Saturday, June 26, 2010

Better in Defeat: Comparing Madison Bumgarner's 2009 and 2010 Giants Debuts

Finally, Madison Bumgarner was called up and made his first start of the 2010 season and second start of his career. I must say, for Giants fans, it was a bit of a nerve-wrecking occasion. If his 2009 debut was filled with excitement and hope, then the 2010 version may have been one filled with dread and worry.

After all, after the failed experiment of Todd Wellemeyer so far this year, and with neither Joe Martinez, Eric Hacker or Kevin Pucetas the long-term solution, a lot of pressure rested on Bumgarner in his debut tonight against the Red Sox. If he did well, then he may have earned his spot in the Giants rotation for the remainder of the season. If he got shelled, well...then it would be back to Fresno, and the Giants would be shopping for a fifth starter by the trade deadline (which would undoubtedly mean more trades of prospects...sigh).

Well, how did he do? If you judge him by the loss and the two home runs and four runs allowed, then I can see why you might consider his 2010 debut a bit of a disappointment. However, Giants fans must keep two things in mind.

1.) He allowed all four runs in the first two innings and looked a lot better the next five innings. In fact, if you think about it, the notion that he went seven innings despite allowing four runs, four hits and a walk in the first two innings shows how efficient Bumgarner was from the third-through-seventh. Hence, rough start, but great finish in Bumgarner's debut (which evens out to above average, if not borderline good, start).

2.) This start was a heck of a lot more impressive than his 2009 Major League debut.

Sure, he allowed less runs in his first professional start against the Padres. Yes he was in line for the win in that start until the bullpen imploded against San Diego.

Look at the advanced pitch numbers from both starts though. (Courtesy of Brooks Baseball's Pitch F/X tool.)

Bumgarner's 2009 Start against the Padres

Pitch Statistics
Pitch Type Avg Speed Max Speed Avg H-Break Avg V-Break Count Strikes / % Swinging Strikes / % Linear Weights Time to Plate
FF (FourSeam Fastball)88.1190.44.008.094831 / 64.58%2 / 4.17% 0.86530.424
CH (Changeup)85.8587.67.454.4143 / 75.00%1 / 25.00% -0.24730.436
SL (Slider)78.9488.3-2.422.361812 / 66.67%0 / 0.00% -0.66330.475
FC (Cutter)77.0377.7-4.673.5241 / 25.00%0 / 0.00% 0.04850.481
FT (TwoSeam Fastball)81.3081.37.224.1911 / 100.00%0 / 0.00% -0.06240.455
Pitch classifications provided by the Gameday Algorithm and may be inaccurate.

Pitch Type LWTS correspond to how many runs were likely to score on a particular pitch based on average run expectancy when each pitch was thrown and what happened as a result. Negative scores indicate more effective pitches.

Time to Plate is the time, in seconds, that it takes an average pitch of this type to reach the plate. This is strongly correlated with velocity, but also factors in movement.


Bumgarner's 2010 Start Against the Red Sox


Pitch Statistics
Pitch Type Avg Speed Max Speed Avg H-Break Avg V-Break Count Strikes / % Swinging Strikes / % Linear Weights Time to Plate
FF (FourSeam Fastball)89.7092.44.149.205640 / 71.43%0 / 0.00% -0.01610.417
CH (Changeup)81.1881.96.036.1754 / 80.00%1 / 20.00% -0.34720.462
SL (Slider)82.4285.2-1.722.611711 / 64.71%2 / 11.76% 0.19380.454
CU (Curveball)71.7973-6.70-4.2297 / 77.78%1 / 11.11% -0.50030.526
FC (Cutter)85.1085.3-1.914.9720 / 0.00%0 / 0.00% 0.07490.437
FT (TwoSeam Fastball)80.6981.96.585.0274 / 57.14%0 / 0.00% -0.50740.460
Pitch classifications provided by the Gameday Algorithm and may be inaccurate.

Pitch Type LWTS correspond to how many runs were likely to score on a particular pitch based on average run expectancy when each pitch was thrown and what happened as a result. Negative scores indicate more effective pitches.

Time to Plate is the time, in seconds, that it takes an average pitch of this type to reach the plate. This is strongly correlated with velocity, but also factors in movement.


A few things really jump out when you compare these two graphs:

1.) Bumgarner's velocity is back up, which has been the worry about Bumgarner since his debut last year. Last September, Bumgarner was averaging 88.1 MPH on the gun and was only topping out at around 90. Against the Red Sox? The average velocity was 89.7 MPH and he was topping out at around 92.4 MPH, which was what the scouts were reporting this year (nothing came out about his velocity before his debut last season).

2.) Bumgarner mixed it up with his pitches this time around. Last year, of the 75 pitches he threw, 48 were four-seam fastballs (64 percent) and 18 were sliders (24 percent). Hence, Bumgarner showed little pitch variety in his professional debut, which was a worry because he didn't have the velocity to back up such a limited pitch repertoire. Today though? He threw 96 pitches total, showed six pitches (in comparison to five last year) and threw only 56 four-seam fastballs (58.3 percent) and 17 sliders (17.7 percent). What was even more impressive was the fact that he threw 23 pitches (24 percent) that weren't four-seam fastballs or sliders, a increase from the nine (12 percent) he threw last year.

3.) Last year, Bumgarner had only three swinging strikes of the 75 pitches he threw last September, which totals to about four percent. Today, Bumgarner had four swing and misses (4.2 percent). The Major League Average is about eight percent, so in terms of getting guys to whiff, Bumgarner has been below average in both of his starts. Hopefully, he'll continue to develop the secondary pitches and continue to have confidence in them, because from the look of it, he isn't and probably won't be a pitcher that can overpower or fool people at the plate.

Another interesting thing to take a look at (I would put it on here, but I don't want things to get too graph heavy, so I'll just hyperlink) would be the inning-by-inning breakdowns of his 2009 and 2010 starts. He definitely was a lot more efficient in terms of throwing strikes, even with the shaky first two innings and all.

Overall, the numbers from today are solid, though far from spectacular. If anything, Bumgarner may be ready to take the fifth spot in the rotation for the remainder of the year, simply because I think he's a better option than Wellemeyer or Martinez. (And at the very least, it would almost force Bruce Bochy to play Buster Posey behind the plate more since they were battery mates in Fresno.)

However, like I've mentioned before on this blog, people expecting Bumgarner to be the next Tim Lincecum may be vastly disappointed if you judge him on his first two Major League starts. He simply hasn't shown (and most likely just doesn't have) a strong ability to strike people out.

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