Should Bumgarner Start Game 7 Instead of Tim Hudson?


After last night’s shellacking at the hands of the Kansas City Royals the San Francisco Giants find themselves in a game seven, winner take all for the World Series. With San Francisco’s recent struggles on the mound — both from starters and relievers — it begs the question, should Madison Bumgarner start game seven over Tim Hudson?

Back in the day pitching on short rest was the norm. Christy Mathewson, in possibly the greatest pitching performance ever, pitched three shutouts in six days during the 1905 World Series for the New York Giants against the Philadelphia A’s. In those games a runner never even reached third base. Take a moment to think about that… Yes it was the dead-ball era, but even then, that is an incredible feat.

Other notable pitchers who have won in game sevens on two days of rest are Orel Hershiser, who pitched a complete-game shutout for the Dodgers in 1988, along with Denny McLain & Mickey Lolich in back-to-back games for the Detroit Tigers in the 1968 World Series. Both pitchers pitched complete games and allowed just one run.

*Just a note, if you are parsing through that last link, be aware that Baseball Reference also considers it short rest if a guy pitches in relief between prior to a start.

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While there haven’t been many (if any) pitchers who have gone on two-days rest as of late, there have been plenty who have done it on three days, and the stats aren’t very supportive of guys starting on short rest.

Jeff Sullivan over at Fan Graphs broke this down a couple weeks ago when the Dodgers decided to put their ace Clayton Kershaw on the bump with during the NLDS.

He found, during the postseason from 1995-2013, those that pitched on short rest had a 4.66 ERA compared to the 3.99 ERA that to those who had regular rest posted in that same span. Also, those who went on short rest held a record of 33-52 in those games. Not as good as one had hoped.

In fact, broken down even further, since 2000 there have been 54 starts on short rest and the overall team record for those who have thrown a guy out on short rest is just 20-34, according to Bleacher Report’s Zachary Rymer. Their combined ERA is also a 4.80, slightly worse than the larger sample size dating back to 1995.

So, while Madison Bumgarner has essentially been lights out in the postseason during his career, the odds may be stacked against him. At the very least Bumgarner could come in as a reliever if needed and pick up some tough outs if the Giants get into a jam. That seems to be the plan anyway.

We shift our view to Tim Hudson who is named the game seven starter. So far this postseason he’s had three starts and is just 0-1 with a 3.72 ERA. In his most recent outing, which was against the Kansas City Royals, he went 5.2 innings giving up four hits and three earned runs.

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  • In his career Tim Hudson has nine postseason starts with a 1-4 record and a 3.53 ERA. Those numbers are a bit deceiving though. For instance in 2010 as a member of the Braves he faced these very Giants and allowed just four hits and zero runs on seven innings of work. His team eventually lost that game.

    So, perhap not the numbers one wants to see for a pitcher heading into game seven of the World Series, but he certainly doesn’t lack the experience to handle the big stage.

    Looking back the Giants in the Bruce Bochy era have never used a pitcher on short rest en route to their two World Series titles in 2010 and 2012. Tim Lincecum was used as a reliever in 2010 a few times between starts, but that was the closest Bochy got.

    One could argue the Giant never needed to send guys out on short rest anyway because their starting rotation, combined with their bullpen, was so good that they didn’t need to risk it. This year neither the starters nor the relievers have been nearly as good, so there is at least one compelling argument for starting him.

    Perhaps Bochy took something away from those games and from then on decided he’d rather have a guy fully rested from the end of his rotation rather than an ace on short rest. Also, while Lincecum was 16-10 that season his ERA was not great and his pitching was pretty inconsistent. It was the start of his decline, though even then he was much better than the Lincecum we have today.

    So, judging by the stats put forth, I’d tend to agree. The numbers just are not as good as you’d hope when throwing out an ace. Plus, it has not been a Bochy type of thing to run a starter on short rest anyway. So far his strategy has worked out. Besides, the guy he is rolling with, Hudson, has a chance to earn his first World Series ring, so why not give the veteran a shot? In Bochy we trust!