Since 2012, can you guess which starting pitcher in major league baseball has thrown the most sliders? Why, our very own beloved slider spinnin' mountain man Madison Bumgarner, of course.
A quick look-see at the data table for most sliders thrown.
Only three pitchers have thrown more than 2,000 sliders over the past two years. This is generally the spot where I feel obligated to speak a little on how the PITCHf/x algorithm identifies sliders, but even so, it's clear that Bumgarner throws the slider/cutter repeatedly, over and over. I've seen Bumgarner call his slider a 'cutter' in the past, so I'm not sure what he prefers to call it these days, but it's a pitch he pounds the zone with. Brooks Baseball -- which has classified the pitch as a cutter -- has Bumgarner throwing the pitch between 37-39 percent over the past two seasons. (To not confuse things, I'm going to refer to it as a slider for the remainder of this article.)
Batters have hit a paltry .222/.279/.331 over the past two years against the slider. That's basically what Juan Castro hit for his career. If you're freaking out about Barry Zito being on the list, don't. Zito's slider, in this same time frame, was hammered by batters, crushing the pitch to a batting line of .309/.373/.497. You heard it here first: Madison Bumgarner's slider is better than Barry Zito's. Hard hitting analysis -- it's why you come to McCovey Chronicles.
Maybe the most impressive aspect about Bumgarner's mastery of the slider is his ability to control the pitch. He ranks second in Zone% -- the percentage of pitches thrown within the strike zone -- with the slider in our sample of pitchers. More than half the time (53.10 percent) Bumgarner puts the slider in the strike zone. Only Jordan Zimmermann (54.10 percent) has a higher percentage.
Grant touched on Bumgarner's spring dominance in his last game recap, here. In most cases spring training statistics are suspicious things. But in this case, I'm pretty sure it means that Madison Bumgarner is going to have another fantastic season. And he won't turn 25 years old until this August. And he's still signed to an amazing contract.
Enjoy him, folks. He's something special.