Madison Bumgarner looked like a potential breakout candidate before this year. And with his first ever hot April start, it appears that forecast is still quite sunny.
Now, it's not really fair to simply say that Bumgarner's had bad starts to previous seasons: the only year he pitched in April was 2011, because he was previously in the minors or not in the rotation.
But this year's April was ridiculous compared to last and it warrants mentioning since people like his manager Bruce Bochy are taking notice.
"Obviously, we think a lot of Madison, what he's done since he came up here," Bochy said, per the San Francisco Chronicle. "He has great stuff, he's smarter, he throws strikes and he's comfortable throwing any pitch at any time. He adjusts to the hitters. For a kid his age, that's pretty impressive."
Through April of 2011, things weren't quite as sunny for "MadBum" (and I remember this because I owned him in fantasy): he was 0-4 with a 6.17 ERA over 23.1 innings pitched. Bumgarner had a 1.45 strikeout-to-walk ratio, the worst of any month by far last season. (His best was June, when he tossed up a 10.33 SO/BB on hitters.) Hitters were getting lucky against him, too, posting a .364 batting average on balls in play.
April 2012 has been the total opposite of last year. Bumgarner's 4-1 through April (and March), posting a 2.53 ERA through 32 innings pitched with a 2.13 SO/BB. He's been much luckier than last year too, posting a .245 batting average on balls in play.
But that doesn't mean he's eying something crazy like 20 wins already.
"I've got four right now and you're already asking about 20?" Bumgarner said on Sunday night. "Geez."
Bumgarner's looked dominant in all but his first start and here's the odd thing: he's doing this without racking up the strikeouts. His 17 strikeouts through 32 innings is incredibly low, relative to the success he experienced later in the year last season.
But that's not a bad thing necessarily: after April last year, Bumgarner never had a month where he picked up less than 30 strikeouts. If he starts piling up those K's and keeps pitching as steady as he has this month, those 20 wins aren't even close to out of the question.