Getting a ‘Bum’ Rap
In 2014, Madison Bumgarner piqued the interest of baseball fans when he told reporters he wanted to participate in the Home Run Derby. In baseball’s greatest spectacle of power, the idea of letting a pitcher participate may seem like a novelty. But Bumgarner has compiled a legitimately impressive power resume, and if the time has ever come to allow a pitcher to mash against baseball’s greatest sluggers, Mad-Bum is as good a candidate as any.
He is massive at 6’5” and 250 lbs. For scale, that’s two inches and 30 lbs. heavier than Bryce Harper, arguably the game’s most feared power hitter. He’s a career .180 hitter, a run-of-the-mill average even for a pitcher, but he has 13 career home runs. According to baseball-reference.com, that’s a 162 game average of 10 home runs, a total that would put him above a number of light-hitting middle infielders or speedy defensive-specialist outfielders.
Through June 4th, Mad-Bum has as many homers as Jacoby Ellsbury, who once hit 32 in a season, as well as Jason Heyward, Mark Reynolds, or J.J. Hardy, all of whom have had good power records in their own right. He has a HR/AB ratio of 16.0, a mark better than Josh Donaldson, Kris Bryant, Mike Trout, and Miguel Cabrera (via ESPN Stat Cast). He, along with fellow Goliath Noah Syndergaard, is one of only two pitchers to hit multiple home runs this season and has as many dingers as teammates Matt Duffy, Angel Pagan, and Denard Span despite having only 32 at bats. That places him seventh on the Giants.
The new head-to-head format implemented last year sparked life into the Derby, as it allows players to compete in a more one-on-one format, making each round more exciting and meaningful and eliminating the lull-inducing marathon that tended to occur with the old format. So some may argue that putting a pitcher in the Derby and running the risk of an embarrassing performance outweighs the potential for some wild celebrations if he were to actually hit one.
But Mad-Bum has more than established himself as a hitter who can rake, and the notion of Bumgarner doing well in the Derby would not surprise vigilant baseball fans. As the twitter account MLB Stat of the Day (@MLBStatoftheDay) pointed out after Bumgarner’s last homer on June 2nd, Mike Trout has 11 dingers in his last 190 plate appearances, Bryce Harper has 11 dingers in his last 190 plate appearances, and Bumgarner has 11 dingers in his last 190 plate appearances. If that’s not enough to declare Bumgarner the ideal candidate to be the first pitcher to participate in the Home Run Derby, I don’t know what is. Mad-Bum for the Derby 2016.
(All stats via ESPN Stat Cast unless otherwise noted).