Not too long ago, reader, Levi Davis, sent me an email asking about Madison Bumgarner’s strikeout rate.
Can someone much smarter than me take a look a look at Bumgarner’s K-rate? It seems a big part of his improvement last year was a jump in K-rate, which has dropped back down this year. I know it’s too early to hit the All-Panic button, but with all the man-on-man love action that goes on for him, I think this is getting buried (He has a worse FIP than Lincecum, who people love panicking about). I hope it’s nothing, but I would love to see it get dug deeper into.
At the time of the email, Bumgarner had made eight starts, faced 214 batters, and only struck out 30 of them; that’s a strikeout rate (defined as strikeouts/batters faced) of just 14 percent. In 2011, a season in which Bumgarner was worth 5.5 wins (by the FanGraphs version of WAR), his strikeout rate was 22.6 percent, a career high. So, clearly after the first eight starts this year, Bumgarner was striking out fewer batters than what we might expect. (Bumgarner’s career strikeout rate currently sits at 20.8 percent; the league average rate tends to be around 18 percent.)
Then, this happened: 3 GS, 21.2 IP, 20 H, 7 ER, 3 BB, 28 SO, 2.91 ERA, 87 BF
Or, if graphs are your thing:
That’s the rolling seasonal strikeout and walk rates for Bumgarner in 2012. Over Bumgarner’s past three starts he’s faced 87 batters and struck out 28 of them (including 11 punch-outs last night against the Chicago Cubs). That’s a strikeout rate of 32.1 percent. That’s an ungodly amount of strikeouts. Here’s a little perspective: between 1999-2000, Pedro Martinez struck out approximately 36 percent of the batters he faced. I’m not saying that Bumgarner is on par with vintage Pedro Martinez, no one could ever make that claim, but it gives you something of a watermark to compare Bumgarner’s current little run to.
So, I can say it countless times, again and again: Madison Bumgarner is very, very good. His age (22) combined with his ability is the rarest of the rare. And we get to watch him for 30-plus starts a year. We should all consider ourselves very, very lucky.