keyboard_arrow_uptop

Madison Bumgarner made quite a name for himself over the past 24 hours month of playoff dominance. His five innings of shutout baseball in Game Seven sealed his place in history, putting an exclamation point on one of the greatest postseason performances of all-time.

Bumgarner's final tally for the 2014 postseason included 52 2/3 innings of a 1.03 ERA, a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 45-to-6 and just 36 base runners allowed. He permitted just two players to reach base while recording 15 outs in Game Seven, a total that exceeds the combined output of Games Six and Seven starters Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson. Bumgarner also further lowered his World Series-record ERA to 0.25 across 36 innings.

The extended stint on two days rest went beyond expectations, stretching to 68 pitches and 15 outs to clinch the trophy. His playoff innings-count set a new record for postseason longevity and brought his combined season total to an even 270 frames, a workload which raises concerns about the long-term cost of the Giants' quest for a third ring in five years.

There were also questions that were raised as to his potential effectiveness as the teams entered Game Seven. There are a number of things that could potentially throw Mad Bum off his rhythm in a relief role, from the abbreviated rest to the altered warm-up routine, the fatigue of the longest season of his career, or the stress associated with the most important throw day of his professional life. With live MLB games going into hibernation, let's kick off a long winter of analysis with a dive into Bumgarner's historic performance.

5th Inning

Bumgarner started behind the first three hitters that he faced, including 2-0 counts to Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain. Omar Infante led off with a single and Escobar was just trying to lay down a sacrifice bunt, but the first couple of Bum offerings were far off the mark.

Escobar eventually got the bunt down, which was the first successful sacrifice by the buntastic Royals in this series. Bumgarner's pitch command was off-target for much of the inning, and there was an intriguing plate appearance by Lorenzo Cain with two outs and the runner on second. It started with a slutter that earned a strike call despite finishing far off the strike zone, followed by a series of elevated fastballs that each generated action from the anxious Cain.

By the time it was over, Cain was left to take the slow walk back to the dugout despite seeing five pitches that all missed the strike zone. Credit goes to both Bumgarner and Buster Posey in this case, as the Giants catcher was calling for high heat with a half-crouch behind the dish and Bum was keeping his four-seamer above the zone.

The rocky entries have been an issue for Bumgarner this season, as his walk rate, ERA, and opponent batting numbers were at their worst in the first inning of ball games. Throw in the altered conditions that surround his coming out of the 'pen, and one can understand the relative lack of command that was on display in the bottom of the fifth.

6th Inning

Bumgarner was getting a bit more comfortable in his second frame and his stuff was sharp, but his command of the arsenal was still a bit off-kilter. The southpaw had no trouble getting strikes but he wasn't quite hitting his spots, such as the fastball to Alex Gordon that caught too much plate despite Posey's setting up far outside the zone, a pitch which ended up in Gregor Blanco's glove to end the inning.

7th Inning

At this point, it was on. Bumgarner found his release point in his third inning of work, registering strikes on all nine of his pitches and nailing targets on the edges of the strike zone. His punch-out of Omar Infante involved a completely different approach than the Cain at-bat one inning prior as Bum put the fastball in his pocket and went with the secondaries on three consecutive pitches. Infante was finished by a deep-diving curve that had the movement to invoke the whiff on a hitter who wasn't fooled by the change of speed.

8th Inning

Bumgarner had set down nine consecutive Royals at this point in the game, and it looked like he was hitting his stride. The lefty had thrown 28 pitches thus far, sparking the question of how much was left in the tank and elevating the levels of Twitter snicker over the Giants' decision to let him complete the shutout in Game Five.

He started behind in the count against each of the next three batters, only to come back with a pair of strikes and jump ahead in every at bat. Posey continued to work the high fastball into his pitch-calling, a strategy that claimed Escobar as its next victim to lead off the inning.

