Josh Hamilton or Madison Bumgarner?

Madison Bumgarner starts for the Giants today, in Atlanta. That’s good for them, for two reasons. One, it means the Giants get to have Bumgarner pitch. Two, it means the Giants get to have Bumgarner hit. Bumgarner regularly dazzles in batting practice, and that isn’t where his ability is confined — in his most recent start in an NL ballpark, he went deep. Bumgarner was outspoken in his disagreement with Max Scherzer earlier in the year, when Scherzer lobbied for the NL to adopt the designated hitter. Bumgarner, see, takes pride in his slugging, and he wouldn’t want to lose that advantage.

Not that Bumgarner was always much at the plate. As recently as 2013, he was a mess, like pretty much every other pitcher. But then he devoted more attention to the offensive side of things, and his successes have been numerous and remarkable. In honor of Bumgarner’s hitting, then, I’ve put together this poll-post, comparing Bumgarner and Josh Hamilton. Hamilton has obviously been a disappointment since signing his nine-figure contract, but he remains a threat, batting fifth or sixth in a Rangers lineup with a lot of name value. Below, there will be six polls, for six statistics. I’ll show you the high value, and ask you to pick which guy is responsible. Answers are revealed at the end. Good luck!

Batting Average

Isolated Power

Weighted Runs Created Plus

Hard-Hit Rate

Swing Rate

Contact Rate

——

Answer Key

Batting Average — Hamilton has batted .258 since the start of last year. Bumgarner, meanwhile, has batted .257.

Isolated Power — Bumgarner has put up an ISO of .211 since the start of last year. Hamilton, meanwhile, is at .160.

Weighted Runs Created Plus — Bumgarner’s posted a 116 wRC+ since the start of last year. Hamilton, meanwhile, is at 108.

Hard-Hit Rate — Hamilton’s managed a 31.5% hard-hit rate since the start of last year. Bumgarner, meanwhile, is at 28.8%.

Swing Rate — Hamilton has swung at 53.2% of pitches since the start of last year. Bumgarner, meanwhile, has swung at 52.9% of pitches.

Contact Rate — tie! Both Hamilton and Bumgarner have made contact with 64.8% of their swings since the start of last year. If you voted, either all of you were right, or none of you were right. I haven’t decided.

——

The point isn’t that Madison Bumgarner is as good a hitter as Josh Hamilton is. He isn’t, and you can see that in the strikeouts and the walks. You can also understand that with common sense. The point is that Madison Bumgarner has been as good a hitter as Josh Hamilton, since the start of last season. Or at least as productive, if you want to play semantics. There are similarities in their approaches, too. Of course the samples are different. Hamilton’s batted more than 500 times. Bumgarner’s around a quarter of that. That’s not very much, but it has been enough for Bumgarner to distinguish himself.

Reputation goes around quickly, and it didn’t take long for opposing pitchers to start treating Bumgarner like a real hitter. Since the start of last year, setting a minimum of 50 plate appearances, no pitcher has seen a lower rate of fastballs than Bumgarner. No pitcher has had a slower pace than Bumgarner, implying that opponents are taking longer to figure out how to get him out. And then there’s that wRC+. I’ll tell you right now that, the last year and a half, Bumgarner leads all pitchers in wRC+. But that doesn’t convey the right message. This conveys the right message:

bumgarner-pitcher-wrc+

It’s a landslide. Like, seriously, it resembles a landslide, all the other pitchers tumbling from the sheer Bumgarner cliff face. Bumgarner’s wRC+ is equal to the No. 2 wRC+ added to the No. 3 wRC+, and then also adding the No. 10 wRC+. And remember, with hitters, you’re comparing them to an average wRC+ of 100. Pitchers, since the start of last year, have come in at -17. And that’s why Bumgarner shows up with 2 non-pitching WAR. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that, lately, when Bumgarner has pitched, the Giants have rolled with an AL lineup. That makes for an imbalance against NL opponents, but there’s nothing unfair. Bumgarner’s just been the Mike Trout of pitchers hitting, with seven home runs against Mike Leake and Travis Wood’s three.

Yeah, you’re absolutely right, Bumgarner isn’t this good. But he’s good enough to have been this good for the better part of two years, meaning his true talent could be only so low. Madison Bumgarner is the pitcher who’s been offensively indistinguishable from Josh Hamilton. He’s homered against both Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. According to the hashtag, there are pitchers who rake. More accurately, I think there’s pitcher.





Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

newest oldest most voted
a
Guest
a

Interesting how many elite pitchers show up in that graph.

Nathaniel Dawson
Guest
Nathaniel Dawson

50 plate appearances minimum probably has something to do with that.

Franco
Guest
Franco

Partially, but i’m also guessing elite pitchers have complementary freak skills that translate like vision/hand eye coordination.

steve
Guest
steve

Also, generally, elite pitchers are elite athletes. And/or relentless workers.

L. T. Fang
Guest
L. T. Fang

Yes, but elite pitchers don’t spend much time working on their swings.

Travis Wood
Guest
Travis Wood

Thanks. That’s very kind of you.