Madison Bumgarner or Jonathan Sanchez?
Thankfully for the San Francisco Giants, the tough choice between the two does not have to be made, for now. However, the day may soon come in which a trade comes along that cannot be turned down and the Giants will need to make a decision; hopefully the core rotation will stay intact (cheers for Brian Sabean), but that day may be sooner than you'd think.
As the two productive lefties in the Giants rotation (sorry, Barry Zito), Bumgarner and Sanchez are seemingly easy to group together. However, the pitchers are, in fact, extremely different physically, mentally and stylistically.
Sanchez, at 6-foot-2, 189 pounds is built for power, with long legs and a windup reliant on torque for increased force. If his arm is not in the right slot, the Giants are usually in for a stressful night. So is Sanchez, who frequently shows his frustrations on the field.
Bumgarner is a lanky 6-foot-4, 215 pounds and generates power by slinging his arm through his motion. He tends to last longer per start than Sanchez and his motion does not seem to put much stress on his arm. He also stays calm, even in stressful situations (though he has not found himself in many).
The most obvious difference between the two is age: Sanchez is 28, Bumgarner is 21.
With all of these facts taken into account, I believe that Madison Bumgarner is the better lefty moving forward. Let's go a little more in depth and see the top 10 reasons why.
One of the biggest issues with Jonathan Sanchez in the postseason was his durability. Having thrown 213 innings (regular and postseason), this is fairly understandable. After all, you or I would probably tap out by July. But hey, we're not in the big leagues.
That being said, Sanchez is 28 years old and has pitched for five seasons. Madison Bumgarner, on the other hand, is 21 and threw 224 innings this past year after throwing only 151 the year before.
This guy has a strong arm and it's not going away any time soon.
This may seem a bit broad, but hear me out.
These numbers are from the 2010 season:
Sanchez SO/BB: 2.14
Bumgarner SO/BB: 3.31
Even though Sanchez averaged 9.5 strikeouts per 9 innings to Bumgarner's seven, he also had 4.5 walks to Bumgarner's 2.1. Not to mention, Sanchez's 96 walks led the majors (yes, in a bad way).
Sanchez also threw 15 wild pitches in his 34 games whereas Bumgarner threw just 1 in his 18 games.
One of the biggest beefs with Sanchez since he has come to the big leagues has been his consistency from start to start.
Remember, Sanchez was kicked from the rotation before an injury to Randy Johnson let him return. The result was of course a no-hitter, but that game was a very big reminder of how up-and-down Sanchez can be.
Now, unfortunately, Sanchez could throw out a stat line akin to: 5 IP, 2 H, 5 BB, 5 SO, 1 run.
That would not be too surprising.
Though there have been some fluctuations in Bumgarner's velocity, his accuracy has not been an issue, and his numbers stayed fairly consistent until he began to pitch even better.
Of course, there is the chance that 2011 could be the rebirth of Sanchez as a power-control pitcher and Bumgarner could lose his control, but it does not seem very likely.
Don't forget, Jeff Suppan is now "pitcher in waiting" should Sanchez's struggles continue.
If there is something Jonathan Sanchez does not have (and there are bound to be a few other things), it is poise.
Now wait a minute. Didn't he throw a no-hitter, keeping his composure after the traitorous Juan Uribe made an error?
Well, yes, but more often than not, Sanchez is a headcase waiting to be rattled. If something is not going his way, whether it's a questionable strike zone or a faulty release point, Sanchez is at the mercy of his own mind.
Aside from an altercation in Triple-A, Bumgarner has shown composure beyond his years and always seems to leave a game with the Giants in contention.
Poise is an underrated aspect of a pitcher's game and Bumgarner has what Sanchez does not in that regard.
In Game Four of the World Series, Madison Bumgarner's line read something like this:
8 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 6 SO, 0 runs.
You just do not get any more clutch than eight innings of shutout pitching in the World Series, especially not at 21 years old, on the road. Money.
Sanchez, on the other hand, could not close out the Padres to end the season or the Phillies in the NLCS or the Rangers in the World Series.
Sanchez's high pitch count totals are a result of his inconsistency around the plate. Even when he is pitching well, he goes to a lot of 3-2 counts and throws even more pitches because of his high strikeout totals.
It was not unusual to see over 100 pitches from Sanchez in five-plus innings before Bruce Bochy was forced to go to the bullpen early. It was even earlier in Game Three of the series.
Bumgarner on the other hand has gone deep into games without the stress of too many runners on base or full counts.
In his eight innings in the World Series, he threw 21 first-pitch strikes to 27 hitters and only threw 86 pitches total.
When Bumgarner was just a prospect, he had a plus-fastball and maybe a slider. That was it. During his quick progression through the minors, he has developed a nasty slider, curve, and changeup.
Surprisingly, as Bumgarner's velocity dropped, his curveball and changeup became more effective. I believe that his velocity will return to full strength, as it did at the end of the 2010 season, and the importance of his breaking pitches will only increase as he gets older.
Sanchez has the same pitches as Bumgarner, but relies almost exclusively on his fastball. It does have a lot of movement, but relying on only one or two pitches is going to get you figured out in the big leagues.
If Sanchez can use his other pitches more effectively, he'll be in good shape going forward, but Bumgarner spreads his repertoire out already.
Yes, at 28, Jonathan Sanchez is still a young man. But the fact that we are still comparing him to a kid who's 21 says something about the state of Sanchez's baseball career.
It's getting to the point where every year we end up asking: Is this the year that Jonathan Sanchez finally figures it all out?
Sanchez's numbers in big categories have dropped every year since he came into the majors, from WHIP to ERA. However, Bumgarner put up arguably better numbers than the "improving" Sanchez as a rookie.
With promise and time on his side, how could Bumgarner not be your choice going forward?
Without question, the tandem of Bumgarner and Buster Posey is going to be a good one for a very long time.
While that's not to say that the rest of the Giants pitching staff doesn't have good chemistry with Posey, there is something to be said about fellow rookies helping to lead a team to a World Series title. That is especially true of a battery like Bumgarner and Posey.
Bumgarner is also a pretty solid hitter, so a connection on both sides of the ball would not be out of the question.
Sanchez, at least during the Bengie Molina days, was paired with backup (and my personal favorite) Eli Whiteside. Those two combined for Sanchez's no-hitter, so any connection between Sanchez and Posey pales in comparison to his tie with Whiteside.
It may not seem like a big deal, but chemistry between pitcher and catcher is very important during a game, and it may not always be there with Sanchez and the Rookie of the Year behind the dish.
The Giants have not really had a good-hitting pitcher since the days of Livan Hernandez, but Bumgarner might just be the next one.
Though he has not shown much promise in the majors, Bumgarner's latest minor league stats are fantastic. At the end of 2009 with Connecticut, he went 3-for-7 with a home run, a walk and four RBI. At Fresno, he went 5-for-15 with another home run and three RBI.
Meanwhile, Sanchez totaled three RBI last year with 26 SO in 68 at-bats. Not exactly tearing the cover off the ball...
Well, that's it. Hopefully I've convinced you of Madison Bumgarner's value for the future. If you don't believe me, let time be the judge.