Madison Bumgarner has never been a Cy Young Award winner. Never won an ERA title. Never led his league in wins. Or innings. Or strikeouts.
He’s simply been the best pitcher on the field most nights, particularly when those nights turned cool.
The three-time World Series champion and career-long San Francisco Giant on Sunday agreed to the terms of a free-agent contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He’ll stay in the NL West for the next five years and earn $85 million, according to reports from ESPN and MLB Network. Of that, $15 million will be deferred, according to The Athletic. The deal is pending a physical.
Until he missed about half of the 2017 and 2018 seasons, the left-hander’s reputation was for durability, production and Octobers. He returned in 2019 to throw 207 2/3 innings over 34 starts. The Giants were not very good and so that full season translated into only nine wins for Bumgarner, whose 3.90 ERA was the highest of his career.
What made — and still could make — Bumgarner exceptional was his work across four postseasons for the Giants, three of which ended in parades. In 14 starts and two relief appearances, he was 8-3 with a 2.11 ERA. In 2014, he was MVP of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, then MVP of the World Series, when he won Game 1, won Game 5 with a four-hit shutout and three days later got the save with five shutout innings in Game 7.
At 30 years old (a year younger than Stephen Strasburg), Bumgarner is 16th among active players in wins (119), fourth in ERA (3.13), 13th in complete games (15) and first in shouting at preening batters. His frequent run-ins with Yasiel Puig, in particular, served to further his reputation as a no-nonsense competitor who bristled at the younger generation’s mirthful displays.
Three seasons have passed since Bumgarner was his most effective. A dirt bike accident early in the spring of 2017 limited him to 17 starts. A sore pitching shoulder cost him at least a dozen starts in 2018. And 2019 was not to the standards of Bumgarner’s peak seasons — 2013 to 2016 — when he was 64-37 with a 2.86 ERA. He finished in the Cy Young Award’s top 10 in each of those seasons and in the top five twice.
He did pitch into the seventh inning or later in 14 of his 34 starts in 2019 and at least into the sixth inning in 27 of them.
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