I'm sure everyone on McCovey knows about MadBum but I still believe he is relatively unknown for the caliber of pitcher he is, especially after his terrible beginning to the season. Even those who know that he's awesome might not realize exactly how awesome he is. After the beginning of this season when he went 3-9 with a 4.06 ERA including the June 21st meltdown where he posted 8 ERs in a third of an inning it's not hard to blame them. Somewhere behind Vogelsong coming out of nowhere and the quasi-playoff chase though, Bumgarner was putting together an amazing season.
A lot of this rather horrific start can be attributed to a very fluky .342 BABIP and the Giants historically bad offense. During this initial stretch Bumgarner received a decision in 12 of the 15 games he started, and in 7 of those games the Giants put up 1 run or less. That's getting Cained pretty hard, even for Cain.Though his ERA suffered heavily for this his peripherals were all outstanding during that stretch, allowing only 4 home runs in 84.1 IP, which tracks to 10 in a season. His SO/BB ratio stayed very strong at 2.75 while his HR/9 was 6th best in the majors. Adjusting his 93 hits to a more reasonable .300 BABIP yields 81.5, which combined with his 24 walks yields a more acceptable 1.25 WHIP. His FB/HR% might to be a candidate for regression in the coming year but Dave Righetti seems to be some sort of wizard at preventing home runs, as all of San Francisco's starters have consistently low home run rates.
Just to quickly delve into Dave Righetti's magical home run-suppresion and also talk about my favorite starter, Matt Cain actually owned the lowest HR/FB% in the majors by nearly a percent and a half at 3.7%. While some would quickly attribute this to the fact he plays half his games at AT&T, Cain only had one more home run pitching away than he did at home with five & four, respectively. Bumgarner had twice as many home runs away than he did at home, but still held his season totals to 4 at home and 8 away.
After that terrible start against the Twins he seemed to find a bit more control, and perhaps the whole first third of his season can just be chalked up to sample size and bad luck. His season numbers after the previously mentioned start are truly impressive, throwing 120.1 innings at 2.62 ERA & 1.088 WHIP coupled with a gaudy 5.68 SO/BB ratio.
According to FIP, xFIP, tRA, and SIERA Bumgarner was the 4th, 7th, 7th, and 8th best pitcher in the MLB this last year. The player with the most similar advanced metric rankings and peripherals to him in the 2011 season was Justin Verlander, and he actually had a pretty good year. BABIP is obviously not the only difference between the seasons they had but it does cast a lot of light onto it, Verlander enjoyed a season of .236 BABIP, which is ridiculously unsustainable, while Bumgarner's settled at .322. Part of this is obviously due to park differences, different levels of defensive skill, and random chance, but in the long run BABIP should fluctuate randomly and almost always averages out.
The last remarkable thing about Bumgarner is the fact that he just turned 22 in August and has already put up a 5.5 WAR season. The Giants have him under team control until 2017 and should see him be far and away the best WAR/$ pitcher in their rotation at least until he hits arbitration. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain obviously make a formidable duo but the next few years might see Bumgarner become the best pitcher on an already outstanding staff.
I think Bumgarner will hover around a 3.00 ERA in 2012, get close to 200 K's and improve his already ridiculous SO/BB ratio. Regardless, I'm glad we have him for at least 5 more years.