Can Madison Bumgarner Reach 20 Wins?


When there’s fire on the mountain and lightning in the air, everyone knows that Madison Bumgarner is taking the mound for the San Francisco Giants. Normally introduced by the twangy southern rock stylings of the Marshall Tucker Band, Bumgarner opts to keep the fire in his eyes, and the lightning in his left arm.

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With another dominating performance on Thursday to defeat the Chicago Cubs and secure the series in the Giants’ favor, Bumgarner completed an absolutely outstanding month of August that could quite possibly earn him National League Player of the Month. In five starts, Bumgarner was victorious in every battle, and allowed only six runs and 23 hits in 37.2 innings of work. He struck out 53 batters, and walked just four. That’s over 13 strikeouts for every walk.

Also on Thursday, Bumgarner earned his 16th win of the season, tying him with Jake Arrieta (who beat the Giants on Tuesday) for the Major League lead. Bumgarner has a great chance to reach that magical milestone of 20 wins in a single season.

It seems almost crazy to say that the Giants haven’t had a 20-game winner since 1993, over two decades, when both John Burkett (23 wins) and Bill Swift (21 wins) accomplished the feat. Since then, pitchers like Jason Schmidt, Matt Cain, and Tim Lincecum (who has won two Cy Young Awards) have all failed to reach that plateau.

If the rotation stays on the same schedule, Bumgarner will have seven more starts to win four games. Of course, nothing is set in stone, and things can always change. But it seems highly likely that Bumgarner will have at least six more starts this season, and they should all come against NL West foes.

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It won’t be easy for Bumgarner, not that it’s ever easy to win games at the big league level. In his next start, Bumgarner will start in hostile territory, taking the mound at Dodger Stadium, and will likely be matched up against Zack Greinke, who has to be considered the frontrunner for the NL Cy Young Award.

After that, Bumgarner will take on the Colorado Rockies and their biggest ally, the high altitudes of Coors Field. Bumgarner has not pitched in Coors this season, and with the unpredictability that comes from being in Denver, that game should be considered a toss up.

His two proceeding starts are both scheduled to come at home in AT&T Park, against the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks, respectively. Each team owns an identical 62-65 record, and are 8.5 games out of the division race. Next, Bumgarner takes the mound at Petco Park (or AT&T South, if you prefer), for another matchup with the Padres.

Bumgarner will take the mound in the friendly confines of home again in his last two starts, and one of them could be the one of the biggest game of the season for the Giants. In what could possibly be his penultimate start of the season, Bumgarner will face the Dodgers again, in the second game of a four-game swing. That series could (or more likely, should) go a long way towards determining which of the two teams ultimately takes the division crown.

Bumgarner’s final scheduled start is in the season finale against the Colorado Rockies. Of course, that could change if the Giants’ playoff fate is already determined. If the Giants are already locked into the postseason, they could hold Bumgarner back, saving him for the opener of the NL Division Series (or Wildcard win-or-go-home game, but that seems like a pipe dream). If they’re knocked out, they may send out someone else out in his place, not wanting to risk any arm damage in a meaningless game.

Bumgarner will pitch in some big games down the stretch, but that’s not a problem for the country boy. There’s no such thing as too much pressure for Bumgarner, as he has shown time and time again. When the lights shine their brightest, so does Bumgarner.

Among the sabermetrics community, the individual pitcher win is seen as a mostly useless stat. There are a lot of variables that go into a victory for a pitcher, and a lot of it is not of his own volition. The offense has to do their part to score enough to earn a pitcher a win, and the defense behind him has to do their part as well.

Even still, 20 wins is a tremendous milestone. For a pitcher to be able to earn that many wins is still a great accomplishment, no matter how you look at it. Bumgarner is in prime position to accomplish this feat.

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