Since the Cubs specialize in rookie pitchers, it's only fair that the Reds will send out Travis Wood on Sunday to face Thomas Diamond. It's also fair that Madison Bumgarner will take the mound Monday for the Giants in Carlos Zambrano's return to the starting rotation.
Wood and Bumgarner are left-handed rookies, both highly regarded. Using league adjusted stats, and setting average for each to 100 like OPS+ does, here's how their career lines, including time in the Show, stack-up.
BF K BH KBH GB LD FB PU
Wood 2048 113 107 115 89 102 106 139
Bumgarner 1722 118 66 190 95 110 99 118
Bumgarner has a slight edge in strike outs per batter faced (K) and a big advantage in walks and hit batters per batter faced (BH). As a result, Bumgarner's K:BH ratio is well above league average.
Batted balls, all per ball in play (including home runs), isn't as easy to read. Neither appears to be a ground ball pitcher, neither seems to be an extreme fly ball pitcher. Both do get a lot of pop-ups, particularly Wood.
While Bumgarner may have the edge with battles settled at home plate, Wood's batted ball profile may be more appealing. He's also had some impressive luck on balls in play, or weak contact, or outstanding defense.
Using linear weights (pitch-by-pitch, adjusted for the count) Wood as a rvERAa of 1.82 in the majors. That number comes from actual hits and outs on balls in play. If you change from actual hits and outs and use batted ball types (line drive, ground ball, fly ball, pop up) you get an rvERAe of 4.70 for Wood. rvERAa should be close to actual ERA (2.42), and rvERAe should be similar to xFIP (4.10). A big part of Wood's "luck" has been a lower than average rate of fly balls and line drives going for home runs. He's down at 4.2% while the league average is closer to 8%.
Bumgarner's rvERAa and rvERAe are 3.92 and 3.93, the former not mathching his ERA (2.97) and the latter almost right on his xFIP (3.92). Starting to feel like Bumgarner's pitching better early in their careers? Wood's ERA is a half run better, but regression is more likely to haunt the Red than it will the Giant from what we've seen so far.
Zooming in on the ability miss bats (Whiff) and throw strikes (B:CS and IWZ), along with another look at batted ball outcomes (SLGCON).
Whiff B:CS IWZ SLGCON
Wood .214 1.7 .535 .350
Bumgarner .191 2.0 .543 .517
Wood's unrealistically low SLGCON corresponds with the gap between his rvERAa and rvERAe. Both have good control and average whiff rates.
Wait, wasn't Bumgarner's control better than Wood's? Well, yes, but just by a little. That's because Wood's steadily improved as he progressed and carried it over to the majors. Here's how those league-adjusted stats look just for regular season play with their big league clubs.
BF K BH KBH GB LD FB PU
Wood 175 117 83 141 68 122 127 132
Bumgarner 251 108 75 149 111 90 99 65
While they've moved closer together with strike outs and walks, they've moved further apart batted balls. Small samples, so don't etch anything in stone.
Both rookies are left-handed, but Bumgarner is 21 years old and is 6-foot-4 and 214 pounds. Wood is older, 23, and smaller, 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds. Bumgarner throws five pitches, Wood the same five plus one. Suprisingly, there's no real difference in their 2010 fastball speeds.
Both Bumgarner and Wood throw four- and two-seam fastballs. Wood's 91 mph fastball is thrown 41% of his pitches and Bumgarner's matching 91 mph is thrown more often, 53%. Wood throws a two-seam fastball on 23% of his pitches while Bumgarner uses it for just 6% of his offerings. Again, 91 mph for each, give or take a fraction.
Change-ups are a different story. Neither throws it often, Wood 10% and Bumgarner 7%, but they offer slightly different looks. Wood's change is just under 80 mph, on average, while Bumgarner's is up close to 83. Relative to their four-seam fastballs, Wood's moves 7 inches (tail and sink) and Bumgarner's 4. Wood gets more sink and arm side movement.
Their sliders are similar, both about average in terms of movement. Bumgarner throws his harder (85 vs. 82 mph) and far more often (23% vs. 3%). But Wood also throws a cutter on 17% of his pitches. It comes in at 88 mph, a nice spot in below fastball speed but clear above change-up and slider speed. Wood's cutter also has a few inches of glove side movement relative to his fastball along with some sink.
The fifth common pitch, and Wood's sixth, is none other than old Uncle Charlie. Actually, Bumgarner's (74 mph) can be a little slurvey while Wood's (73 mph) has nice 1-to-7 motion.
Before a look at all that stuff in PITCHf/x graph format, it's important to point out the differences in arm slot. Even if the speeds are similar, pitches with the same or similar grips will move differently due to the difference in arm slot.
Not the greatest pictures, but Bumgarner is lower than Wood. You can see the same thing in their Spin Deflection charts. The arm angle can almost be superimposed over the spread of pitches.
These charts (above and below) contain any pitch they've thrown in a PITCHf/x game, which means we have some 2009 regular season and 2010 Spring Training in Bumgarner's sample. He had some low velocity stretches, and you'll see his slider was down at some point, too.
These charts are spin axis (which gets messy with sliders, so don't read much/anything into that) and speed. It's just another way of looking at pitch groups, and it really shows the speed differences between pitches better. The spin deflection charts above are better for movement.
Spin Axis x Release Speed
The Cubs frequently wilt against young lefties, so I will try and enjoy watching these guys pitch without sweating the outcome too much.