Tale of the Tape: Aces battle in NL Wild Card Game
Bumgarner, Syndergaard set to face off in New York
By David Adler
The Mets host the Giants in the National League Wild Card Game today, and all eyes will be on the two pitchers toeing the Citi Field rubber live on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET.
The Mets start Noah Syndergaard, their flamethrowing ace; the Giants counter with Madison Bumgarner, one of the best postseason pitchers in the history of the game. Both pitchers are frontrunners for the NL Cy Young Award, and now they clash in a winner-take-all game. In anticipation of the matchup, here's the only tale of the tape you will need.
Cases for the NL Cy Young Award: Bumgarner ranked fourth in the NL in ERA, just behind Syndergaard, and third in strikeouts, one spot ahead of the Mets' ace. And Bumgarner was also a workhorse, finishing second in the league in innings and complete games (four). Syndergaard ranked third in the NL in ERA and fourth in strikeouts.
Bumgarner against the Mets: 5-0, 1.80 ERA, 40 IP, 46 K Loves to face:Jay Bruce, 3-for-21 (.143), 6 K, 1 HR Hates to face:Kelly Johnson, 7-for-20 (.350)
Syndergaard against the Giants: 1-2, 3.66 ERA, 19 2/3 IP, 14 K Loves to face:Brandon Belt, 0-for-6, 3 K Hates to face:Buster Posey, 3-for-6
In the postseason
Bumgarner: 7-3, 2.14 ERA, 88 1/3 IP, 77 K Signature moment: Bumgarner has been a key member of San Francisco's 2010, '12 and '14 title teams, and his postseason feats are already inscribed in the annals of baseball history. But for all his success as a postseason starter, Bumgarner's crowning moment came in relief -- Game 7 of the '14 World Series against the Royals. Having already pitched (and won) twice in the Series, including a shutout in Game 5, Bumgarner returned in the fifth inning of Game 7 on two days' rest. With everything on the line, Bumgarner closed out the series with five scoreless innings en route to World Series MVP honors.
Syndergaard: 2-1, 3.32 ERA, 19 IP, 26 K Signature moment: After the Mets took a 3-2 lead on Daniel Murphy's home run off Zack Greinke in Game 5 of the 2015 NL Division Series, they sent the rookie Syndergaard to the mound as a bridge to Jeurys Familia. Touching triple digits on the radar gun, Syndergaard pitched a scoreless seventh inning, striking out Corey Seager and Justin Turner.
On the mound
Bumgarner's repertoire: Fastball (average velocity 91.02 mph), slider/cutter (87.06 mph), curveball (75.1 mph), changeup (83.67 mph) Best pitch: Whether you call it a slider or a cutter, it's probably Bumgarner's toughest offering, and he uses it often -- more than 30 percent of the time. Bumgarner said he calls the pitch a cutter, but thinks it's in-between and he changes the speed enough to make either name appropriate. As usual for his sidearm stuff, the pitch is difficult for lefties to handle -- they hit just .176 (9-for-51) against it this season, with 11 strikeouts. Biggest weakness: If there's one thing he's been vulnerable to this year, it might be right-handed power bats. Bumgarner allowed 22 of his 26 homers this season to righties. Statcast™ says: Bumgarner had an average extension of 6.71 feet in 2016, which is third-highest among left-handed qualifying starters, and it means that hitters have a lot less time to see the ball than against your typical pitcher.
Syndergaard's repertoire: Four-seam fastball (average velocity 98.22 mph), sinker (98.06 mph), slider (91.04 mph), curveball (82.61 mph), changeup (89.95 mph). Best pitch: A 100-mph sinker across the knees is ridiculous on its own, but somehow, his slider can be even more devastating. Syndergaard can run the pitch up into the 93-to-95-mph range, and of all his pitches, opponents fare the worst against the slider, recording their lowest batting average (.162) and slugging percentage (.229). Biggest weakness: Opponents have been running wild on Syndergaard all season. He allowed an MLB-high 48 stolen bases, and would-be basestealers were only caught nine times. Statcast™ says: Syndergaard has the highest average four-seam fastball velocity, sinker velocity and slider velocity of any starting pitcher in baseball this season.
Pitchers who rake
Bumgarner's longest home run: 411 feet Syndergaard's longest home run: 415 feet
Any tale of the tape for a Bumgarner-Syndergaard matchup has to include their power at the plate. Bumgarner can handle the bat as well as any pitcher in baseball. On June 30 against the A's, the Giants even forewent the designated hitter to let Bumgarner bat for himself, the first team to voluntarily do so since 1976, and he doubled in his first at-bat. Bumgarner has mashed 14 home runs in his career, and 12 over the past three seasons. He has led the Majors in home runs by a pitcher in each of those seasons, including his shared title with Syndergaard this year.
Though Bumgarner has the reputation for being one of the best hitting pitchers in the Majors, Syndergaard crushed three home runs of his own in the 2016 season. He had a two-homer game against the Dodgers on May 11, the only multihomer game by a pitcher this year.
Off the field
Nickname: MadBum. Bumgarner doesn't seem to be quite so fond of the name himself -- back in 2012, he said in an interview with SFGate.com, "They've called me 'MadBum' ... and I don't really like that." But it's stuck all the same. Lords of BumTown: In Caldwell County, N.C., Bumgarner's father's family goes back 100 years. One area is called "BumTown" for all the Bumgarners living on both sides of Deal Mill Road. Bumgarner even once ended up dating a girl named Madison Bumgarner. No relation.
Nickname: Thor. The Norse thunder god himself. Syndergaard's 6-foot-6, 240-pound frame and long, flowing blond hair have earned him one of the best nicknames in sports. Syndergaard has fully embraced the moniker, from dressing as the Marvel superhero version of Thor on Halloween to roaming the streets of Manhattan in full getup earlier this season. What's in the names: Syndergaard names his gloves. He has had gloves named after: Tyrion Lannister and Jon Snow, characters from "Game of Thrones"; Heisenberg, a character's alter-ego from "Breaking Bad"; Ivan Drago, a character from "Rocky IV"; Rick Grimes, a character from "The Walking Dead"; and, of course, Norse gods Thor and Loki.
Wild Card breakdown
Why Bumgarner will win: He has never lost to the Mets. Bumgarner has beaten them five times in six career starts, including twice this season, and he has one shutout and a 1.80 career ERA against New York. Pitcher beware: The last time he faced the Mets in August, although he won the game, Bumgarner was not in top form. He lasted five innings, walked three and allowed four runs -- all on a grand slam by Justin Ruggiano -- but the Giants' offense scored 10 runs to back him. Bottom line: If the Giants could pick any pitcher in the world to start a winner-take-all game, they'd probably choose Bumgarner. He's already cemented his postseason legacy, and he has a chance to continue to add to it tonight in New York.
Why Syndergaard will win: He has pitched in a postseason winner-take-all game before, coming out of the bullpen to hold a one-run lead in the Mets' win over the Dodgers in Game 5 of last year's NLDS. Oh, and the last time Syndergaard faced the Giants, on Aug. 21, he threw eight innings of scoreless two-hit ball, with six strikeouts. Pitcher beware: Syndergaard's one head-to-head matchup with Bumgarner did not go well. He lost to Bumgarner and San Francisco on May 1, allowing four runs in 5 2/3 innings. Bottom line: This is the guy the Mets wanted on the mound for the NL Wild Card Game. Syndergaard is their ace, with some of the most electric stuff in the game.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.