9th Inning

All of the Game Five talk went out the window once the ninth inning started. The frame began with Bumgarner on the mound, an empty bullpen, a one-run lead, and his pitch count at 52. The meaty part of the order was coming up for the Royals, setting the stage with three outs to go and history to be made. Eric Hosmer started with a 2-0 advantage to start the inning, but once again Bumgarner was able to come back over the top to put a batter all in, only to finish him with a high fastball on the river.

Alex Gordon came to the plate with two outs, as the final barrier that stood between Bumgarner and history, and the drama dials were cranked up to 11 when the Royals’ left fielder lunged at a low cutter and raced around the bags as his soft liner skipped by Gregor Blanco. Gordon was 90 feet away from a tie ball game, and though Sal Perez worked a six-pitch at-bat, the KC backstop was eventually vanquished and Bumgarner's name was permanently etched into the history books.

Summary

Mad Bum showed no ill effects in his extended relief appearance, neither from the extended workload nor the short rest, and he was the same dominant force that steamrolled through the entire playoffs. His average velocity of 93.0 mph was off a tick from his October peak, but it was higher than the southpaw was throwing midseason and within spitting distance of his velo from Game Five. He also maintained his velocity for the full 68 pitches, which paired well with the strategy of going upstairs with the fastball to generate eight of his twelve whiffs on the evening.

Thorburn Report Card

Balance

70

Momentum

45

Torque

65

Posture

80

Repetition

70

Overall

A

Bumgarner had his usual A-grade motion working for him in Game Seven. The repetition was shaky for the first ten pitches or so, but he was a machine once he got settled in. I submitted the above TRC prior to the 2014 season, and his delivery from Game Seven was a near-perfect match for the preseason assessment; his repetition score might get dinged 5 points, but one look at his release-point data reveals his excellent consistency. His mechanics might appear unconventional, but his level of efficiency and consistency put him on the short list for best deliveries in the game. He takes an old school approach to his motion that sparks memories of a left-handed Walter Johnson, with a simple delivery that is well-balanced and which Bummer can repeat extremely well.

It has been said that Chris Sale is the closest thing that we have to a modern-day Randy Johnson, a comparison that is augmented by the lankiness that binds the two left-handers, but I posit that Bumgarner is also in the running for that comp. Sale lacks the elite balance of a Johnson or Bummer, and they all share low release points from the south side. In this sense, it's poetic justice that Bum's reign over the 2014 World Series would extend to the bullpen of Game Seven, running parallel to Randy's performance for the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2001 Series, which culminated in his relief appearance to finish the final game.

The big question now is whether Bumgarner will prove to have the long-term stamina of Johnson, or whether his warrior-like heroics of 2014 will compromise future seasons. For his part, Bumgarner has all of the mechanical baselines to inspire optimism.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
sbnirish77
10/30
That was an incredible, historic performance by Bumgarner that will live in World Series lore forever.

Now as far as Mr. Bouchy - who everyone has going to the Hall of Fame now - just how many times can someone do something wrong and still turn out right?

If Bumgarner could pitch this much in Game 7 why not pitch him in Games 4 & 7 (both appearances would have been on more rest than for this performance)?

If Bumgarner is going to pitch 5 innings in game 7 why not just start him in game 7 (trading Hudson's two innings for the SF bullpen)?

If any of your answer to the first two is that Bouchy didn't know Bumbarner could go 5 innings, then why was no one warming up in the bullpen (when presumably when you didn't know how long he could go)?

I guess we found out the answer to how Dusty Baker would have been viewed if the Cubs won the World Series (Bartman deleted)and Prior and Wood would never be the same again.

Dusty got crucified for running them into the ground to the point it jepordized his getting another job lest he destroy young pitchers.

Winning trumps all. Bouchy is going to the Hall of Fame. Dusty not so much.

Bouchy won 3 Worlde Series with Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner.

