If you’ve had the misfortune to be stricken by amnesia, allow me to remind you – Madison Bumgarner was fantastic this postseason. Per a pet statistic called ChampAdded, he was responsible for about 90 percent of the Giants’ World Series victory. In a sense, I’ve already written about Bumgarner this winter. Now is a good time to share the results from the question I asked one month ago – how much would you pay for him?
In real life, Bumgarner is signed to an affordable contract. Most fantasy owners don’t have contracts. Of the 24 commenters, most mentioned they would pay something around $25 with a range from $20 to $27. After coming off a fantastic regular season worth $21, a $25 purchase price seems reasonable. According to FantasyPros, his average cost was $22 last season.
Like all fantasy acquisitions, you should consider the pros and cons to owning Bumgarner. He provides elite four category production. I was initially surprised he was worth only $21 after winning 18 games, striking out 219, and posting a 2.98 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. As you probably know, the sport has skewed in favor of pitchers in recent years, which devalues elite performances.
Bumgarner has been consistently healthy with over 200 innings pitched in the last four seasons. He lasts deep into the ball game, which helps yield victories. His home park is ridiculously pitcher friendly. He doesn’t need the hometown advantage – his 9.07 K/9, 1.78 BB/9, and 20.2 percent K%-BB% would play anywhere. It simply helps to call AT&T Park home.
If you’re looking for negatives, it’s mostly workload. He threw 270 regular and postseason inning in 2014. He’ll have a short offseason to recover for the 2015 campaign. Worrying about workloads is difficult – often it’s fine until it’s not. It’s up to you to decide how to handle his past usage.
One thing I do worry about is his repertoire. He threw his cutter about one-third of the time. Frequent use of a cutter isn’t a problem, but Bumgarner’s is more aptly described as a slutter. It’s four MPH slower than his fastball, which tells me he’s adding some slider snap to the pitch. From our esteemed colleague Jeff Zimmerman, we know that frequent slider usage is an injury indicator. Who knows if the same applies to frequent slutter use? Interestingly, it was his second least effective pitch last season.
Mechanically, he’s one of the most unique pitchers in the big leagues. Take a look.
Nobody teaches those mechanics. His arm comes way behind him as though he’s getting ready to submarine, and then he comes (mostly) over the top. I’ve had spirited arguments over whether that’s a three-quarters or side-armed delivery. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. What could matter is that he has unusual mechanics which may increase or decrease his injury risk. We don’t know, it’s just something to note.
How should we treat Bumgarner on draft day? That depends on your predispositions. If you’re willing to pay top dollar for top pitching, then Bumgarner could be a useful investment. When healthy, he’s an excellent fantasy producer. He’ll probably be overvalued based on his fantastic postseason, but we’re talking about a dollar or two on average. If you want an excuse to take a pass. you can point to his slutter, workload, and strange mechanics.
The two hardest things about drafting pitching are inconsistency and substitutions (in the economic sense). Bumgarner is one of the least inconsistent pitchers in baseball, but even he comes with an injury risk of around 30 percent. As for substitutes, any of the top 20 or so pitchers after Kershaw can be considered interchangeable. Is Cole Hamels much different than Bumgarner? Tyson Ross? Bumgarner is an easy pick to outperform them, but it’s not a lock. If Ross costs $10 less than Bumgarner, than maybe the downgrade in expected performance can be applied to an improvement elsewhere.
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