The World Series is going to a Game 7, and both the Astros and Nationals pitching staffs are loaded with starters that both teams should feel comfortable giving the ball to in the winner-take-all game on Wednesday.
But none of them are Madison Bumgarner.
Zack Greinke. Max Scherzer. Gerrit Cole. Stephen Strasburg. Justin Verlander. That's a who's who of future Hall of Fame starters.
But none of them are the best postseason pitcher of all-time.
It's not even debatable at this point. When it comes to playoff baseball, there has never been a more clutch pitcher than Bumgarner, as he proved time and time again throughout the Giants' dynasty.
Now, you can be sure that both Houston manager A.J. Hinch and Nationals manager Dave Martinez will have the utmost confidence in Greinke and Scherzer, who are expected to start Game 7 for their respective sides. After all, the two pitchers have combined for four Cy Young awards, 12 All-Star appearances and been worth a combined 125.4 wins above replacement over the course of their careers. But if you hooked the managers up to a polygraph and asked them if they would rather have their guy or Bumgarner taking the mound Wednesday, they'd either give the correct answer, or the needles would be jumping all over the place.
You don't have to go back any further than the last time MadBum took the ball in a World Series game to confirm his relative superiority.
Exactly five years prior to the Nationals' Game 6 victory on Tuesday, pitching on only one day of rest, Bumgarner came out of the bullpen and threw five scoreless innings to close out San Francisco's Game 7 victory over the Kansas City Royals in the 2014 World Series. It was the culmination of the greatest postseason performance in MLB history, as Bumgarner laid waste to the competition throughout those playoffs, posting a 1.03 ERA with 45 strikeouts over 52.2 dominant innings, including two complete-game shutouts.
Five years ago today, Madison Bumgarner capped off the greatest #WorldSeries pitching performance of all time with this gem of a Game 7 (on two days rest):
pic.twitter.com/1UgcGYvNb5— KNBR (@KNBR) October 29, 2019
To take it a step further, over five career World Series appearances, Bumgarner has an utterly ridiculous 0.25 ERA.
You can't top that.
Both Greinke and Scherzer surely will try, and even if they fall short, that's no knock against them. Rather, it would serve as a reminder of the historical greatness that Bumgarner so often provided to the Giants in their greatest times of need.
Bumgarner will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and while he's not the same pitcher he was throughout the three World Series runs, he proved this season that he still has plenty left in the tank. The Giants aren't the same team they were during those runs, either, but then again, they snuck into the Wild Card Game in 2014, and we know how that turned out.
No one would fault Bumgarner if he decided to leave San Francisco in free agency. He's earned that right, and deserves the chance to showcase his postseason mastery again at some point.
The Giants certainly will try to keep him, just as both the Astros and Nationals gladly would take him for Wednesday if they could.