11 delicious factoids about MLB's newest homer king, Madison Bumgarner
Think back, if you will, to last October. Madison Bumgarner entered the postseason field and did away with the opposition as if they were bugs in an extermination company's commercial, pitching to the tune of a 1.03 ERA in 52 2/3 postseason innings. It seemed like batters may never hit him again.
While we were marveling both at his pitching performance and how his hair could stay so voluminous while on the mound, we forgot something else: His ability to crush the baseball at the plate. While the starter was an ordinary hitter his first five seasons in the Majors, batting just .138/.185/.192 with (gasp) only two home runs, Bumgarner morphed into a homer-hitting, snot rocket machine last year.
In 2014, Bumgarner hit .258/.286/.470 with 4 home runs.
This year, that line is .250/.279/.525. Basically, he's been remarkably consistent, almost as if he didn't just bat once every couple of days and spent most of his time focused on doing things like throwing a fastball 90-something miles per hour.
So, of course, in the top of the second inning against the Pirates on Friday night, Bumgarner went deep once again -- for the fifth time this year.
Which naturally means it's time for a whole bunch of facts given his remarkable performance. (And let's not even mention that he's posted a 3.02 ERA on the season -- also remarkably similar to his 2.98 mark of last season.) And given that he's a pitcher, let's just put a blanket small sample size alert over all of these and just enjoy the dingertude.
1. Bumgarner's home run against the Pirates was the second-farthest hit by a pitcher this year on balls tracked by Statcast™. At 417.67 feet, it was less than two feet shorter than Daniel Norris' 419.01 foot homer.
It was, however, nearly eleven feet longer than Zack Greinke's third-best 406.68 foot shot.
2. The last time that a pitcher hit five or more home runs in a season was Carlos Zambrano with six in 2006. Before that, part-time pitcher and fielder Brooks Kieschnick hit 7 in 2003 and Mike Hampton hit 7 in 2001. And before that, you have to go all the way back to Bob Gibson in 1972, who hit five.
And sure, this Zambrano home run is from 2008 when he hit four, but it's to the opposite field and is still super fun to watch. So just enjoy:
3. Bumgarner ranks second among active pitchers with 11 home runs in 69 fewer at-bats than current active leader Yovani Gallardo who has 12. If Bumgarner continues hitting home runs at the rate he's had over the last two seasons (one every 13.9 at-bats), he'll have hit 16 for his career by the time he reaches Gallardo's 418 career AB.
4. At that rate, Bumgarner will also need only 56 more at-bats to surpass Babe Ruth's 14 home runs as a pitcher. And to pass Wes Ferrell's all-time pitcher record of 38 home runs, he would need 389 more at-bats. Given that he has only 349 at-bats in his career to this point, that seems unlikely.
But, as science always tells us, you can't prove an impossibility. Nor can you count out the home run machine that Bumgarner has turned himself into.
5. While Bumgarner had two pinch-hit appearances this week, going 1-for-2 at the plate over that time, he's the first pitcher to homer in two consecutive starts since Alex White pulled off the feat in 2012.
The record, though, belongs to Ken Brett, who homered in four consecutive starts in 1973. Oddly enough, those would be Brett's only home runs that season. Assuming the Giants stay on a strict every-fifth-game turn for Bumgarner, he'd need to homer against the Cubs in San Francisco on Aug. 27 and the Dodgers in LA on Sept. 1 to tie the mark, with another dinger against the Rockies in Colorado on Sept. 6 to break it.
6. There are 20 qualified position players this season with fewer home runs than Bumgarner. The Giants hurler's .804 OPS is higher than all of them -- a list that includes Xander Bogaerts and Dee Gordon.
7. In fact, after the game, Bumgarner's wRC+ was 126. That number is tied for the 40th-best among qualified hitters, putting him on par with Home Run Derby participant and human haircut machine Joc Pederson.
8. With 5 home runs in 59 ABs this season, Bumgarner is going deep every 11.8 times to the plate. That would rank second in the Majors, just behind the injured Giancarlo Stanton (10.33 HR/AB) and would have lead the Majors in 2014.
9. Across a full 550-PA season, Bumgarner is on pace for a 44-home run season. Which is four more than Major League-leader Nelson Cruz hit last season.
And let's say that you don't like such small sample sizes. Counting last year's peformance, Bumgarner has 9 HR in 137 PA, good for a 35 home run pace.
10. According to Baseball-Reference, his oWAR is 0.8 this year -- and that's going into Friday's action. Again, assuming that the rate remained constant across a full season, Bumgarner is on pace for 7.6 rWAR. Or, third-best in the Majors last season -- with his work on the mound completely ignored. (For what it's worth, he entered the game with 3.0 rWAR for his pitching.)
11. Oh, and finally, at an average of 57 ABs a season since 2010, Bumgarner will break the all-time home run mark in just 183 seasons. See you all in the year 2198!