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Madison Bumgarner: welcome to the slam

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Madison Bumgarner isn't your ordinary hitting pitcher, being the only one to have hit two grand slams in one season since the invention of the DH.

Jason O. Watson

Madison Bumgarner has always had a reputation for being a hitting pitcher. When he was with AA Connecticut Defenders (now the Richmond Flying Squirrels), there were stories of him always swinging for the fences, including one home run being recorded to his stat line as a pitcher during his season there. But the power was there and the reputation stuck with him as he made it to the big leagues. I mean, if the reputation that proceeded him is that he's a good enough hitter to be used off the bench, it must mean something, right?

On July 13, he made history as the second pitcher in Major League Baseball to hit two grand slams in the same season. Going back to 1938, there was only one instance of a pitcher hitting two grand slams in the same season, and that was Tony Cloninger in 1966. And since the invention of the DH, only Madison Bumgarner has hit two grand slams in the same season. Pretty impressive for a pitcher who's still only 24 — 24! (That makes you feel old, doesn't it?)

Since pitcher batting stats are a perpetual case of small sample size, here are a few lines from Bumgarner's best years.

Year Level G PA HR R RBI ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG
2009 AA 20 9 1 2 4 .429 1.000 .429 .500 .857
2010 AAA 14 15 1 2 3 .200 .444 .333 .333 .533
2014 MLB 21 47 3 7 12 .275 .333 .275 .302 .550

The Eastern League, where the Connecticut Defenders played, is a known hitter's league. So for Bumgarner to have kept a 1.000 BABIP is ... well, SSS, but still. His ISO dropped since that season, but it's still rather high for a pitcher to have. Without a doubt, the power is there.

Now, here's Tony Cloninger's stats from the year of his two grand slams.

Year Level G PA HR R RBI ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG
1966 MLB 47 117 5 12 23 .180 .250 .234 .261 .414

Not at all too shabby for a pitcher when you look at it by modern standards. He does have more plate appearances that makes it seem less SSS, but it is still just half a season completed for Bumgarner. Certainly, he's a comp for Bumgarner in terms of hitting.

When you look at the leaderboards for pitchers in the batting category, Bumgarner leads the pack.

Name G PA HR R RBI ISO BABIP
Madison Bumgarner 21 47 3 7 12 .275 .333
Travis Wood 24 42 2 5 9 .229 .261
Adam Wainwright 19 49 0 4 3 .071 .333

I went with a minimum of 30 PA and these are the top three pitchers who can hit by that minimum. When it comes to power, Bumgarner is just far ahead of Wood. While Wainwright and Bumgarner have the same BABIP, Bumgarner is, by far, the better power hitter. Noted hitting pitcher Mike Leake doesn't even crack the top 10 in the leaderboards.

The conclusion here is that Bumgarner, on a rest day, could actually prove to be a viable pinch-hitter. It's not a fluke that he can hit — his power's been there since the minor leagues. He even has a bWAR of 1.6 as a hitter. Whether or not Bruce Bochy decides to ever use him in that situation is up in the air. But it would be awesome.

. . .

All statistics and information courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference.

Jen Mac Ramos is a contributor for Beyond the Box Score and The Hardball Times who is upset that Madison Bumgarner was not in the 2014 Home Run Derby. You can follow her on twitter at @jnmcrms.