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Madison Bumgarner: Is He a Top 20 Starting Pitcher in 2012?

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Madison Bumgarner struggled to start the 2010 season in AAA with reports of reduced velocity. In his first two starts in AAA, he gave up 11 earned runs on 21 hits, 3 home runs, 2 walks and 6 strikeouts over 7 innings. But he apparently got things together on the mound after those two starts, as he gave up 2 runs or less in 10 of his next 12 starts, covering 76.1 innings where he gave up just 2 home runs, but he was still striking out less than a batter an inning.

The Giants called him up on June 26th, 2010 to make his first major league start against the Boston Red Sox. He lasted 7 innings, giving up 4 runs on 5 hits, a walk and 5 strikeouts. He finished the 2010 season going 7-6 with a 3.00 ERA, 3.66 FIP and a 3.85 xFIP. He averaged 6.97 K/9 and just 2.11 BB/9 in 111 innings last year. He benefitted from a 81.7% strand rate, but kept the ball on the ground, inducing a ground ball rate of 45.6%.

Then in the postseason, Bumgarner went 2-0 in 3 starts, with a 2.18 ERA, 1.113 WHIP, and an 18-5 K/BB rate in 20.2 innings, including a World Series win where he shutout the Rangers for 8 innings.

More on Bumgarner after the jump:

This season, Bumgarner is 11-12 with a 3.33 ERA, 2.70 FIP and 3.10 xFIP with 178 strikeouts and 45 walks in just over 185 innings pitched. He has increased his strikeout rate from 6.97 K/9 to 8.42 K/9, and lowered his walk rate slightly to 2.08 BB/9.

He pitched well in the first half of 2011, but it was not reflected in his 4-9 record in 18 starts. But, he has turned things on in the second half, going 7-3 in 12 starts with a 2.69 ERA, 1.091 WHIP and a 85-18 K/BB rate in 82 innings. He is on pace to strikeout 190 batters this season. His 178 strikeouts ranks 22nd in all of baseball, just a few strikeouts from moving within the top 15.

Even more impressive is that his 2.70 FIP ranks 4th in all of baseball, behind just Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw and Cliff Lee. And his xFIP ranks 9th in baseball behind the 3 pitchers listed previously and pitchers like CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke who leads with a 2.51 xFIP. Needless to say, Bumgarner ranks amongst the top starting pitchers in baseball if you focus on the more advanced sabremetric pitching stats.

Heading into 2012 fantasy drafts, Bumgarner should be viewed as a Top 20 starter with the chance to strikeout 200+ batters and increase his win total to around the 14-15 wins.