Editor's note: The above video is from Oct. 31, 2014.
SAN FRANCISCO — Before the Kansas City comebacks, Daniel Murphy’s turn as Babe Ruth, Jose Bautista’s bat flip and the rest of the October insanity, the postseason kicked off with a starting pitcher doing a pretty good Madison Bumgarner impersonation.
Chicago Cubs ace Jake Arrieta struck out 11 in the Wild Card Game and gave up five hits while pitching a shutout against the Pirates. That was pretty much what Bumgarner did a year ago, when he struck out 10 and gave up four hits in a shutout at PNC Park. The rest of the postseason showed that while Bumgarner can be matched for a night, nobody right now can come close to keeping up for an entire month.
It was clear during Game 7 last October that baseball fans were seeing something they probably would never see again. A year later, it’s more apparent that what Bumgarner did will be impossible to match. Bumgarner threw 52 2/3 innings last postseason. Here are this postseason’s leaders:
Volquez: 28 2/3
Harvey: 26 2/3
Price: 23 1/3
Those are the only pitchers this postseason who threw more innings than Bumgarner did (21) in the 2014 World Series alone. The lefty won four games a year ago; Jacob deGrom (3) was the only pitcher this postseason to win more than twice. The Mets’ right-hander also led this postseason in strikeouts with 29; last year, Bumgarner struck out 45. Bumgarner threw two complete games in six starts last postseason; all starters this postseason combined for two.
Bumgarner capped his 2014 run with five shutout innings out of the bullpen to get a save, and it appeared that Bruce Bochy’s strategy might have rubbed off on other managers. The success, however, was hard to duplicate. David Price came out of the bullpen in Game 4 of the ALDS last month but gave up six hits and three runs in three innings. Dallas Keuchel came running in from the same Kauffman Stadium bullpen that Bumgarner warmed up in, but he gave up three runs in his one inning as a reliever as the Astros got knocked out of the ALDS. Kansas City’s Chris Young was outstanding in two relief appearances this postseason, but he couldn’t make it out of the fifth as a starter. The fourth starter to come out of the bullpen was actually the closest to matching Bumgarner, but not in the way you might think.
In 2010, a 21-year-old Bumgarner gave up five runs and struck out 17 over 18 2/3 innings as a starter and pitched two shutout innings in an NLCS win. This year, 23-year-old Met Noah Syndergaard gave up seven runs and struck out 24 in 18 innings as a starter and pitched a shutout inning in an NLDS win. Plus, you know Bumgarner had to love Syndergaard’s purpose pitch in the World Series and the moxie he showed afterward.
Time will tell if Syndergaard or any other starter is able to put together a Bumgarner-esque run in future years. None came close in 2015, although a Royals reliever may have had the month that most closely resembled Bumgarner’s ability to break the mold. Wade Davis pitched in eight of Kansas City’s 11 wins, throwing the final pitch seven times and getting four saves and a win without giving up a run. Bumgarner’s ability to bounce back was the story of the 2014 postseason, and Davis showed similar mettle when he waited out a 45-minute rain delay and came back to strand a runner at third and push the Royals back to the World Series.
Davis was one of the pitching stars of this postseason, but he finished 42 innings short of Bumgarner’s 2014 total and actually only made one more appearance. Still, Davis, like Bumgarner, got to throw the final pitch of a season. On Sunday night, Davis clinched the World Series for a team, fan base and city that certainly deserves this moment, and all involved were surely glad that nobody on the other side pulled a Bumgarner this time around.
The Royals went 0-3 the last two postseasons when they had to dig in against Bumgarner and 22-6 when they didn’t.