Saturday, August 20, 2011

Facts and Statisticinos About Tomorrow's Starting Pitcher

Check this out, loyal readers. Madison Bumgarner turned 22 this August, meaning his official age for the 2011 season is 21 (he was 21 on June 30, the halfway point of the season). He is having an historically great season for a pitcher his age, especially in the DIPS department. He's in his first full season, and he already has better command of the strike zone than his teammates Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum right now. Lincecum and Cain already had the "stuff" when they arrived in the majors; they had to add some quality pitches and "learn how to pitch" to become the aces they've been for several years. Bumgarner has a certain amount of "stuff"; he also seems to already have a great idea of "how to pitch". His K/BB ratio is 3rd best all time for a pitcher his age in a single season, and his placement barely changes if you use age 22 as the qualifier instead. Notice that the closest pitcher in recent memory is Brett Anderson, and he's not even that close. The only recent pitchers with K/BB over 3.00 on that list are Anderson and King Felix. Madison Bumgarner right now is doing something pretty unique. Imagine what kind of pitcher he could be in 2 or 3 years. Should we expect a development in either his stuff or his overall pitching ability?

Perhaps not. Every pitcher develops differently, and Bumgarner now could be close to the finished product. Maybe he never has another 2.60 FIP season. He could still be an excellent pitcher. Perhaps the improvement occurs in his ability to prevent weak contact. His .330 BABIP is very high and a product of bad luck and poor defense, but maybe part of it is attributable to his skill or approach. There could be a regression in his home run prevention, or even his strikeouts and walks.

But is that what we should expect? No. It's only fair and normal to think that he will get better in some respect. Which is exciting. And scary.

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