Madison Bumgarner Off to One of the Best Starts of His Career
Friday night in St. Louis, Madison Bumgarner of the Arizona Diamondbacks outdueled Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 6–2 Diamondbacks victory. In five innings, Bumgarner allowed one run on five hits with two strikeouts and a walk. His only blemish was a solo home run by Paul Goldschmidt, who fouled off pitch after pitch before homering on the 12th pitch of the at-bat. The Diamondbacks, who have struggled to score runs consistently this season, finally gave Bumgarner enough run support for him to notch his first victory of the season. Hidden by this 1–1 record is the fact that Bumgarner is off to one of the best starts to a season in his entire career.
Over his first five games, Bumgarner has been terrific, especially at keeping runs off the board. His ERA of 1.17 is tied for third in the National League, and his ERA-minus of 30 is in sole possession of third. Both numbers are the lowest Bumgarner has ever had in the first five starts of a season, dating back to 2010. His home run percentage (HR%) is 2.1%, the second lowest of his career behind 2011 (1.8%). In Game Score, which uses certain criteria to measure a pitcher’s overall dominance in a game, Bumgarner’s five-game average for 2022 is tied for the fifth best of his career. His Win Probability Added (WPA) is also fifth best of his 13-year career.
A Closer Look at the Numbers
What’s interesting is that his WHIP is tied for seventh best. Yet he’s only induced two double play groundouts, which is fifth best. He’s keeping runs off the board better than he ever has in the first five games of a season. But it’s not because he’s keeping runners off base at the best rate. Nor is he getting tons of double-play groundouts. Bumgarner is simply getting out of jams. Not from striking guys out, since his strikeout rate is 10th out of his 13 seasons, but from getting guys out. That comes from skillful pitching artistry, not from blowing guys away.
New pitching coach Brent Strom has had a noticeable effect on the entire Diamondbacks pitching staff so far. They have made it to where the offense doesn’t have to score a ton of runs to win. Given their slow start offensively, that is a welcome relief for interested parties. Bumgarner has contributed heavily to this success. His current walk rate of 11.7% is the highest he’s had. If he gets that under control, he’ll be even better than he already is. National League, beware.