Madison Bumgarner last night demonstrated the trouble with judging based on recent performance. Yes, his peripherals had been very good despite the 3-8 record. The record is now 3-9, and his peripherals aren’t quite so appealing.
It could be called ‘The Meltdown’ – Did you see it? No, I’m not speaking of last night’s MMA bout, but of Madison Bumgarner and his impressive one-out start. And, yes, impressive for all the wrong reasons. The game began harmless enough, with several seeing-eye groundballs through holes in the infield. And then several more. And then a solid line drive to the outfield. And then another. And another seeing-eye single. And now the batter is Carl Pavano, who will be Bumgarner’s first (and only) out of the ballgame, the score already 7-0 Minnesota. The next batter, Ben Revere, graciously ended Bumgarner’s night with an RBI double, much like the axe coming down on Mel Gibson’s exposed neck in the epic “Braveheart.” So, Bumgarner’s final line: 0.1 IP, 9 H, 0 BB, 8 ER (note that there were no errors, nor any walks involved in this seal clubbing). For the ‘outing’, if you can call it one, that’s a WHIP of 27.00 and an ERA right around 215. It’s actually 216.0, but I rounded down, for Bummy’s sake.
What does this mean? Get him out of there, as far from the pitching rubber as possible – Antarctica maybe? Australia? They only play cricket, right? Wrong. Well, not about cricket, but about Bumgarner. This is an example of the law of averages, the deceptions of a small sample size, regression to the mean. Over the past week, I don’t know how many places I have read that Bumgarner is a much better pitcher than his record indicates. Want to write that article today? Why not? Is he really a worse pitcher now? He has shown us just how bad he can be, but you shouldn’t be too surprised with the awful outing. He kept the ball in the yard, and didn’t walk people. The balls just didn’t bounce his way. Sure one game is a horrendously small sample size, but Twins hitters were 9 for 9 on balls hit in play. That smells like a ridiculously unlikely BABIP; note Madison’s season BABIP of .333. And if you watched the first inning (the rest of the game was fairly moot), you might have recognized that Bummy’s supporting defense wasn’t exactly at their best.
What matters in Fantasy Baseball (and real baseball) is not one game, but 162. Bumgarner is a good pitcher, not a great one, but probably good enough to grace a roster in most fantasy leagues. More importantly, he’s also a young player. His last start was so horrible – and unlikely – that it’s a guarantee his next will be better.
A moral to this story? Well, bad outings and games will come, they’re a part of every player’s season. Bumgarner had had bad luck with regards to wins and losses up to yesterday, but after last night’s debacle, it’s hard to argue that he is much better than his 4-8 record indicates. After the loss, his WHIP for the season sits at 1.39, quite a contrast to the pretty 1.29 he sported entering yesterday. Last year’s WHIP of 1.31 makes me think this is probably the high point. The moral is, start him, he’s the same pitcher he was two days ago, and if you have a cranky owner in your league that wants to get rid of a pitcher after his worst start of the year, take advantage and trade for him.