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Entries in Madison Bumgarner (7)


San Fran's Starters Avoid Fat Part of Plate During Shutout Streak

The San Francisco Giants have leaped into first place in the NL West thanks to four straight shutouts, becoming the first club to blank the competition four or more consecutive times since the 1995 Baltimore Orioles. Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum dominated the Dodgers for a series sweep, and Madison Bumgarner was an up-the-middle roller from Ryan Hanigan away from a no-hitter versus the Reds last night.

While Zito, Vogelsong, Lincecum and Bumgarner all put up zeroes, their pitch location during their respective shutouts varied. One thing they all had in common, though, was avoiding the fat part of the plate.

Barry Zito

Zito's pitch location vs. Dodgers on 6/25/12

Zito stuck to his glove side versus the Dodgers, staying away from lefty batters (nearly 60 percent of his pitches to lefties were thrown outside) and pounding righties inside. Zito threw just five of his 109 pitches to both the horizontal and vertical middle of the plate.

Ryan Vogelsong

Vogelsong's pitch location vs. Dodgers on 6/26/12

While Zito pitched to his glove side, Vogelsong located to his arm side and induced a bunch of ground balls (15, compared to eight fly balls). Vogelsong also left just five of his 98 pitches over the horizontal and vertical middle of the plate. 

Tim Lincecum

Lincecum's pitch location vs. Dodgers on 6/27/12

Lincecum turned in arguably his best start of the season by keeping the ball down: 54 percent of his pitches were at hitters' knees, compared to 45 percent overall in 2012. Only nine of Timmy's 115 pitches were left middle-middle.

Madison Bumgarner

Bumgarner's pitch location vs. Reds on 6/28/12

Good luck finding a pattern in Bumgarner's pitch location. Batters must have felt like they got walloped with a beer-and-shaving-cream pie as the big lefty peppered all four quadrants of the plate. Bumgarner threw a mere four of his 107 pitches to the middle-middle-portion of the plate.

Bad things happen when pitchers leave the ball down the heart of the plate: hitters are slugging a collective .579 on pitches thrown to both the horizontal and vertical middle of the dish this season. Basically, batters turn into this year's version of Robinson Cano when they get a cookie. But Zito, Vogelsong, Lincecum and Bumgarner only threw a combined 5.4 percent of their pitches to the fat part of the plate during the shutout streak. The average for starting pitchers is about 7.5 percent. It pays to be precise.


Bumgarner Boosts His K Rate

For a former top-10 prospect on the defending World Series champions, Madison Bumgarner pitches in relative obscurity. Two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and international man of mystery Brian Wilson get the attention on San Francisco's staff, and LA's Clayton Kershaw is the precocious NL West lefty that pundits swoon over. Yet, the soon-to-be 22 year-old Bumgarner has quietly ranked among the NL's best while boosting his strikeout rate.

Bumgarner's K rate has climbed from about seven batters per nine innings in 2010 to 7.9 per nine in 2011. And that uptick hasn't simply been the result of facing more hitters per inning: Bumgarner has struck out 21.1 percent of the batters that he has faced this year, compared to 18.2 percent last season. That 2011 K/PA total puts Bumgarner in the same rarified air as Dan Haren, Ricky Romero and CC Sabathia.

How has Bumgarner racked up the Ks? By gaining a tick on his fastball (from 91 MPH to 92 MPH) and shifting his location of the pitch.

In 2010, Bumgarner often threw his fastball middle and middle-away to left-handed hitters:

Bumgarner's fastball location against lefties, 2010

Lefties made lots of contact against Bumgarner's fastball: his 14 percent miss rate with this pitch was well below the 17-18 percent league average for lefty fastballs versus lefty hitters.

In 2011, Bumgarner seems to be employing a high-low approach with his fastball against same-handed batters. While his 2010 fastball was at the same height in the zone most of the time, his '11 heater complements those higher offerings with more low-and-away fastballs:

Bumgarner's fastball location against lefties, 2011

That shift in pitch location is paying dividends: lefty hitters have missed Bumgarner's fastball 24.8 percent of the time this year. Most of those misses have come on fastballs high in the zone. Maybe hitters are taking weaker cuts at those high pitches because they're also trying to cover the lower portion of the zone.

Versus righties, Bumgarner pretty much threw his fastball right down the pike last year:

Bumgarner's fastball location against righties, 2010

Righty batters missed Bumgarner's fastball 11.8 percent of the time that they swung, south of the 15 percent league average.

This year, he's throwing more outside fastballs:

Bumgarner's fastball location against righties

Right-handers have missed Bumgarner's fastball 19.4 percent of the time in 2011, with the highest percentage of those empty swings coming on outside fastballs.

As a guy possessing four major league-quality pitches, Bumgarner already gave opponents much to think about when they stepped into the box. But now, they not only have to contend with an upper-80s slider, a high-70s curve and a mid-80s change, but also a fastball that goes high-low against lefties or middle-away versus righties. That's enough to give a hitter a headache.


Flat Bumgarner

Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants pitched poorly Tuesday night, giving up nine hits to the ten batters he faced.  The problem came from a lack of differentiation between his fastball and slider.  During this season, through June 15th, Bumgarner showed a difference between the pitches in three dimensions:

Madison Bumgarner, fastball and slider movement and speed, 2011 season through June 15th.Madison's fastball tends to stay up in the zone, while is slider dips and moves father in on a right-handed batter.  On Tuesday night, both pitches flattened out:

Madison Bumgarner, fastball and slider movement and speed, June 21, 2011.The fastball wasn't staying up in the zone as much as usual, taking away much of the difference between that pitch and the slider.  The fastball was also moving in more than usual, lowering that difference as well.  With both pitches coming in flat, Twins batters hammered them for eight of the nine hits, five doubles and three singles.