Late Night Investigations: Bumgarner Velo and Release Points
It’s no secret that Madison Bumgarner hasn’t been right, and since his eight shutout innings against the Dodgers on August 20th, he’s thrown one “quality start” although it did include five walks against the Padres. I’ll let Madison tell you what’s up:
So he says he’s fine. Do I believe it, I’m not sure. I think he’s tired, so I tried to investigate to see if maybe I could find anything. I’m not sure if I did, I think I may have found just a little thing, but really not going to say I found something big because I feel that would be kind of arrogant and pretty naive of me to say such a thing when professional clubs have guys for this kind of thing. Since I’m only smart enough to interpret velocity charts and release point charts, and not spin charts, I decided to take a look at what I could. Four “good” starts by Bumgarner, and four “bad” starts, three of those bad ones coming after the Dodger game and two of them the playoff starts.
Really hope that’s viewable. As you may be able to guess from the lower pitch counts, these are his “bad” starts. His top two starts, one on July 4th vs. WSH and the other on Sept. 11th vs. COL (yes, I notice the dates, too) he does get close to 94, and actually his start in WSH has the most consistency in his fastball velocity. Look at the bottom graphs to the playoffs, and it gets slowly lower and lower. To be fair, throwing a lot of pitches in one inning can do that to you, but he is showing a little less “oomph” in his fastball velocity early in the game against his other regular season starts.
In all of these “good” starts here (4/29, 5/5, 6/28, 8/20), Bumgarner is able to consistently touch 92, and in one start is jacking it up to 93 pretty often. He does lose a little bit as he gets deeper into games. His start against the Dodgers is actually the top right chart, so I did put them a little out of order. That rivalry giving him the motivation to push it a little bit harder, perhaps.
So he’s not starting out throwing as hard as he used to overall, and that’s by about one mph, not sure that’s really anything to write home about.
Looking at Madison’s release points, I tried to figure out if he was dropping it, because that’s what I figured I would be able to see, especially if he’s getting tired. Instead, I found that the release point is not necessarily lower or higher, but rather moved horizontal in my small sample size of starts.
As for the “good” starts shown above, these are the same four starts as the velo charts, and I merged together on Photoshop and you can see they cluster in that general vicinity on/below the 6′ vertical line and the 2′ horizontal line.
The “bad” starts look like this:
These are all four of the “bad” starts that also showed up in the velo charts, and the outlier cluster is actually from the NLDS. These starts tend to cluster more over the 2.5′ horizontal line than the 2′ line like his starts that yielded better results did. Maybe he’s moving himself away from the batter’s box more to compensate for the lack of life on his stuff, as he put it. Whatever it is though, he is in a different spot than his usual, especially in his NLDS stint.
Remember, these are but eight starts by Madison. They are not a full representation of his work, but I believe they still give you at least a beginner’s idea that Bumgarner is doing some shifting around right now, although it doesn’t really have to do with his release point in the vertical sense, but where he’s placing himself on the pitching rubber. Something to keep an eye on if Game 5 becomes a thing and he’s named the starter.