Monday, October 27, 2014

Thoughts on Madison Bumgarner's Place in Postseason and World Series History

Given a choice between seeing a great individual performance by a Giants player in the postseason and the team winning the World Series, of course, I would take winning the World Series.  On the other hand, what makes me remember World Series past is not generally the team that won, but the performances of individual players.  I mean which do you think is remembered by more people, who won the 1954 World Series or the picture of Willie Mays making The Catch?  Who won the 1956 World Series or Don Larsen's Perfect Game?

I can remember as a kid, listening to and reading about Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson pitching WS shutouts and wishing like crazy that it was Juan Marichal.  I remember Lou Brock dominating at the plate and on the basepaths or Roberto Clement's great series and wishing like hell it was Willie Mays.

When the Giants finally won the World Series in 2010 and 2012, they won as a team.  Sure, there were top notch individual performances by Matt Cain, Pablo Sandoval, Tim Lincecum and others, but nobody was carving out a World Series resume for the ages.  The 2014 World Series, win or lose, has finally produced an individual performance that just might be the best of all time of it's kind, Madison Bumgarner's dominance through 3 postseasons and World Series.

When I think of great postseason performers, I think of players who dominated in multiple postseason series over multiple years.  Names that come immediately to mind when I think of great postseason pitchers include Whitey Ford, Koufax, Gibson.  Looking back into the more distant past, Christy Mathewson certainly deserves mention.  Madison Bumgarner has now pitched in 3 postseasons including 3 World Series and has put together a resume that rivals those great names I mention.  I thought it might be interesting to look up the stat lines of some of these stars of the past and compare them with what we are witnessing from Bumgarner now.

Whitey Ford:  10-8, 2.71, 146 IP, 34 BB, 94 K's.  Ford appeared in 11 World Series and pitched in 22 WS games, a record that will likely never be broken.  His ERA was probably hurt by the sheer sample size.  What I can't figure out, though is howtheheck he lost 8 World Series games with a career WS ERA of 2.71.  Talk about getting Cained!

Sandy Koufax:  4-3, 0.95, 57 IP, 11 BB, 61 K.  Koufax pitched in a total of 4 World Series.  He was the MVP of the 1963 and 1965 Series.  Amazingly, he lost 3 WS games despite a career WS ERA of 0.95.  While I have always considered Koufax to be the best pitcher of my lifetime(Clayton Kershaw is currently challenging that notion and Bummy may before his career is over), his losses in Game 2 of both the 1965  and 1966 WS kept me from ever ranking him as a great WS pitcher, despite the dominance in the 4 games he won and the minuscule WS ERA.  Of course, as a Giants fan who wanted nothing more than to see Juan Marichal pitch a World Series game, I took no end of delight in Koufax's WS losses!

Bob Gibson:  7-2, 1.89, 81 IP, 17 BB, 92 K's.  Gibson played in 3 WS and started 9 WS games, 3 in each series.  All 9 of those WS starts were Complete Games!  9 Starts, 81 IP.  Think about that for a minute!  He was the MVP of the 1964 and 1967 WS going 2-1 in '64 and 3-0 in '67.  He went 2-1 in '68 including a 17 strikeout performance in Game 1, but the Detroit Tigers eventually beat him in Game 7 to win the series and keep him from his 3'rd Series MVP.  To me, Bob Gibson has alway been the Gold Standard of postseason pitchers, but even he was not perfect.

Jack Billingham:  Postseason- 2-1, 1.93, 42 IP, 15 BB, 32 K's.
                            World Series- 2-0, 0.36, 25.1 IP, 9 BB, 19 K's.  The reason I post Billingham's numbers here is that he was the previous WS ERA record holder for pitchers with at least 20 IP.  Billingham pitched in 3 WS for the Big Red Machine and pitched in 7 WS games, but only started 3.  The Big Red Machine is remembered for Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez rather than their pitchers.  Their pitching was vastly underrated, but in my mind, the fact that Billingham was actually more of a reliever than starter for those teams diminishes his accomplishment in my mind.

Curt Schilling:  Postseason- 11-2, 2.23, 133.1 IP, 25 BB, 120 K's.
                         World Series- 4-1, 2.06, 48 IP, 10 BB, 43 K's.  I have to admit that I did not realize the degree of Schilling's dominance in postseason play.  He does deserve to be in the discussion of top postseason pitchers of all time, much as I hate to admit it.

What about Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens?  Nobody can compete with those two guys for sheer volume of postseason competition.  Pettitte went 19-11 in his postseason career and holds the record for most postseason wins.  Both Pettitte and Clemens had ERA's well north of 3.00 in both postseason and WS play.  Again, the sheer sample size may have hurt them.  They pitched in an extreme hitter's era.  It's hard to think of them in the same terms as Gibson, Koufax and Schilling.  I also did not include relievers here even though Mariano Rivera had a great postseason career and Francisco Rodriguez, much as I would like to forget it, won 5 postseason games as a reliever in 2002.

Madison Bumgarner:   Postseason- 7-3, 2.77, 83.1 IP, 15 BB, 73 K's.
                                     World Series- 4-0, 0.29, 31 IP, 5 BB, 27 K's.

As you can see, Bumgarner's numbers are very competitive with the greatest postseason heroes of all time, and maybe even better than that.  The ERA in 4 WS starts over 3 seasons is extremely impressive and very worthy of being listed as a record.  Of course, his postseason career may be far from over and could suffer in future competition, or he could just add to his already most impressive resume.

Where do you think Madison Bumgarner's postseason and World Series career performance ranks in the history of baseball?


  1. Pretty darn good, by Bumgarner, and yourself, Doc.

  2. The Giants kind of have to win the WS this year now. I mean, Bumgarner has been the clear stand out player from both teams. There really is nobody on the Royals that has stood out above the rest.

    Here's hoping the Giants beat the odds! (at least the odds over the past 30 years).

  3. I like your blog. Like I stated yesterday, yours & Shankbone's are daily reading for me - even after watching the game.

    MCC was the first SFG blog I visited - the negativity was too much (particularly in the face of the two WS victories). I found your blog via MCC (along with OGC's), then found Shank's via yours.

    Keep up the great work.

    I think Panda's 3 HRs in Game 1 of 2012 Classic are historic, but your analysis of MB's run is spot on.

    Hopefully Peavy bucks history and pitches us to Ring #3!


  4. Simple fact: MadBum has been great, and he's still quite young. I can't predict the future, but there's a very good chance that Bumgarner will get more postseason pitching opportunities over his career. Let optimism carry on!

  5. hey doc

    can you just title tomorrow's post "nothing to see here"?

    dang, i hate al ball