When baseball fans hear the name Madison Bumgarner they think one thing. Playoffs. Bumgarner is a legendary postseason performer having already played an integral part in three World Series victories. In the 2014 postseason alone he registered a 1.03 ERA in 52.2 innings pitched with 45 strikeouts and two complete game shutouts. Since his rookie season in 2010 he has always been one of the best pitchers in the league, which makes it scary that he's getting even better.
The biggest development for Bumgarner thus far in 2016 is that he is striking batters out at the highest rate of his career. In fact his strikeouts per nine have increased every year since 2012 when he was at 8.3. Through 49.2 innings this season Bumgarner has 60 strikeouts, which is good for 10.9 K/9.
Unfortunately Bumgarner's walks have also increased. After allowing just 39 free passes in 2015 he has already issued 18 this season. The walks have yet to catch up with his results however, as he holds a 2.72 ERA through eight starts, which would be the lowest of his career for a full season.
The rise in strikeouts this season may go hand in hand with the increase in number of walks. So to lower the amount of free passes may mean not as many strikeouts for Bumgarner. This would be alright because his 10.9 K/9 rate is so insanely higher than his 2015 total and previous career high of 9.6.
Bumgarner's prime has been overshadowed by Clayton Kershaw's historic run of excellence. Despite all his regular season accomplishments Bumgarner has never finished higher than fourth in the Cy Young voting. With Kershaw off to another dominant start a shot at the award seems unlikely this year. However, it's worth noting that Bumgarner is continuing to improve. At just 26 years old he is having his best season yet.