Giants starter Madison Bumgarner has never won a Cy Young Award. In fact, he has never even finished in the top-three in voting, though that might change when the results come in for the 2016 season. But with his track record in the postseason, Bumgarner is absolutely the No. 1 pitcher opposing hitters do not want to see.
Entering Wednesday night’s start against the Mets in the National League Wild Card game at Citi Field, Bumgarner had a career 2.14 ERA with a 77/15 K/BB ratio in 88 1/3 innings in the postseason. He had twice pitched a complete game: in the 2014 Wild Card game against the Pirates and in Game 5 of the 2014 World Series against the Royals.
Bumgarner added another playoff shutout to his ledger, holding the Mets to four hits and a pair of walks with six strikeouts on 119 pitches. The closest the Mets came to scoring was in the bottom of the fifth when T.J. Rivera led off with a double. Rivera was quickly erased when he made a base running blunder on a Rene Rivera fielder’s choice ground out.
Bumgarner now has a 1.94 ERA in the postseason and has already won three World Series rings. We’re at the point now where Bumgarner isn’t maybe one of the best postseason starters of all time. He is one of the best of all time.
Curt Schilling, considered by many to be at least the greatest postseason starter of the last 25 years, compiled a 2.23 ERA and a 120/25 K/BB ratio across 133 1/3 postseason innings between 1993-2007. That includes four complete games of which two were shutouts. He won three World Series rings.
Josh Beckett tossed three shutouts across 13 playoff starts, including the World Series Game 6 clincher for the Marlins in 2003 against the Yankees. Overall, he has a 3.07 ERA with a 99/21 K/BB ratio over 93 2/3 innings.
Cliff Lee made 11 postseason starts for the Phillies and Rangers between 2009-11, putting up a 2.52 ERA and an 89/10 K/BB ratio in 82 innings. Three of those starts were complete games.
John Smoltz had a 2.67 ERA with a 199/67 K/BB ratio in 209 playoff innings between 1991-2009. He completed the game on three occasions, including one shutout (Game 7 of the 1991 NLCS against the Pirates).
The Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter finished with an even 3.00 ERA and a 68/36 K/BB ratio in 108 innings spanning 18 starts. One of those starts was a shutout.
Orel Hershiser made 18 postseason starts and four relief appearances for the Dodgers, Indians, and Mets from 1985-99. The right-hander spun a 2.59 ERA with a 97/43 K/BB ratio in 132 innings. Four complete games, two shutouts.
Dave Stewart made 22 postseason appearances for the Dodgers, Athletics, and Blue Jays and compiled a 2.77 ERA with a 73/48 K/BB ratio over 133 innings. That included three complete games of which one was a shutout. Stewart has three World Series rings.
Bob Gibson only made nine postseason starts but threw 81 innings to the tune of a 1.89 ERA and a 92/17 K/BB ratio for the Cardinals between 1964-68.
Whitey Ford made 22 postseason starts for the Yankees between 1950-64. He owned a 2.71 ERA with a 94/34 K/BB ratio in 146 innings. He completed seven starts including three shutouts. Ford earned the most World Series rings of anyone on this list at six.
Of course, it’s hard to top former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who limited the opposition to 11 earned runs (0.70 ERA) with a 110/21 K/BB ratio in 141 playoff innings en route to five World Series rings. But it might be proper to separate starters and relievers for this conversation, as Rivera never had to pitch the ninth inning with a pitch count over 100.
As you can see, Bumgarner’s numbers are, in one way or another, better than everyone on this list. He is only 27 years old but we may be looking at the best postseason starter of all time. We’ll have to see where the next decade takes him before we write that in ink rather than pencil, however.