Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Illustration for article titled Madison Bumgarner Was The Best Version Of Himself Last Night

Madison Bumgarner, who now owns one of the best World Series résumés of any starting pitcher in history, was a monster last night. He's been a monster throughout the postseason, of course, but last night gave us a good look at the scariest version of the stoic lefty.

We've already talked about Bumgarner's fastball, which he's been relying on a lot lately, as it is one of the most effective pitches in the game and, somehow, has been getting consistently faster throughout the season. Bumgarner's good enough to dominate while leaning on one pitch, but when he has a good feel for his curveball and cutter, like he did last night, he's damn near impossible to hit.

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The chart below, from Brooks Baseball, is a good visualization of how Bumgarner chose to attack hitters in his two postseason starts—Game 5 against the Cardinals and Game 1 against the Royals—prior to last night's game.

Illustration for article titled Madison Bumgarner Was The Best Version Of Himself Last Night

Bumgarner was great in those two starts, but that's a pretty vanilla approach that he never varied from as the games went on. Each time he went through the order, batters saw roughly the same distribution of pitches.

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Now, here's a chart showing how Bumgarner's pitch selection evolved over the course of last night's game:

Illustration for article titled Madison Bumgarner Was The Best Version Of Himself Last Night
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This is what it looks like when a pitcher has complete control over his entire arsenal. You can see Bumgarner's strategy play out right there on the chart: Start them off with a steady diet of fastballs, keep them off-balance with a smorgasbord of pitches the next time through, and then bury them with the heater and the cutter. (The return of the cutter was especially beneficial to Bumgarner; he all but abandoned the pitch against righties in his last two starts, but he peppered Royals righties with cutters throughout last night's game.) A pitcher can toy with lineups like this when he knows exactly where each of his pitches is going, and there's not much hitters can do about it.

Of course, you really don't need any charts or numbers to tell you that Madison Bumgarner was on another level last night. All you needed to see was how Buster Posey barely had to move his glove all night, or the big sweeping curves that the Royals kept helplessly flailing at. In fact, the best summation of Bumgarner's night came from Billy Butler, who got punched out on a backdoor curve while pinch-hitting in the eighth, and then made this face:

Illustration for article titled Madison Bumgarner Was The Best Version Of Himself Last Night
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Sorry, Billy. You never stood a chance.

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