San Francisco Giants: Madison Bumgarner Remerges as a Cy Young Contender

Kyle BrownCorrespondent IIIAugust 21, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 20: Madison Bumgarner #40 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning at Dodger Stadium on August 20, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

After Madison Bumgarner out-dueled the reigning Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw Monday night on national television, he threw his name back into consideration for taking the award home himself this year.

The Bumgarner vs. Kershaw matchup between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers was sure to be a low-scoring game, but no one anticipated it to be one for the record books.

The two southpaws are considered to be the top left-handed pitchers in the NL, and they proved why after becoming the third pair of pitchers in the live-ball era to each strike out 10 batters and walk none.

It was truly magnificent to watch both of these lefties carve through the opposition. Kershaw was buckling knees all night with his devastating curveball, and Bumgarner was matching him by running his cutter in on the hands of righties—which prevented them from making solid contact all night. 

While both of these pitchers deserve recognition for their rare and momentous performances, Bumgarner put himself in the national spotlight and is now considered to be in the thick of things for the NL Cy Young Award.

Here's a look at how Bumgarner's numbers match up to all the other pitchers being considered for the award.

Name Wins ERA WHIP Innings Pitched K's K/BB Ratio
Johnny Cueto 16 (T-1st) 2.44 (1st) 1.13 (T-8th) 169.2 (6th) 135 (18th) 3.65 (13th)
R.A. Dickey 15 (T-2nd) 2.82 (4th) 1.03 (4th) 175.1 (3rd) 181 (1st) 4.53 (5th)
Gio Gonzlaez 16 (T-1st) 3.23 (13th) 1.16 (13th) 153.1 (18th) 154 (5th) 2.78 (26th)
Clayton Kershaw 11 (T-16th) 2.87 (7th) 1.00 (2nd) 178.2 (1st) 175 (2nd) 4.17 (7th)
Matt Cain 12 (T-10th) 2.90 (8th) 1.01 (3rd) 167.2 (7th) 154 (7th) 4.67 (4th)
Stephen Strasburg 14 (T-5th) 2.91 (9th) 1.13 (T-8th) 139.1 (42nd) 173 (3rd) 4.12 (8th)
Madison Bumgarner 14 (T-5th) 2.83 (5th) 0.99 (1st) 171.2 (4th) 160 (6th) 5.00 (3rd)

I believe this award is Johnny Cueto's to lose, but there is still a lot of baseball to be played. All it takes is a few bad starts for everything to change.

Just look at R.A. Dickey. He saw his ERA inflate from 2.40 to 2.97 in just four July starts. He has lowered it back down to 2.82, but it was only a month ago that Dickey was considered to be the unanimous choice for the award.

However, the Cy Young Award is generally won and lost in the last couple of months of the season, and that bodes well for Madison.

Since the All-Star break, there hasn't been a better starting pitcher in majors than Bumgarner.

In 56 innings pitched, he has posted a 4-2 record with a 1.93 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 61/9. His WHIP is a microscopic 0.76.

Those are the kind of jaw-dropping numbers that will get people talking about you; the type of people that are responsible for deciding who actually takes home the hardware at the end of the season. 

There is also reason to believe that Bumgarner's success isn't just a hot streak that will fizzle out down the stretch. In his young career, Bumgarner has proven that he is a second-half pitcher who saves his best for last.

During his first three years in the majors—2009 to 2011—Bumgarner has accumulated a 2.75 ERA after the All-Star break, a much higher mark than his 3.60 average prior to the midseason point. That doesn't even take into account the 1.93 ERA he's had since the halfway point this season.

Last year, Bumgarner went 9-4 with a 2.52 ERA following the Midsummer Classic, and coupled it with a K/BB ratio of 99/19.

Pitchers are generally supposed to slow down in the second half of the season, but not Bumgarner.

And after throwing 123 pitches in Monday's game against the Dodgers, manager Bruce Bochy said it perfectly.

"He's a big, strong boy, and I wasn't concerned with the pitch count," said Bochy. "It's probably harder to take him out."

Bumgarner is built for the long haul—considering his size, strength and pitching philosophy. If need be, Bumgarner could easily touch 94-95 MPH with the fastball, but he elects to cruise at an easy 90-92 because it's a speed he can control. This will not only prolong the longevity of his season, but quite possibly his career.

When it's all said and done, Bumgarner is not the frontrunner to win the Cy Young this year. But I wouldn't call him the dark horse either because the baseball world is now well aware of the season he is having.

Bumgarner is scheduled to make at least six more starts this year—at Chicago, Los Angeles, at Arizona, Colorado, Arizona, at Los Angles—hence there is plenty of time for him to build upon his already exceptional season. 

Considering his history of improving as the season progresses, there is a very good chance that Bumgarner could become the third Cy Young Award winner in the Giants' rotation.

If not this year, it's safe to say there is at least one in store for Bumgarner in the near future.

Let's not forget that he's only 23 years old.