As franchise-ruining embarrassing as last night’s loss last night for the Rockies was, another poor showing today against the struggling Madison Bumgarner would elevate the organization to the top of the contraction list.
After his previous start, I took a look at his Statcast data to see if there was a trend in the pitching data to explain why he had gone from the Giants’ best starter to 2000-era Shawn Estes, and lo and behold, it turns out that the spin rates of all his pitches have declined sharply since the dirt bike accident.
The Rockies smacked three home runs off of him two starts ago in Colorado, but as we saw last night, the Rockies’ success appears to be a Coors Field mirage. They were shutout at AT&T Park —
Foltynewicz, Mikolas, Corbin, Scherzer, Williams, Taillion, Stratton. There is your entire list of National League pitchers who have thrown a complete game shutout this year, in the era of starters being fungible nothings. #sfgiants— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) September 15, 2018
I’ll grant you that Mr. Schulman is being awfully dramatic there, but don’t let that distract from the fact that the Rockies think they can make it to the playoffs despite being shut out by Chris Stratton. My dudes, if you cannot win on the road and you cannot score more than 2 runs against the Giants, then you do not deserve to be a major league franchise. I don’t make the rules, that’s just the way it is.
But look, the Giants achieved 69 wins for the first time since 2016. That’s to be congratulated. They sought to be better this year over last year, and they did it. They want to be better next year than this year, and maybe they could be with some huge changes. It’d be really helpful if Madison Bumgarner’s next few starts were of the 7-inning 2-run variety just to increase the chances the the team could really shake things up by moving one of their few movable assets.
A low-value Bumgarner won’t back a big enough or interesting enough return for the team to consider it, but you’d have to think that another shutout or just three above average performances will really put the Giants in a position to get back at least one major league-ready player in trade with perhaps another high-value prospect behind him.
Maybe you’re just rooting for Bumgarner to get back on track because you like Bumgarner and you like that he’s on your favorite team. Fair enough. Just remember: the Rockies are supposed to be way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way better than the Giants this year, and if they can’t be for a second night in a row, then they should feel bad.
Madison Bumgarner (5-6, 4.13 FIP) has a startling home/road split (by ERA):
HOME — 1.49 ERA, 54.1 IP | 47 K, 17 BB, 2 HR, 1.012 WHIP, .240 BAbip
AWAY — 5.02 ERA, 57.1 IP | 49 K, 23 BB, 11 HR, 1.448 WHIP, .292 BAbip
Just based on BAbip, his home numbers appear to be the result of some intense luck. He’s actually gotten a bit lucky on the road despite the rough numbers, and as you can see, his strikeout numbers are fairly consistent... though down overall compared to the rest of his career.
Indeed, his 7.7 strikeouts per 9 innings is the second lowest of his career, trailing his 7.0 in 2010. The difference in innings between then and now is 0.2 innings (111.0 in 2010, 111.2 in 2018). He was also walking only 2.1 batters per 9 innings back then, compared to 3.6 batters per 9 innings now.
Spin rate data (measured in rpm) doesn’t exist for 2010, but we do have values going back to 2015. Here are two breakouts (including velocity, in mph): his three year average from 2015-2017 and this year’s totals:
SINKER 91.8 mph / 2,243 rpm
CUTTER 87.0 mph / 2,227 rpm
CURVE 76.7 mph / 2,346 rpm
CHANGEUP 84.2 mph / 1,627 rpm
4-SEAM FB 91.9 mph / 2,283
SINKER 90.9 mph / 2,082 rpm
CUTTER 85.4 mph / 2,133 rpm
CURVE 77.4 mph / 2,295 rpm
CHANGE 83.5 mph / 1,464 rpm
4-SEAM 91.1 mph / 2,713 rpm * but, according to data, he’s only thrown this pitch once in 18
So, you know, all those figures are way down this year compared to the previous three. The good news is, the last time he faced the Rockies in AT&T Park (June 27th), Bumgarner pitched seven shutout innings, struck out eight, walked two, and gave up only two hits.
Germán Márquez (12-9, 3.50 FIP) has been the Rockies’ second best starter all season long and in his last start against the Giants (September 4th in Colorado), he struck out 11 in 6.2 innings. He’s had three consecutive starts with double digit strikeout totals, in fact, all against NL West opponents: 13 against the Padres on August 30th, the Giants game, and 11 just last week in Colorado against the Diamondbacks.
He’s done this damage with remarkable efficiency. He hasn’t walked more than two batters over his last seven starts (66:10 strikeout to walk ratio). His 10.24 K/9 rate is 13th best in all of Major League Baseball and 5th in the National League and his 3.68 K/BB ratio is good for 25th in MLB.
Most importantly (for the Rockies), his 3.04 road FIP is 13th best in MLB (6th in the NL). He is their best starter on the road by far. So, again, if the Rockies can’t win tonight’s game, then they don’t deserve to reach the postseason.
The Giants will see if they can defy the odds one more time.