Madison Bumgarner, 23, is entering his third full season in the major leagues. At that point in Tim Lincecum's career, he already had two Cy Young Awards under his belt. The difference is Lincecum was already 23 by the time his first full season came around, and turned 24 just a few months into it.
Bumgarner was drafted out of high school just a year after Lincecum was drafted out of college. They would have both been seniors in 2007, just at different levels in their education. They were also both selected 10th overall in the draft.
After his first year in the minors, Bumgarner shot up 'Top Prospect' lists by going 15-3 with a 1.46 era. Entering 2009, he was ranked by Baseball America as the third best left-handed pitching prospect in the nation behind only the Rays' David Price and the Athletics' Brett Anderson.
Over the course of 63 appearances in the minor leagues (62 starts), he amassed a 34-6 record with a tidy 2.00 era.
Bumgarner was just 20 when he made his brief debut in 2009. Although not even old enough to legally drink, Bumgarner physically looked as commanding on the mound as any pitcher in baseball. At 6-5, 235-pounds, he was arguably the biggest man on a team that also featured Brad Penny.
Although he started 2010 in AAA Fresno, Bumgarner made 18 regular season starts for the Giants as well as contributing to their World Championship run in the postseason. His historic start against the Texas Rangers in game 4 of the World Series allowed him to gain national recognition. In fact it was the only the fifth time since '95 that a pitcher threw eight innings or more while allowing three hits or less in the fall classic. Not to mention it was the also first time a rookie catcher caught a rookie pitcher in the WS since 1947 (Credit: Sports Illustrated).
Bochy had been singing his praises all year and had even more reason to be proud after that performace.
"That kid, I can't say enough about what he did tonight. I mean, 21-year-old kid on that stage pitching like that. He had it all working."
Bumgarner was so dominant that only one batter even reached as far as second base, and never made it to third. He said:
"I didn't expect this in my wildest dreams, but I'm definitely glad to be here and blessed to have this opportunity."
Per Jayson Stark at ESPN, Jeremy Affeldt chimed in on Bumgarner's start.
"I doubt he even realizes what he just did, but that's what makes him so good. He just pitches like he's pitched his whole life. He just expects to do well.
The following year, 2011, Bumgarner went 13-13, which tied him with Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong for the team lead in wins. Despite his tremendous 3.21 era, he actually ranked fourth among all Giants starters, who had dazzled as a group all season.
He actually lost his first six decisions over his first eight starts, meaning he finished the season winning 13 of his final 20 decisions.
One memory Bumgarner would like to forget is his start against Minnesota on June 21. He allowed eight runs on nine hits while recording just one out. Take out that one rough outing and he accumulated a 2.86 era over his other 32 starts.
2012 was very similar to 2011 for Bumgarner. Some statistics improved like his whip, win total and hits allowed, while some statistics had slight declines like era, walks and home runs. His World Series start in 2012 was reminiscent of his dominance in 2010, as threw seven shutout innings, striking out eight and allowing only two hits.
Could Bumgarner contend for the Cy Young award in 2013? Let's compare the start of his career to rival pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
- Both were tall, lanky high-school pitchers from the south, drafted in the top-10
- Both made an abbreviated stint at the major league level at age of 20, pitching right around 20 starts each.
- Both allowed 11 home runs in roughly 110 innings during their rookie year.
- Both first full seasons resulted in .500 records and around 190 strikeouts
- Both second full seasons saw a slight rise in era to the tune of roughly a tenth of a run, setting career highs in wins, and striking out slightly less batters per nine innings.
What happened next for Kershaw, in his third full season (2011), is what manager Bruce Bochy is hoping Bumgarner continues to copy. Kershaw won the National League Cy Young Award after setting career bests in wins, era, strikeouts, whip and innings pitched.
In five starts so far this spring, Bumgarner is 1-0 with a 1.84 era.
Per Carl Steward at the Mercury News, Bumgarer said this after his last start:
"I felt like it was pretty similar (to his last start), but everything felt more in rhythm. Last time I felt like my timing was a little bit out of whack, but I felt good today."
Although spring stats can only mean so much, it's nice to see he is having success very early this season. Let's see if that success turns into hardware at the end of the year.