Monday, November 3, 2014

2014 MLB Postseason Recap: Bumgarner Ushers in a Giants Dynasty

By Andy Dougherty (@AndyDougherty10)

Tim Hudson became the oldest starting pitcher in World Series Game 7 history when he took the mound on Wednesday night, but another Giants’ starter quickly overshadowed his accomplishment.

A performance for the ages by Madison Bumgarner capped a memorable postseason run for the San Francisco Giants. Bumgarner, the NLCS and World Series MVP, led the Giants to their third title in the last 5 years. This unique five-year up-and-down run alternating between winning a championship and missing the playoffs has never been matched in professional sports. The Giants, it would seem, have established a new kind of dynasty. 

The Giants’ Game 7 win was also the first for a road team since the 1979 Pirates. One of the most notable features of this year’s postseason was the large number of close games. An astonishing 16 of the 32 playoff games were decided by a single run. It was only fitting that Game 7 of the World Series finished 3-2.

Bumgarner’s Performance in Historical Context

Madison Bumgarner produced one of the finest postseason showings in MLB history and established himself as one of the greatest World Series pitchers of all time. Posting a 1.03 ERA in an all-time record 52 2/3 innings pitched, Bumgarner became the 4th pitcher ever to be named MVP for both the League Championship Series and the World Series. His 52 2/3 innings were more than twice as many as any other pitcher this year.

While he stepped up his game from the regular season to the playoffs, he shifted to an even higher gear for the World Series.  In three World Series, Bumgarner is now 4-0 with a miniscule 0.25 ERA. This World Series, he had a 0.43 ERA, 17 strikeouts and 1 walk. His 21 World Series innings this year were more than the rest of the Giants’ starting rotation combined.

It has been over a century since a pitcher logged as many innings without allowing multiple runs in the World Series. Bumgarner’s spectacular performance ranks right near the top, perhaps only behind Christy Mathewson’s three complete game shutouts in the 1905 World Series. Bob Gibson, Lew Burdette, and Stan Covelski had similarly legendary World Series performances, each with three complete game wins, but those pitchers all allowed multiple runs.

Bumgarner chugged four beers simultaneously after the Wild Card win, five after the NLDS, and six after the NLCS. The only time he disappointed Giants fans this postseason was when he opted not to chug seven beers after the World Series.

Breakout Stars

Royals’ 1st baseman Eric Hosmer, who just turned 25, broke out in a big way this postseason. After posting a modest .270 batting average along with 9 homeruns and 58 RBI in the regular season, Hosmer exploded with a .351 average, 2 homeruns and a league-leading 12 RBI in the playoffs.

The numbers for 26 year-old Royals’ 3rd baseman Mike Moustakas were not as well rounded, but he provided plenty of power, blasting a league-leading 5 playoff homeruns. This was a much-needed surge for a Royals team that hit the fewest homeruns in the major leagues this year.

Other Standout Players

The Kung Fu Panda, Giants’ 3rd baseman Pablo Sandoval, led the majors with 26 playoff hits. He batted .366, scored 12 runs, and caught the popup that clinched the World Series for the Giants.

Despite goofy socks and the scraggliest of playoff beards, Hunter Pence managed to get a hit in every World Series game, batting an outstanding .444 for the series.

Jeremy Affeldt did not allow a run in 11 2/3 innings for the Giants, and he was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the World Series.

Wade Davis starred in relief for the Kansas City Royals, going 2-0 with a 0.63 ERA in 14 1/3 innings. Kelvin Herrera was also strong out of the Royals’ bullpen, with a 1.80 ERA in 15 innings.

The best performer on a team that did not make the World Series was Jon Jay. The Cardinals’ centerfielder batted over .450 with an OPS over 1.000 in both the NLDS and NLCS, but his extraordinary efforts weren’t enough.

The Disappointments

Having lost Game 7 of the World Series by a run, the Royals must feel disheartened. But after taking a roster devoid of any true superstars to the franchise’s first playoff appearance in 29 years, this year’s speedy squad thoroughly exceeded expectations. On the other hand, two star-studded rosters from Los Angeles failed to deliver in the playoffs.

Angels’ superstars Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton were absolutely horrendous. In 37 total at-bats, they combined for 3 hits.  That amounts to an abysmal .081 batting average.

For comparison’s sake, pitchers batted a combined .094 this postseason. On paper, the Angels have the talent to be successful, and their talent translated to the best regular season record in baseball. But their stars need to hit better than pitchers when it really counts if they want to get past the first round of the playoffs.

The Dodgers also loaded up with star talent in the hopes of making a deep playoff run. Enigmatic young talent Yasiel Puig and expensive acquisition Adrian Gonzalez both underperformed, batting .250 and .188 respectively.

But, by a wide margin, the biggest disappointment of the playoffs was Clayton Kershaw. Coming off one of the most impressive years for a pitcher in the 21st century, many thought Kershaw was poised to produce a Bumgarner-esque postseason.

Instead, he went 0-2 with a 7.82 ERA.


The best winning percentage the Giants produced in any of the last 5 years was .580. They didn’t have MVP candidates like Trout or Kershaw, and they were never one of the top three teams heading into the playoffs.

But, whenever they got there they performed, and their performance likely punched manager Bruce Bochy’s ticket to the Hall of Fame. In order to join him there, Bumgarner will have to prove that he can maintain this level of dominance in seasons to come.


Anonymous said...

Great article. fine perspective

suitable for baseball HOF museum display

Anonymous said...

good writing