NLDS Game 3: In-Depth Preview of Jake Arrieta vs. Madison Bumgarner

Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

Facing elimination, the San Francisco Giants will send out ace Madison Bumgarner against the Chicago Cubs at AT&T Park in Game 3 of the NLDS. Will Cubs former Cy Young award winner Jake Arrieta be able to match the three-time World Series winner?

The two star pitchers last squared off this season on September 4, with Madison Bumgarner outdueling Jake Arrieta in a 3-2 victory at Wrigley Field. Overall, Arrieta has the Cy Young, but Bumgarner has a longer track record of success, and of course the postseason dominance in his favor. Let’s take a look at how the two matched up this regular season before their big game in the NLDS. 

Arrieta197 ⅓ 3.103.528.73.51.084129
Bumgarner226 ⅔ 2.743.2410.02.11.024149

As you can see, Bumgarner bested Arrieta in every relevant category. The Cubs righty gave up slightly less hits per nine than Bumgarner, but that was mitigated by Arrieta’s high walk totals. Against a patent team like the Giants, the former Oriole hurler must be careful not to give up too many free passes. Arrieta has not had a start without a walk since April 10th, his second of the season. In his last eight, number 49 has registered an ugly 24 base on balls in just 49 ⅓ innings. This total, 4.4 BB/9, would have ranked second in all of baseball if done throughout the entire season.

In Game 2, Cubs pitchers Kyle Hendricks and Travis Wood combined for three RBI’s in what would end up as a three run win by the Cubs. Don’t be surprised if this is not the only game in the series decided by pitchers hitting, as Bumgarner and Arrieta are two of the best in the business at swinging the bat in the nine hole. Only one hitter has two home runs against Clayton Kershaw in the past two years, and that is Madison Bumgarner. Only one pitcher had a weighted runs created + (wRC+) of over 90 in 2016, and that is Jake Arrieta.

Though Arrieta has faltered a bit of late on the mound, he has still been a dominant pitcher over the past three seasons. Most Giants hitters have had a very hard time squaring the ball up on him. Let’s take a look at all 13 hitters that could be facing Arrieta in the NLDS past history against him.

Giants Against Arrieta

PlayerArrieta vs. Giants Hitters
Denard Span4-20, 2B, BB, 4 SO
Buster Posey1-15, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 2 SO
Hunter Pence3-13, BB, 2 SO, HBP
Brandon Crawford1-13, 2 BB, 6 SO
Angel Pagan5-11, 2B, 2 SO
Brandon Belt0-10, RBI, 2 BB, 7 SO
Eduardo Nunez3-8, RBI, BB, SO
Conor Gillaspie 2-6, RBI, BB, SO
Joe Panik2-5, RBI, BB, 2 SO
Andres Blanco1-5, 2 SO
Kelby Tomlinson1-2
Madison Bumgarner0-1, BB
Trevor Brown, Gorkys HernandezNA
Totals 23-109, .211 AVG, 2 2B, 0 3B/HR, 29 K, 11 BB, 1 HBP, .289 OBP, .229 SLG, 518 OPS

As you can see, the overall output is not good. Angel Pagan has had some success, but that will not be enough to get a win as the outfielder has minimal power. Amazingly, in the 119 plate appearances against Arrieta, Giants hitters have only one extra base hit. This could change tonight, but certainly does not bring much optimism for San Fran fans.

Arrieta is best when throwing his slider and sinker, that way the ball can always be either moving away, or towards the hitter instead of a straight line. For some reason this year, the slider hasn’t been there. In 2014 Arrieta threw 29 percent sliders. 2015, 28.9 percent sliders. This season: 18 percent. Looking deeper, righties have hit for a .557 OPS against Arrieta in 2016, the same exact total as 2015. But lefties on the other hand, have increased from .449 to .612. Perhaps Arrieta no longer has the confidence to throw his slider in on a lefties hands after hitting three batters in the postseason in 2015. Or perhaps, it is something else entirely. Look for Brandon Belt or Brandon Crawford to come up with a big hit against Arrieta in the NLDS if anyone in the Giants slumping lineup can do so.

