Beef: The Series (Madison Bumgarner vs. Gio Gonzalez)


Photo Credits: Keith Allison and Delaywaves

After initially seeing Million Dollar Sleeper’s SP projections, the first thing I thought was, “Man, the boy Andrew is killing it right now. Kid is doing work on these projections!” Then I looked a bit deeper after doing my own SP rankings, and thought, “Yo, this cocksucker is lost on some of these players.”

You see, even though Starbonell and MDS are co-founders and fantasy kin (pause) here at SoR, we have our disagreements. However, being the respectable gentlemen that we are, we don’t resort to yelling or name-calling (except for that “cocksucker” remark two sentences ago). Nope, classy well-heeled individuals like us do what everyone should do when a disagreement arises: take it to the internet with a fresh edition of “Beef: The Series.”

Work gets done after the jump:

Starbonell’s Case: Alright, I understand Sleeper’s love for Madison Bumgarner. Intriguing strikeout potential, pinpoint control, good home park to pitch in… I get it. However, what drives me crazy is that MDS is giving Bumgarner a lofty rank of 12th overall among SPs, while burying Neo-Gio all the way down to 35th! I can predict what MDS will say next, “Well, Gonzalez had a BB/9 over four last year, so I just don’t like him that much. Also, Starbonell, you are a god and if I swung that way, I’d want us to move into an apartment together and have you inside of me.” Well, I’m sure he’d say most of that.

Anyway, I’m fully expecting Gio’s BB/9 to fall comfortably below four in the National League. You can also expect an uptick in strikeouts for Gonzalez, and not just because of the standard “pitchers moving to the National League fare much better” theory. Gonzalez is a master at changing speeds and that type of approach helped him up his SwStr% to 9.5-percent last year. Facing a league of hitters who have no idea what to expect, I’m forecasting a monster season for Gonzalez, which is why I have him ranked 13th among my SPs. Bumgarner? Well, his SwStr% was lower than Gonzalez’s in 2011 (9.2-percent) and he doesn’t have the benefit of switching leagues working in his favor. Bumgarner is more of a finesse pitcher and those types of arms can struggle when hitters make their adjustments. I like Bumgarner, but I’m not viewing him as a top 20 SP. So what’s really good Sleeper? You still fucking with Bumgarner like that?

Million Dollar Sleeper’s Case: A finesse pitcher? Is that your way of saying he’s fine? MadBum clocked in at 91.5 mph compared to Gonzo’s 92.8 mph. The term “grasping for straws” came about from MDS dragging people’s bodies in route to victory. And that’s exactly what Starbs is doing here, grasping on some stizzers. Nitpicking over 1.3 mph and 0.3 points in SwStr% means little to me when we’re talking about an overall skill set.

The trade that sent Gio to Washington DC was no secret, I factored these considerations into my forecast (3.78 BB/9). Just because Gio struck out 8.78 batters per nine last season doesn’t mean he’ll do that again in 2012. These numbers do fluctuate, and when you look at his 84.9 Z-Contact% the alarms start to sound. I will take all bets, Gio will not match that in 2012. For all bookies reading, put the over/under on Gio’s K/9 at 8.50. This is especially true if he starts throwing more strikes, like both of us expect. His SwStr% was so high because none of his pitches were in the zone.

Madison Bumgarner on the other hand was making batters miss while throwing pitches inside the strike zone. Gio Gonzalez walked twice as many batters as MadBum, suck on that Starbs. We’ve really only scratched the surface of MadBum’s potential. When June rolled around and he was throwing less fastballs in favor of breaking pitches, his K/9 jumped to 9.28 while his BB/9 fell to 1.54. MadBum is four years younger, has half the MLB experience as Gio and is already a better pitcher. He pitches in a better ballpark, in a better division, his ceiling is higher, the floor is higher and the people who claim SF as their home are higher. He’s got everything going for him, including my endorsement.

Starbonell’s Rebuttal: While touting Gio’s better velo and SwStr% in 2011 may seem like “nitpicking,” it’s actually just a simple way of pointing out that Gonzalez was the more dominant starter on the mound, regardless of the space between them. Now he’s taking his show to the NL, and we somehow aren’t expecting him to be better? You even said you expect him to walk fewer batters. So let me get this straight, you think he’ll throw more strikes, put fewer dudes on base, but will somehow whiff fewer people? Sorry, I fail to see the logic.

