carries major implications.
But what makes him so effective against opposing batters? The 6-foot-5 lefty has what Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer described as a “cross-body” delivery, which makes it difficult for batters to identify the incoming pitch. And with his lanky frame, the ball seems like it’s halfway to home plate when it finally leaves his hand.
Combine his delivery with his arsenal of pitches and it equals trouble. Bumgarner throws a fastball that routinely reaches 95 mph on the radar gun, a change up that clocks in at 85-87 mph, a slider and a curve ball – all of which he mixes up to keep hitters guessing and locates extremely well.
The numbers indicate Bumgarner belongs in the conversation with October greats like Orel Hershiser, Curt Schilling, John Smoltz and Randy Johnson, but can he keep up the torrid pace? It’s difficult to project moving forward, but he has shown no indication of slowing down, and that’s great news for Giants fans.
Who would you rank as the best postseason pitchers of all time? Join the conversation in the comment section.