San Francisco Giants‘ southpaw Madison Bumgarner has steadfastly developed into one of the most formidable left-handed pitchers in baseball. At 24-years-old, Bumgarner is an extremely valuable commodity, recording a 4.4 wins-above-replacement in 2013.
The gnarly left-hander doesn’t boast enormous speed on his fastball, but his ability to mix pitches with sound control constantly keeps hitters off balance. Bumgarner enjoyed his best season as a pro in 2013, posting a respectable 13-9 record with a 2.77 ERA. He struck out 199 hitters in 201.1 innings while sustaining an efficient 1.033 WHIP.
Bumgarner has risen to the occasion. He doesn’t own significant accolades beyond being a high-caliber pitcher on the biggest stage in the World Series, but he is unofficially the Giants’ best starting pitcher.
The fact that Bumgarner still has room for improvement should strike fear into opposing hitters. He registered a career-best 6.5 hits surrendered per nine innings last season, a figure which has decreased in each of Bumgarner’s three full big league seasons. The big bodied ace is far from perfecting his craft, although he’s become a force to be reckoned with at the plate.
Bumgarner features five pitches in his repertoire, all of which can be used as leverage in any count. His best pitch is his slider, specifically because his low three-quarter release allows him to mirror that pitch with his fastball. It makes for a deadly tandem, especially when coupled with his changeup. Bumgarner also throws a sweeping curveball that drops off the plate.
The steady emergence of San Francisco’s farmhand has the potential to bring the Giants back to the forefront of the National League West where they relinquished their divisional choke-hold last season. Bumgarner isn’t just good enough to help launch the Giants back into the playoffs. He’s going to contend for Cy Young Award honors every season.
Bumgarner earned his first accolades as a big league starting pitcher in 2013 as an All-Star, and he also finished ninth on the Cy Young Award ballot. This season has serious potential to be different in a positive way. If Bumgarner is able to consistently improve his skill-set while fooling hitters at the dish, he’s destined to contend with the likes of Clayton Kershaw for pitchers’ most prestigious award.
The Giants simply hope Bumgarner is good enough to help them win every time he takes the mound in 2014. But “Mad-Bum” is already better than that. He’s becoming one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball.
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