Keeper: Niese versus Bumgarner

Both Jonathon Niese and Madison Bumgarner are young lefties having solid seasons, and are going to be kept in a number of leagues. But, what if you have both and have to pick one over the other? We need to examine both Niese and Bumgarner and decide who will be a better player next year, and a couple of years down the road.

Niese and Bumgarner’s numbers are nothing spectacular, but when you combine all of their peripherals together, you get a solid pitcher. Niese has a strikeout rate north of 7.5 K/9, with Bumgarner unable to reach the 6.5 mark. Since his strikeout rate is lower, Bumgarner’s walk rate needs to be lower, which it is. Bumgarner walks about two batter every nine innings, while Niese walks about three. This means that Bumgarner’s K/BB is significantly better, coming in around three, while Niese isn’t even at 2.5. That’s Bumgarner’s biggest, and possibly only advantage. Both get enough ground balls to keep me off their case, and Niese’s 47% isn’t leaps and bounds better than Bumgarner’s 45%. Both have FIP’s and xFIP’s close to 4.00, so it’s hard to get a read on who could be better based on the pure numbers. This is where a tool like pitch f/x comes in handy.

Guess what? Their arsenal’s are pretty similar, too. Even with all of the talk about Bumgarner’s velocity, his fastball is hovering around 91 mph this year, and that includes his two-seamer. Niese sits in the 89-90 range, and doesn’t throw his fastball for strikes as often as Bumgarner. Niese also throws a nice slutter, and that is his only pitch with a positive run value. He does a great job of controlling it and getting whiffs, so that shouldn’t be a shock. None of Bumgarner’s secondary offerings are anything special, but he does a good job of throwing them all for strikes. However, Niese has great movement on his curveball, and while it’s whiff% is nothing to write home about (although maybe I just did?), it could be special if he can do a better job of controlling it.

Bumgarner is only 20, while Niese is already the ripe old age of 23. They both have the same physical build, but they use it in different ways. Since I have to pick one, I’d take Niese over Bumgarner because I think he can learn to control himself and lower his walks while upping his K’s, and I don’t know if Bumgarner will ever become more of a strikeout pitcher. If you can, grab both, but I’d rather have Niese.

We hoped you liked reading Keeper: Niese versus Bumgarner by Zach Sanders!

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Zach is the creator and co-author of RotoGraphs' Roto Riteup series, and RotoGraphs' second-longest tenured writer. You can follow him on twitter.

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Eddie in NYC
Eddie in NYC

I think we need to take into account their deliveries too. For instance, a max effort guy vs. an under-control delivery gives you a clue about who may be able to resist injury, improve, or be more consistent. It’s the difference between pitchers like, say, a controlled control-artist like a Jaime Moyer career path vs. A.J. Burnett, who is a prototypical max effort guy, who is prone to flying open early and having bouts of command and the occasional health issue.