We’re nearly done with our season review series and we’re maybe a month away from our look back at the decade that was and what’s missing is your feedback. So, today and tomorrow, we’re giving McCovey Chronicles and SB Nation readers a chance to vote for the best pitcher and best batter on the Giants in 2019.
Today, let’s take a look at the Pitcher of the Year candidates, as determined by our staff. After the nominee field, you get a chance to vote in a poll. Remember: the result becomes legally binding.
Here’s the obvious choice. Not only was Bumgarner the best pitcher on staff, he was the most valuable player on the team by Wins Above Replacement (3.2 fWAR). His 207.2 IP were the 9th most in baseball and his 4.72 K/BB was 11th-best.
[Bumgarner] provided innings and stability to the weakest part of the team.
I’ll never get to pick him again and [...] I was hyper aware that I was watching something special come to an end. Plus all those innings matter.
We had two nonconsecutive months of breathlessly remarking, “Is this the final start for Madison Bumgarner in a Giants uniform?” and it all ended with a pinch hit appearance against Clayton Kershaw. The quasi profundity of it all wasn’t strictly because of his World Series exploits — they’re distant memories by this point — but because Bumgarner was still delivering for the team. He wasn’t a top 10 pitcher, but he was top 30 in a competitive and ever-changing league.
No pitcher was hit harder in baseball last season than Madison Bumgarner. His 43.8% hard rate on FanGraphs is #1 overall (as in the worst) and his 41.5% Hard Hit Rate on Statcast is #4 (fourth-worst) overall among starting pitchers, behind just Shane Bieber, German Marquez, and Mike Leake.
The difference between FanGraphs’ rating and Statcast’s is that FanGraphs’ doesn’t factor in raw exit velocity. Statcast would not exist without raw exit velocity. Factoring that in, batters had an average exit velocity of 89.4 mph (5th in MLB). Batters barreled the ball 9% of the time, the 4th-worst in baseball. When hitters made contact against Bumgarner, they hit him hard. He did a decent job of limiting that contact (8.8 K/9, 8.3 H/9), but couldn’t consistently overpower hitters.
The Giants’ sole All-Star representative was among the best relievers in baseball. His 13.2 K/9 was 5th in the National League among all relievers, 12th in MLB and he had a top-10 xFIP. Were it not for the juiced ball, he’d probably have had a better year, as his actual FIP of 3.23 was just 24th-best. Still, he was very good at controlling the things he could control (walks, home runs, strikeouts) and became the face of a bullpen that was formidable for half a season.
Lone All-Star, Top 10 reliever in the majors, Batting 1.000
Can I choose Will Smith for both [Pitcher of the Year and Batter of the Year]?
I have to pick Will Smith . . . mostly because if I pick Tyler Rogers, Roger Munter will never let me live it down.
Smith was also tied with Justin Verlander for first place in Win Probability Added with 5.6. In other words, his performance in high-leverage situations was as good as one of the best starting pitchers in baseball and helped the Giants, statistically and over the course of a full season, win 6 games.
He wasn’t the absolute best reliever in baseball and his second half was remarkably worse than his first half (4.73 FIP compared to 2.03 in the first half). As great as his high leverage performance was, he didn’t register as the most valuable pitcher on the roster, either. Jeff Samardzija accumulated just a bit more WAR (1.5) over the course of the season.
Here’s the cutting edge choice. This is the one you might make if you wanted to kick the past to the curb and focus on the present and near-term future, in which case the “Best Of” for 2019 might well be players who figure to be both on the roster in 2020 and slated to provide quality innings.
The Giants traded for him thinking he could be a starter but knowing he had the stuff to work out of the bullpen. They gave him 16 starts in 2019 but after a 5.33 ERA and .827 OPS against in just 82.2 innings, he got bumped to the bullpen after returning from the IL.
He was uneven as a starter but when they converted him to a reliever he didn’t blink an eye and was happy to oblige.
The difference was stark. Anderson went from a 6.0 K/9 as a starter to 10.3 K/9 as a reliever. Sure, that’s just a sampling of 13.1 innings, but it’s remarkable. His stuff did play up. His velocity did go up. The ERA did . . . not go down (6.08) and he had two high-profile flameouts after it looked like he had settled into this new role. Still . . . did Bobby Evans gift Farhan Zaidi with a dominant late inning relief force?
Basing a judgment call off of 96 innings, and really just 13.1 relief innings does not seem to make a lot of sense and yet, if you want to base your vote on who gives you hope for the future, Anderson’s generally useful talent — especially as a final talent holdover from the previous regime — fits the bill.
Look, I’m not going to argue that Josh Donaldson was not deserving of the Comeback Player of the Year Award in the NL, but Jeff Samardzija didn’t even make it as a finalist.
Instead, it was Donaldson, Sonny Gray, and Hyun-Jin Ryu, all players who had positive WAR totals in 2018. In Donaldson and Ryu’s cases, they had injury-shortened seasons, so their comebacks were based more on returning to peak performance following those setbacks. Meanwhile, Sonny Gray was coming back from . . . pitching in New York?
Samardzija was both a completely terrible pitcher (-0.1 fWAR) before losing most of last year to injury and lost most of last year to injury, which would put him on par with Ryu and the eventual winner, Donaldson. All he did this year was be consistent (182.2 IP) and provide positive value (1.5 fWAR), a huge step up from where he’d been. It was the third-best season of his career, you know.
As Sami notes:
His turnaround was an unexpected and welcome surprise.
While more valuable than Smith by 0.3 fWAR, he wasn’t more valuable than Madison Bumgarner, and out of all qualified starting pitchers, his 1.5 fWAR was better than just two others: Dakota Hudson (1.0) and Mike Leake (1.0), meaning he was the 59th-best starter in baseball . . . out of 61.
If a vote for Anderson is a vote based on the team’s future, then here’s a nominee to satisfy the hipster-contrarian contingent. Drew Pomeranz was a terrible starting pitcher for the Giants (6.10 ERA in 72.1 IP, 17 starts), but untouchable in relief.
ShutupWesley chimes in from the helm:
I’ll go with Pomeranz and his five innings of relief, which netted the most adorable prospect since the brandons.
Should the Pitcher of the Year be based on the value he brought back in trade?
Here’s where you get to decide:
Who was the Giants’ Pitcher of the Year?
This poll is closed