Lets hope Bumgarner doesn't join Lincecum in lefty / righty mop-up roles or join Cain on the heap of disabled pitchers for the next two year cycle appearance for the Giants in the World Series.
rweiler
10/30
It was at least conceivable that Hudson would have had as good a start as he had in game 3 when he went 5.2 innings. If that had happened, Bumgarner might have only worked 2 innings. Although it worked out, I don't agree with the decision to let Bumgarner finish the game. Bochy still had Casilla, Romo, and Lopez fully rested and could have gone to Petit and Lincecum if the Royals had tied it. However, it did work out so Bochy can probably count on his ticket to the hall whenever he finally decides to hang it up.
jonathanaustin
10/30
I don't think the comparison to Dusty Baker really works. The issue with Dusty was that he allowed Prior and Wood to regularly throw a ton of pitches during the regular season. That is a far different situation that using your ace on short rest in Game 7 of the WS.

Baker was consistently bad with abusing pitchers, I see no indication that Bochy is bad. To blame him for Lincecum and Cain seems like a stretch.
rweiler
10/30
Well, he did allow Lincecum to throw 144 pitches in his first no hitter, but it never resulted in an injury, at least not one that we know about. Cain' issues apparent;y go back before Bochy was ever the manager, and Bochy rarely let's his starters got more than 115 or so pitches so I do think the comparison to Baker is misguided. That said, Bochy has always had pretty good late innings guys to use in Romo, Afeldt, Lopez, Casilla and, in the past, Wilson, so there wasn't much incentive to leave the starters in.
Dodger300
10/30
Your own analogy disproves your own theory.

The reality of Dusty Baker's subsequent hiring by the Reds serves as a total contradiction to any idle speculation that may have regarded his employment prospects were ever in "jeopardy."

Thus, your thesis was soundly disproven many years before you suggested it in your comment.
sbnirish77
10/30
Really ... Here's USA todays take the day after he was hired .......

Baker will formally be announced Monday at noon and has a three-year contract to manage the team through the 2010 season.

The choice has already drawn criticism from some Reds fans. Almost as soon as Baker emerged as the leading candidate for the job last week, message board and sports talk show phone lines lit up with unhappy fans.


Much of the criticism centers on how Baker handles pitchers. Critics say he ignores pitch counts and tends to leave pitchers in games too long.


http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/nl/reds/2007-10-14-baker-reax2_N.htm
Dodger300
10/31
Yes really. The proof is in the pudding.

Owners and general managers are the only ones who count when it comes to hiring managers, and obviously the owners of the Reds were keen to get Dusty on board.

USA today columnists and fans had no power whatsoever to have "jeopardized" his hiring. Not only did you cite the idle speculation that I mentioned, but you used an article which was Published AFTER he had already been hired.

How silly does one have to think that Baker's job prosoects were somehow "jeopardized" when he had already been hired for his next job? Try not to be so gullible.

chrisw
10/30
sbnirish77:
Throwing on short rest twice is much different than throwing on short rest once. Bumgarner could throw 50-60 pitches since Wed was a day he would normally throw about 50 pitches in side work to prepare for his next start anyway. After seeing how dominating he was through 4 innings of work, its a pretty easy decision to put him out there in the 9th.

Why did he not start him? Fairer question, but probably because Hudson earned that start. He hadn't been horrible and can be dominant in his own right.

Why was no one warming up? Because he was dominant and never in trouble, but surely if anyone reached base Lopez and Romo or Casilla would have gotten up immediately.
Marcgiz
10/31
"one of the greatest postseason performances of all-time." Proximity fallacy. Take a look at Mikey Lolich's 1968 World Series performance (3 starts, 27 innings, 5 runs allowed, 21 K, beat Bob Gibson in Game 7). The argument can easily be made that this (barely remembered outside of Detroit performance) was a far better World Series performance.
rweiler
10/31
I'd suggest that if you can only find a couple of counter examples, then Bumgarner's performance is indeed one of the greatest post season performances of all time.
rweiler
10/31
Also, the one you chose happened 46 years ago. If you have to go back that far to find a comparable performance, that would suggest they are kind of rare, no?