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2012 Fantasy Baseball Projections: How Good Is Giants' Madison Bumgarner?

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2012 Fantasy Baseball Projections: How Good Is Giants' Madison Bumgarner?
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

With his five-hit complete game against the Washington Nationals Tuesday night, Madison Bumgarner extended his quality starts streak to seven. In 16 of his 24 starts this season he’s allowed two runs or less. And here’s another mind-bender: He’s walked more than two batters in an outing just once all year.

This is the kind of consistency that warrants ace status. And whether or not Bumgarner gets the credit he deserves, he’s already at that level.

Since his major-league debut in 2009 (he logged only 10 innings with the Giants that year), Bumgarner has the 11th-best ERA (3.05) and 10th-best FIP (3.17) among qualified starters. Of the pitchers ahead of him on those lists, the only walk-rate better than Bumgarner’s (1.97) is that of Roy Halladay (1.27), and the only strikeout rates better than Bumgarner’s (8.04) are those of Clayton Kershaw (9.36), Justin Verlander (9.21), Josh Johnson (8.43) and Adam Wainwright (8.31).

Since 2010, Bumgarner’s WAR (10.5) is better than that of Yovani Gallardo (9.7), Johnny Cueto (9.7), James Shields (9.4) and Matt Latos (9.1).

Bumgarner’s 2011 season (5.5 WAR) was the sixth-best by a 21-22 year-old EVER. Only Mark Prior (2003, 7.6 WAR), Frank Tanana (1975, 7.2), Brett Saberhagen (1985, 6.8), Fernando Valenzuela (1982, 6.5) and Frank Tanana (1976, 6.1) were better at the same age.

This season, Bumgarner’s WAR (3.2) tops that of Jered Weaver (3.0), Matt Cain (2.9) and Cliff Lee (2.6).

A legitimate case can be made for Bumgarner being a top 10-15 fantasy starter. And he just turned 23.

Take a minute to let that settle.

One of MadBum’s keys to success has been his first-pitch strike rate, which has risen from 57.5 percent in 2009 to 60.2 (’10), to 62.6 (’11) to 64.2 this season (17th-best among qualified starters).

There is one thing that scares me about Bumgarner, however, and it’s a doozy. He’s throwing his slider at a rate of 38 percent, second most in the majors. And if you’ve read this, you know why that’s a very bad thing.

Bumgarner’s velocity hasn’t taken a nosedive yet, but when it does you’ll want to start shopping him. In fact, I wouldn’t hesitate to move him now. This isn’t to say he can’t maintain his current value, but—and this is just a personal preference—I simply don’t trust pitchers who use their slider as much as Bumgarner does.

Chris Sale—who I wrote about earlier this week—is similar to Bumgarner in that they both are 23, they’re both pitching lights-out and they both throw their slider way too often.I’d rather have Bumgarner, given that he pitches in a more friendly home park and league.

But again, these are all just personal preferences. I don’t expect many to believe trading a 23-year-old southpaw with Bumgarner’s (or Sale’s) resume is a good idea. But if I owned either one, I’d be looking to maximize their value right now—before they fall victim to a major injury.

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