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San Francisco Giants: Why exactly, is Madison Bumgarner so dominant?

By Timmy Kennedy
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Five days ago the San Francisco Giants took on the Pittsburgh Pirates in a winner takes all wild-card game. Madison Bumgarner, a dominant southpaw, was sent to the mound. He tossed a gem, of course. Tonight, the Giants hand the ball to Mad-Bum again, in a potential clinching game against the Washington Nationals. The orange and black will expect another gem from him, to secure their passage into the Championship Series.

So — how exactly was Bumgarner able to dominate, and shut-down the Pirates for nine innings, yielding only four hits, striking out thirteen. Well — first things first, he kept his pitch count low. Upon recording the final out of the game, he had thrown 106 pitches, not far off pitching a Maddux-shutout. For three innings, Madison threw only eight pitches. He threw nine one inning, and never threw any more than 17. Very impressive, and crucial to going to distance.

His pitch selection was on-point, credit to Buster Posey, who called the gem. He threw 60 fastballs, 78% of which were strikes. It also whiffed four batters. He hurled 31 cutters, often his go to pitch, 55% were strikes, and it allowed him to strike out another two batters. 12 curveballs were thrown, 75% were strikes, including seven whiffs on only nine swings. Two changeups and one slow curve was also used by Bumgarner, both of which had the same effect as the rest of his stuff.

His fastball averaged 94 miles per hour, with it occasionally topping off at 95 miles per hour. As can be seen in the diagram below, his velocity was consistent all night, and fatigue or exhaustion were simply not a problem in the late innings. The diagram also depicts his ability to change speeds, which is so crucial for the lefty ace. He changes speed often, and hence can, for the vast majority of the time, get batters to swing and miss.

As has been seen with former aces like Tim Lincecum, release point is quintessential. Typically, Bumgarner has had issues finding a consistent release point in early innings, and once he settles in he is lights out, but the damage has already been done. Against the Pirates? He established it right from the first pitch, and stuck with it for the whole game. As can be seen below, he was using the same, successful mechanics all night long, as one should when hitters can only get four hits in a single game.

Another key success is using the whole strike zone. When Bumgarner can keep opposing batters guessing with velocity and location, he is unhittable. As can be seen in the diagram below, he threw to all four quadrants all night long. If his dangerous fastball is going up, down, inside and outside, the Giants will punch their ticket to the NLCS tonight. Also, the importance of first-pitch-strikes is apperant here. For the majority of the night, he got the the first pitch in as a strike. Once he gets ahead, he destroys batters. He makes them swing outside the zone, even if they don’t want to.

Just like any ace, Bumgarner understands all of the basic concepts of pitching. If you are throwing heat, movement is irrelevant. If the pitch has a little less on it, make sure it moves. Mad-Bum does just this. As can be seen, his fastball barely moves – unless the cutter is thrown – but with the velocity, he can blow it by hitters. While his breaking stuff is around ten miles per hour to fifteen miles per hour slower, its movement is much more severe, evidently, causing opponents to swing right through it. Also worth noting: Regardless of what he throws, batters and swinging and missing. If he can use all of pitches, he will likely dazzle and stun hitters tonight, again.

All considered, Bumgarner is most certainly the man the Giants want to have the ball with the possibility of clinching looming large. If he pitches like he did last time, the Giants will be punching their ticket to the Championship Series. As illustrated here, there are several keys to his game: Mad-Bum must get through the first inning, or two, unscathed – establishing his mechanics and all of his pitches early on. Getting first strike, and throwing to all four quadrant is crucial. Madison Bumgarner is the Giants staff ace. Madison Bumgarner is set to bring the Giants a step closer to the World Series.

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