Madison Bumgarner: Is It Possible For Him To Get Even Better?


Madison Bumgarner, after having one of the most — if not the most — historic and impressive Octobers in the history of Major League Baseball last season,  then proceeded to have statistically the best year of his young career. Which begs the question, can he get even better from here?

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Despite shouldering an unprecedented workload during the postseason, Bumgarner returned with a vengeance in 2015 as the undisputed ace of the San Francisco Giants staff and was on track to win 20 games by the end of the year.

His clear frustration with being asked about how his innings pitched the previous year would affect his performance in 2015 was matched in turn by his uncanny ability to prove those naysayers wrong.

In 2014, Bumgarner pitched 217.1 innings during the regular season, which at the time was a new career high. That number, coupled with an 18-10 record and a 2.98 ERA, were some of his best numbers to that point after pitching a full season.

From there he went on to defy everyone’s expectations and put together what many consider to be the most dominant postseason run of all time — 52.2 innings pitched while allowing a total of only seven runs on his way to being named the MVP of the World Series.

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At the end of the year Bumgarner was honored with the Silver Slugger Award for his performance at the plate and also finished fourth in Cy Young voting, behind Clayton Kershaw, Johnny Cueto, and Adam Wainwright. Not to mention the fact that he was named to the National League All-Star Team for the second time in his career. And he accomplished all of that before his twenty-sixth birthday.

At a time when no one expected him to duplicate that kind of performance on the heels of such a historic postseason workload, Bumgarner did just that and then some. In 2015, he improved his record to 18-9 with an ERA of 2.93, 218.1 innings pitched, 234 strikeouts, and a WHIP of 1.008.

He could potentially finish similarly in the Cy Young voting despite not being named one of the three finalists for the award, and has already captured his second Silver Slugger Award and third All-Star nomination along with breaking his own record for the most strikeouts in a single season by a Giants lefty.

Where is there to go from here for Bumgarner? Only upwards.

Even though he has proved maturity and talent beyond his years, Bumgarner is constantly learning, both from his coaches, and from the older pitchers on the Giants roster, players like the now-retired Jeremy Affeldt and Tim Hudson as well as veterans like Matt Cain and Jake Peavy.

On September 12th of this year Bumgarner pitched 7.2 perfect innings to start the game against the San Diego Padres, eventually surrendering just one hit en route to a complete game shutout. It is not difficult to imagine that one day he will finally cross that hurdle and throw either a no-hitter or a perfect game. He certainly has the stuff and the mental makeup to do so.

He also has a serious advantage over all three of the Cy Young Award finalists this year: his age. He is a year younger than Kershaw, three years younger than Jake Arrieta, and six years younger than Zack Greinke. In addition, he has experience and durability on his side after pitching in the World Series in three out of his first five Major League seasons, and never having to be put on the disabled list.

It is completely within the realm of possibility that Bumgarner will go on to become one of the most dominant pitchers in all of Major League Baseball — to the tune of multiple Cy Youngs and continued All-Star nominations. He has consistently improved statistically almost every year he has been in the Majors and has gained invaluable experience in the postseason as an integral part of this modern Giants dynasty.

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Having already put his name in the conversation as one of the unique talents in the game of baseball and with having this offseason to rest and recuperate for a run in 2016, who knows what Bumgarner will have in store for fans over the coming years. Regardless, it has become clear that when he takes to the mound, fans are watching something special.