When people look at pitching statistics; normally, they look at a pitcher’s Win-Loss record, ERA, and if they’re really interested the pitcher’s WHIP. These are the statistics that people value, as well as, what Cy Young Voting is based on. And based on these statistics one would never go as far to say Madison Bumgarner is the second best pitcher in baseball, let alone the second best pitcher on his team. Bumgarner is 7-11 with a 3.53 era and a 1.25 WHIP. Clearly, he has 4 more losses than wins, the 43rd lowest ERA in the league, and tied for the 45th best WHIP. Thus, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum (the assumed best pitchers on the Giants) look like much better pitchers based on these numbers. Cain and Lincecum’s numbers look like this, respectively, 9-9/3.00/1.1 and 10-9/2.69/1.17.
There is something special about the defending World Series Champs’ third starter this season, and that is luck. Madison Bumgarner is tied with Edwin Jackson for the unluckiest pitcher in baseball with a .333 BABIP. For those who do not know, BABIP stands for batting average on balls in play. Which is to say how many balls fall in against the pitcher, (a luckless season would have a .3 BABIP) so a lot of those baseballs have been falling in against Bumgarner. When luck and fielding is factored out an ERA-like statistic is used known as FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). This statistic shows how truly effective Bumgarner has been this season, he is second in the league with a ridiculous 2.53 FIP (only behind Roy Halladay). His FIP is exactly 1 point lower than his ERA, as well as, a 3.5 FIP is consider good with a 4 being about average, thus a 2.53 is pure dominance. Bumgarner is also 6th in the league in HR/9 with a .41 percentage.
Bumgarner also has the 10th best WAR (Wins Above Replacement) among pitchers, which is slightly better than Cain’s 4.2 and Lincecum’s 4.0. Cain and Lincecum also have extremely low FIP’s at 2.84 and 2.85 respectively, but based on non-luck statistics like FIP and WAR, Bumgarner has been the most effective starter on their talented staff.
To make the point that luck is truly a factor in pitching statistics, Jeremy Hellickson is a perfect example to use. Hellickson has been in a many Rookie of the Year talks this season with a standard stat line of 10-7/3.05/1.14 . But Hellickson has been the luckiest pitcher in baseball this season with a .225 BABIP. His standard numbers are much better than that of Bumgarner’s, but his true effectiveness has been much lower (Hellickson has a 4.24 FIP). Standard pitching statistics can be inflated or deflated by a pitcher’s home field, defense, and luck, which is why you cannot judge Bumgarner by his “statistical cover."
Baseball statistics will always be looked at from an economic perspective on this blog, and through this Bumgarner’s ability and value to the Giants becomes even more apparent. Bumgarner’s 2011 salary is $450k, which is 6% of Cain’s salary and 3% of what Lincecum is bringing in this year. For how effective Bumgarner has been under the radar this season for San Francisco, one would have to be incompetent not to see his ability as a serious bargain.