Yeah Gio pitched out of the strike zone a bit, but that’s pretty much his game. He mixes speeds and has finally figured out “how to pitch.” I don’t expect him to all of a sudden groove a bunch of hittable fastballs down the middle simply because he is in the National League. He’ll be doing the same thing he did in 2011, only he’ll be facing the pitcher a couple times per game while facing inferior lineups. Plus, he’s shown he can be a very good swing-and-miss SP in the past as he had a 10.3 SwStr% in 2009. You can say “well he had a high SwStr% because of such and such,” but the bottom line he has made quite a few batters whiff. I could care less how he got there. Also you bring up his Z-Contact%, but you fail to mention that it went down 4.1 points from 2010 to 2011.

Getting back to MadBum, you make an interesting point that he may just be “scratching the surface” of what he will be, but that doesn’t mean it will all come together in 2012. For starters, he’s been pretty damn inconsistent throughout his pro career and has had well-documented struggles with his velocity at times. His strikeout profile has been very up and down the last few years, so expecting that he will maintain the whiff rate he posted in 2011 is a bit of a gamble. I certainly don’t think he’ll match Gonzo’s K/9 this season, so you are pretty much putting all your eggs in the ERA/WHIP basket with Bumgarner. I expect Bumgarner to have the better WHIP because of his great control, but he gives up his fair share of hard contact (20.6 LD% in 2011) so I’m not comfortable forecasting an ERA in the low threes.

It’s not that I think Bumgarner sucks, it’s just that Gio is coming off a season in which he made strides in understanding how to pitch. Now he’s headed to the National League and his numbers should get better. MadBum? He’s coming off a very good year, but based on the inconsistencies he’s shown in his very young career and the fact that I just don’t think he can be as dominant as Gonzalez, I don’t see any way that he’ll best my man Neo-Gio.

MDS’ Rebuttal: Neo-Gio? The failed video game system? Not only is MadBum a better pitcher, he gets bonus points for the cooler nickname. Moving to the NL won’t make Gio a top 20 pitcher. Oakland Coliseum is more favorable for pitchers than Nationals Park, especially for lefties like Gio. The Athletics defense has generally been a better unit too. If you want a perfect example of what I’m talking about, see Matt Garza. That four percent drop in Z-Contact% does not happen often, maybe only a few per year. It is about as extreme as Joe Mauer’s 20.0 HR/FB from ’09. Is Gio the Kurt Warner of baseball? The only way I see him “making strides” is if he worked at a bubble gum factory. All he did was get a few more whiffs, suspect whiffs at that. He still walked over four per nine. Let this sink in, of all pitchers who threw 120 or more IP only James McDonald, Tyler Chatwood, J.A. Happ and Francisco Liriano had a worse BB/9. Now we know why no one bought a Nio-Gio.

Bumgarner had issues with his velocity early in 2010, which was chalked up to him not preparing for the season. A few starts in the minors and he was good to go. File that in the “I can forget about that” pile. Bumgarner did get hit hard once by the Twins (0.1 IP, 9 H, 8 ER). If you take out that start (kind of like how Gio lost a start to rain against the Rangers where he gave up 200 earned runs – literally) Bumgarner’s final line looks even more tantalizing: 2.86 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 190 K, 204.1 IP. And I did consider Bumgarner’s BABIP issues when projecting his 2012 numbers. The .308 BABIP I gave to Bumgarner was one of the worst I handed out. If he has some luck and posts a BABIP anything near Gio’s (.285 projected), his numbers would push top five SP territory. There is no believable scenario that puts Gio anywhere near the Top 10 SP. Believe that.

Final Thoughts and Poll: So there you have it. Who’s side are you on? You rocking a Neo-Geo and trusting his move to the NL will help him improve on his breakout season? Or are you a believer in the peripheral data and the notion taht Madison Bumgarner is poised to become one of the best starting pitchers in fantasy baseball? The choice is all yours people. Cast your vote!



About Starbonell

Starbonell is the co-founder of Sons of Roto and one of the most insightful and colorful fantasy analysts in the game. Mixing intelligent and well-researched advice with an entertaining style of writing that is easy to digest, Starbonell is the king of info-tainment.