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April 30, 2019

Phillies don't need Madison Bumgarner, but still should want him

The former World Series MVP would be a welcome addition in Philly ... if the price is right

Phillies MLB
Madison-Bumgarner_0410_USAT Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports

Madison Bumgarner is in the final year of his current contract with the Giants.

The Phillies current crop of starting pitching, by many measures, has actually done a pretty good job of holding its own this season.

A brief look at a few key advanced metrics supports the claim that they are doing enough to win, but are winning in a hard to sustain manner.

Philly has given its starting hurlers an average of 5.2 runs of support, ninth of all 30 MLB teams (in contrast, the 2018 Phillies had 4.2 runs of support for their starters). They also average a remarkable third best rate in all of baseball in innings pitched per start, at 5.7 and also toss a third best 92 pitches per starting appearance. Each of these stats are impressive as the sport becomes more and more dependent on relievers, with starters throwing fewer innings every season.

The Phils make it as easy as they possibly can for their bullpen. Not only have their starters eaten innings this season, they also have handed off the second fewest inherited runners of any team with just 23 through 28 games.

However, they have the second most "cheap wins" in the league with six — a metric that counts the number of victories after non-quality starts (of which the Phillies have 12 this season). That is a tough way to win.

The Phillies have had success (at 16-12 this season) but their pitching staff has been inconsistent. If they want to win the NL East, and then compete for a World Series, consistency is needed.

Here's a look at the earned runs each current starter has allowed per start thus far:

1st2nd3rd4th5th6th
Aaron Nola164531
Jake Arrieta131235
 Zach Eflin016231
Vince Velasquez2120

Jerad Eickhoff 040



Nola has been struggling to get back to his Cy Young form from a year ago while Jake Arrieta finally hit a snag in his most recent outing (he had a bunch of inherited runners score). The trend seems to be going in the right direction, but there seems to be no telling what you're going to get from day to day.

Enter Madison Bumgarner.

The Giants are likely to move their ace before the trade deadline as he has an expiring contract on the horizon. He is 29, a career 111-87 pitcher with a 3.06 ERA and a four-time All Star. He has been in the top 11 for Cy Young voting five times and has three World Series title (including one World Series MVP).

He is in his prime, despite an early 1-4 start, and is still a strikeout machine (35 thus far to just five walks), making Bumgarner a perfect fit for Philly as they beef up their squad to make a postseason push a few months from now. That is if they can wrestle the rest of the NL East for him.

Here's what FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal said on the air yesterday (h/t nj.com):

“There already is talk of the Phillies pursuing Madison Bumgarner, but the Braves might be an even better fit,” Rosenthal said during Fox’s Game of the Week. “(Braves general manager) Alex Anthopoulos generally isn’t keen on trading for rentals, but the Braves need for a top-of-the-rotation starter is even more acute than the Phillies. Their farm system, one of the best in the game, should hold plenty of appeal. And Bumgarner, a potential free agent after the season, would almost certainly be interested in playing for the team closest to his home state, long-term.”

In a recent mailbag, Phillies beat writer Todd Zolecki addressed the Bumgarner to Phillies rumor from above:

"Bumgarner could help, no question about it. But teams typically do not make trades for pitchers like him in April. Those swaps usually happen in June and July. It makes sense for the Phillies to see how everybody in the rotation performs over the next several weeks and then make a move. And if Bumgarner is traded in the meantime? Don’t panic. There are always pitchers available at the Trade Deadline. The Phils can find another one."

There is a serious argument to be made that an additional reason exists for the Phillies to make a big acquisition, like Bumgarner, for the purposes of playing defense — or keep away from a team like the Braves.

Or a "keeping up with the Joneses" argument as well, as Atlanta, New York and Washington will all be chasing after playoff spots and will likely act aggressively to buy at the deadline this summer. 

With a player like Bumgarner, a longterm deal might need to be in the cards for them to offer prime prospects in a deal — but at 29, the Giants' ace could be a solid one-two punch alongside Nola for years to come. 

The Giants are currently providing Bumgarner with 3.2 runs of support per game — the second worst of any team this year. It won't be hard to make a case for his staying in Philadelphia long term.


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