On Wednesday, the San Francisco Giants won their third World Series championship in the past five years. A big part of that impressive run has been Madison Bumgarner, who basically took the Giants’ pitching staff on his back, willing them to two World Series wins as well as a dominant five-inning save in the decisive Game 7.
Teammate Jeremy Affeldt may have said it best to reporters after the game:
How it ended today pretty much summed up the Giants in the World Series. That guy [Bumgarner] carried us. He flat-out carried us.
For the entire 2014 postseason, he tossed 52.2 innings and maintained a miniscule 1.01 ERA, the lowest in a single postseason in MLB history with at least 40 innings pitched. Those numbers are incredibly hard to obtain while playing a video game, let alone while facing some of the best hitters in the league.
Unsurprisingly, his sensational efforts earned him the World Series MVP.
However, the most impressive thing was not the strikeouts or the low ERA, but the high volume of work. Bumgarner averaged nearly eight innings in his six postseason starts, and then he pitched five masterful innings out of the bullpen on two days rest in the final game after throwing 117 high-stress pitches in Game 5.
It was only the third five-inning save in any professional game, regular or postseason, in the past 25 years. The fact that it came on very short rest makes it that much more outstanding.
His save was more than an inning longer than any other save recorded in World Series history, and he also became the first player in MLB history to register two wins, a shutout and a save in one World Series.
Surprisingly, Bumgarner has been even more unhittable in the World Series. In five career appearances, he has a microscopic 0.25 ERA, which is the lowest of any pitcher in history with at least 25 World Series innings pitched.
Bumgarner's tremendous success in the postseason begs the following question: Is he the best World Series starter in MLB history?
At this point in his career, the numbers say he is. But it’s about more than stats. He will likely be revered for the rest of his career as a gritty, unselfish pitcher who will do whatever it takes to help his team win. A lot of starters would not be willing to pitch in relief on short rest, but Bumgarner seemed to embrace it.
His late-game heroics brought back memories of Randy Johnson coming out of the bullpen in 2001 to quell the Yankees. But Johnson was only asked to get three outs while Bumgarner got 15.
Honestly, it’s nearly impossible to decide whether Bumgarner is the best ever. By the numbers, he has been the most stifling to this point, but he is still only 25 years old and has pitched just 36 innings.
Sandy Koufax, Christy Mathewson and Bob Gibson are a few names that come to mind when thinking of other dominant World Series stars, and they have thrown 57, 101.2 and 81 innings, respectively.
Right now, Bumgarner has cemented himself as one of the greatest World Series pitchers of all time, but he needs to get a few more starts under his belt to ultimately be crowned the best.