By Thomas J. Harrigan, Fantasy Sports Writer
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Over the last three seasons, the success of San Francisco Giants starter Madison Bumgarner has been largely overshadowed by Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, even last year when they struggled with ERAs in the fours.
What's wrong with Lincecum and Cain has been a more-discussed topic than what's right with Bumgarner.
So far during draft season, Bumgarner is finally getting the recognition he deserves from fantasy owners. The left-hander's average draft position (ADP) is currently 38.1, 10th among starting pitchers.
But now we might be giving Bumgarner too much credit, especially by selecting him directly ahead of Chicago White Sox southpaw Chris Sale.
Sale won just 11 games due to Chicago's futility last season, but he had a 3.07 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP and 226 strikeouts in 214 1/3 frames.
Bumgarner has been a model of consistency the last three years, throwing between 201 1/3 to 208 1/3 innings, posting ERAs from 2.77 to 3.37 and striking out 191-199 batters in each season during that stretch.
However, I think we saw the best Bumgarner has to offer in 2013, when he went 13-9 with career bests in ERA (2.77), WHIP (1.03), strikeouts (199) and H/9 (6.53) over 201 1/3 innings.
Sale, meanwhile, already is more dominant than Bumgarner and still has room to grow going into his third full season as a starter.
In 2013, Sale struck out 9.49 batters per nine and walked just 1.93, an improvement from 9.00 and 2.39 in 2012. He also had an overall contact rate of 75.5 percent, sixth best in the majors among starters, and a zone-contact rate of 82.9 percent, which ranked third.
Bumgarner is very good at inducing weak contact -- he had an 18 percent line- drive rate, fourth among starters, an 8.2 percent HR/FB rate, which ranked 18th, and a 12.1 percent infield-flyball rate (eighth best among starters) -- so his .251 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) wasn't solely a product of good luck.
Still, when other factors are similar I prefer the guy who misses bats over the pitcher who has to rely more on his defense.
Bumgarner can generate swings and misses -- you don't fan 190 batters in three straight seasons without them -- but not as many as Sale.
02/12 17:04:08 ET