2012 Projection: Can Madison Bumgarner Emerge As An Elite Fantasy Option?

Madison Bumgarner’s 2011 season may be best known for his fateful start against the Minnesota Twins on June 21. That day he was awful, to say the least, allowing 8 ER on 9 H and 0 BB, striking out 1, over just 0.1 innings of work. That’s as bad as it gets, but that one outing shouldn’t be used to summarize his entire season.

That type of start would ruin the numbers of many pitchers, but if you look at his overall statistics you realize just how good he was a year ago:

13 Wins
204.2 Innings
3.21 ERA
1.21 WHIP
191 Strikeouts (8.40 K/9)
46 Walks (2.02 BB/9)
.322 BABIP

In his first full Major League season those numbers are awfully impressive, and they have the potential to improve in 2012. The BABIP was slightly inflated, and if he can have a bit better luck how much better could he be?

Granted, he did get hit to the tune of a 20.6% line drive rate, but there were three bad months that skewed things a bit:

  • April – 24.1%
  • June – 26.0% (part of which was that start againstMinnesota)
  • September – 22.6%

That does incorporate half the season, but in 18 starts in 2010 he posted a 16.9% line drive rate. That helps to support a decrease in the line drive rate, which should also lead to an improvement in his BABIP.

With an already impressive WHIP, buoyed by impeccable control, it means that the numbers could move into the elite levels. Considering his 1.95 BB/9 over his minor league career, there is no reason to expect a major regression there to help offset his BABIP improvement.

There also is no reason to think that he’s suddenly going to fail to strike batters out. The 22-year old posted a 7.97 K/9 over his minor league career, which would be an indication of an unsustainable Major league mark, right? However, over the final four months of 2011 his lowest K/9 was an 8.77. In June and September he actually had marks in excess of a strikeout per inning.

It is not so unreasonable to believe that a pitcher of Bumgarner’s pedigree (tenth overall selection in the 2007 draft) is simply figuring things out. Having never attended college, it was going to take him a little bit of time to put things together. He’s not going to maintain a 9.00 K/9, at least I wouldn’t expect it, but seeing him right around 8.00 is extremely realistic.

The wins were not impressive, but then again no one onSan Franciscoseemed to accumulate many wins in 2011 (he actually tied Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong for the team lead). That’s just what happens when the offense behind you was less than stellar.

People may also want to point to the home ballpark as the reason for Bumgarner’s 2011 success, but that was hardly the case. While he did pitch better at home, with a 3.12 ERA, is anyone going to really knock him for a 3.31 ERA on the road?

When everything is put together you get the following projection for 2012:

200.0 IP, 15 W, 3.02 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 175 K (7.88 K/9), 46 BB (2.07 BB/9)

At the end of the day, the result is that what we saw from Bumgarner in 2011 was no aberration. He has the potential to be a Top 20 pitcher in 2012, making him well worth investing in on draft day. At worst, he’s a solid yet unspectacular option (meaning he regresses to a 3.50-3.75 ERA and a still viable 1.25-1.28 WHIP). At best, you are bragging to your friends about how much smarter you are then they are. Where exactly can you go wrong?

Make sure to check out our other 2012 projections:

One comment

  1. Tom says:

    Great article on madbum. Do you see him as a cliff lee type pitcher long-term?I have been trying to get him in a dyansty league format to add to my pitching staff. Right now the on my staff the only reliable sp’s are price and haren…i have 5 top prospects (teheran, pomeranz, tailion, miller and skaggs). Would you trade carl crawford for madbum? My OF’s are braun, kemp, crawford, stanton and trout.

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