Madison Bumgarner. Brian Matusz.
Remember those two names. Remember them well.
There's a very good chance both young pitchers will be revered figures on the Major League Baseball landscape for many years to come.
The San Francisco Giants' prized hurler will turn a mind-bending 20 years old in a couple weeks on August 1. The Baltimore Oriole ace-in-waiting is an ancient 22 years young by comparison.
MadBum should be your typical college sophomore except, as they did with Nuke LaLoosh, the Baseball Gods "reached down and turned [his left] arm into a thunderbolt." Because of that gift, he entered the 2009 season as the No. 9 blue-chipper in all of baseball, according to Baseball America.
Now the southpaw is No. 5.
Meanwhile, Matusz could've just graduated from the University of San Diego had he not skedaddled after three years when drafted by the O's. The astute judges of talent over at Baseball America had him as the No. 25 prospect in baseball to open 2009 and currently resides in the ninth spot vacated by Bumgarner.
Toss in his lefty lean, and the two prodigal studs seemed a perfect fit for comparison when Isaac Barrow suggested we do just that. When you see the 2009 numbers, you'll see just how similar the two hill-magicians really are.
And how special:
Madison Bumgarner—15 GS, 86 2/3 IP, 9-2, 1.56 ERA, 1.027 WHIP, 71 K, 24 BB, 2 HR, 1 CG, 1 SHO
The gem of the Orange and Black farm system has put up staggering ratios at two different levels this season. His line includes 10 GS, 62 1/3 IP, 6-1, 1.59 ERA, 1.043 WHIP, 48 K, 20 BB, as well as all of his home runs allowed, complete games, and shutouts at AA.
The other numbers were generated in Advanced-A ball.
Brian Matusz—16 starts, 98 IP, 9-2, 2.11 ERA, 1.071 WHIP, 110 K, 27 BB, 6 HR, 1 CG, 1 SHO
Although the Baltimore beauty slipped a little in his most recent start, the numbers from two separate levels of competition are still dazzling. All the more so when you consider they include 11 GS, 66 2/3 IP, 4-2, 2.16 ERA, 1.155 WHIP, 75 K, 21 BB, and 5 HR at AA with the other numbers coming from (you guessed it) Advanced-A ball.
The question you knew was coming has arrived: who's better?
I'll give you two chances to guess who Isaac picked, and you can probably save the second to predict my them up without needing another.
This is the ultimate subjective question, and it's being addressed by a die-hard San Francisco fan and his opposite number from Baltimore. That's about all you need to know, but throwing in the similarity of numbers should seal the prognostication.
Obviously, there's no way to know for sure based on Minor League numbers.
There's no way to predict how either player will acclimate to the leap in talent and scrutiny that comes with your debut in the Show. Even more tangibly, I have no idea whether both youngsters' presence in the Eastern League means they're facing the same level of competition.
You'd think so, but—considering the fluid nature of the Minors—who really knows? Here today, gone tomorrow and such...
So I'm going with Madison Bumgarner as the answer to a question with no real answer.
I could lazily type "he's destined for a San Francisco Giant uniform" and leave it at that, but I really do believe there are some concrete reasons why MadBum lands four rungs above Matusz on the prospect ladder despite the almost identical profiles.
There is the issue of age-to-development ratios.
Madison will need that fake I.D. for another year if he were to do any hypothetical boozing while Brian has more than a year of legality under his belt in that regard. However, this is the former's second full year in professional baseball while it's the latter's first rodeo.
You could argue that means the future Oriole is actually progressing faster so the extra two years in age are nullified, but that's a mischaracterization of the situation.
Matusz had three years of college baseball seasoning as well as the five Advanced-A starts in 2009 (which Bumgarner also registered so they're moot). Against those three years in college, the future Giant can retaliate with an additional 24 Advanced-A starts in 2008.
I don't know if that puts speed of development on the San Francisco hurler's side, but it certainly allows him to look his Baltimore counterpart straight in the eye.
Then, it becomes a matter of two lambent pitchers in AA ball and one being a little younger.
There are also the raw numbers in AA, the highest level at which both pitchers have thrown to date.
Our southpaw leads in some very important and very probative categories, namely earned run average, WHIP, and winning percentage. Of course, the leads in ERA and WHIP are small while winning percentage is by far the weakest indicator of the bunch.
And an objective argument has to acknowledge their southpaw's dominance in the whiff category—27 extra K in only 4 1/3 extra frames—which lands somewhere between ERA/WHIP and winning percentage in terms of significance (closer to ERA/WHIP).
Ultimately, though, it comes down to a matter of personal taste. If your heart belongs to San Francisco, then Madison Bumgarner is your choice.
As he is mine.