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#46: Is Madison Bumgarner underrated?

On June 21 of last season, Madison Bumgarner went out and exploded — but not in a good way. That day he last just 1/3 of an inning but faced 10 batters, nine of whom got hits and eight of whom scored. That outing did two things: ballooned his ERA from 3.21 to 4.06 and set up months of us trying to tell everyone how criminally underrated Bumgarner was.

Question 46 in our top 100 Offseason Questions series reads as follows: “Madison Bumgarner was probably one of the more undervalued starting pitchers in 2011. Who would you compare him to so that his value is recognized?”

OK, so even in asking that question we’ve technically answered the larger question after which this post is titled (yes, Bumgarner is underrated), but I won’t just stop there. After spending minutes scouring 2011 statistics and leaderboards it’s become painfully apparent who I must compare Bumgarner to so that his value is properly recognized. Hold onto your hats…

CC Sabathia. Oh, and Felix Hernandez, too.

Yes. You read that correctly. If you want to properly value Bumgarner as an asset for your fantasy team, then compare him to the big man in the Bronx or the pride of Seattle’s rotation. Of course, Sabathia and Hernandez pitch a ton of innings by virtue of their extreme durability (237.1 innings last season for Sabathia, 15.6 percent more than Bumgarner) and Sabathia is backed by a great offense and a lot of win opportunities, but from an ERA/WHIP/strikeout-to-walk/batted ball/opponent’s average/pretty-much-anything-else-you-can-think-of perspective, the three are eerily similar. One look at their 2011 stat lines will prove it to you.

If this post was 8 Mile, this is the part where I’d just drop the mic and stare out at you through your computer screen because I just totally schooled your ass. I mean come on, look at those numbers! Aside from the innings, how is Bumgarner any different than either of the AL’s elite starters? His strikeout rate is a tad lower, but his walk rate is lower, too. His BABIP was the highest of the three last season, and if you take out that June 21 disaster his WHIP for the other 204 1/3 innings was 1.16, easily lower than the other two. You can’t argue with these numbers, well, except for the ones in red. Those are the ones that don’t quite jive.

Now, despite the painfully obvious similarities above, it would be foolhardy to draft Bumgarner as early as either Sabathia or Hernandez. Sabathia will tally more wins than either and both CC and Felix will likely pitch more innings and rack up more strikeouts. So, where should you draft Bumgarner?

He definitely can’t go before Sabathia, Hernandez, Jered Weaver, Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Tim Lincecum, Cliff Lee, or Cole Hamels. You could argue for taking Bumgarner over Dan Haren, Zack Greinke or Jon Lester, but in most cases, those are probably losing arguments. David Price is probably the first guy where I’d say, “Hmm, I think I’d rather have Bumgarner.” Right there that makes him the 13th best starter in fantasy, at least at the start of the season.

Take a chance and draft him as such or, more fun even, let someone else draft him and then steal him via trade.

Note: Don’t attempt to let someone else draft him just so you can have the fun or ripping them off before the season starts. That’s risky because it gives them extra time to find this post!

Also it’s just mean.

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About the author: Bryan is the co-founder of Baseball Professor and works as a consultant specializing in operational metrics and efficiency analysis. When he’s not working, blogging, or tending to basic human needs, he enjoys pondering the vastness of the universe, rewatching episodes of Breaking Bad, and avoiding snakes. (@BaseballProf)

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