A projected lineup of Posey, Belt, Panik, Crawford, Nunez, Pagan, Span, Pence, and Bumgarner  are an ugly 19-96 (.198) against Arrieta in their career. If the Cubs righty can control the plate, it will be interesting to see if the Giants lineup can finally figure him out.

Many Cubs players have plenty of experience against Bumgarner, as he has been a staple in the Giants rotation for seven years now. Judging by the results, most Cubs hitters likely wish he would move to the American League, or even Japan.

Cubs Against Bumgarner

PlayerBumgarner vs. Cubs Hitters
Dexter Fowler8-38, 3B, RBI, 4 BB, 6 SO
Miguel Montero 6-32, 2B, 2 RBI, 8 SO, HBP
Jason Heyward5-18, HR, 5 RBI, BB, 4 SO
Anthony Rizzo3-16, 3 BB, 7 SO
Ben Zobrist6-12, 2B, 3B, RBI, BB, SO
David Ross2-9, HR, RBI, 2 SO
Kris Bryant 1-8, 2 SO, HBP
Addison Russell0-7, 7 SO, HBP
Javier Baez1-7, RBI, 4 SO
Chris Coghlan2-7, 2B, SO, HBP
Willson Contreras 2-3, 2B
Jorge Soler0-3, BB, SO
Jake Arrieta1-2, RBI, SO
Tommy La Stella 0-1, SO
Albert AlmoraNA
Totals 37-163, .227 AVG, 4 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 44 K, 10 BB, 4 HBP, .288 OBP, .301 SLG, .589 OPS

Not everyone has been terrible against the Giants playoff ace, as Ben Zobrist has been productive, and Jason Heyward has been pretty good as well. The issue for the Cubs may be that young stars, and probable starters, like Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Javier Baez are a combined 2-22 against Bumgarner, but will look to prove those numbers wrong tonight in the NLDS.

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It was reported that Joe Maddon was considering placing Jorge Soler in the lineup to add another powerful righty, but sacrificing his defense over Jason Heyward may not be a good idea in what will most likely be a pitchers duel.

Bumgarner loves to attack the top of the strike zone, a risky proposition for pitchers that can only be pulled off by the most accurate. Seeing what the tall lefty did to Yoenis Cespedes, it is obvious that Bumgarner will not back down from a challenge. This could be an issue for hitters Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo as they are best at slugging balls lower in the strike zone.

A projected lineup for Game 3 of the NLDS of Montero (Arrieta’s normal catcher), Rizzo, Baez, Russell, Bryant, Zobrist, Fowler, Soler, and Arrieta are a combined 26-125 (.208), not even horrible considering hitters are a lifetime .232 against Bumgarner.

Even if Cubs fans see the .589 OPS and say, hey that’s better than the Giants against Arrieta, they must remember that Bumgarner in the playoffs is a whole other animal. There is no point in going into more detail on Bumgarner’s postseason dominance, as everyone, especially the Cubs, know his track record. When manager Joe Maddon was asked about Bumgarner’s playoff history he said:

"It’s just like what Gibson did, it’s like what (Sandy) Koufax did; maybe with Whitey Ford and the Yankees prior to that, It’s unique. I hope the kids that are really watching right now understand how good this guy is and how it parallels throughout baseball history, what he’s doing right now."

Let’s take a look at how the pitchers have fared in the situation in which they will pitch tonight.


Arrieta vs. Giants6 G, 1.82 ERA, 0.908 WHIP, 3.80 SO/BB
Playoffs 3 G, 3.66 ERA, 0.915 WHIP, 7.00 SO/BB
6+ days rest25 G, 2.45 ERA, 1.037 WHIP, 2.66 SO/BB
Bumgarner vs. Cubs12 G, 2.25 ERA, 1.025 WHIP, 5.33 SO/BB
Playoffs15 G, 1.94 ERA, 0.863 WHIP, 4.88 SO/BB
4 days rest109 G, 2.94 ERA, 1.040 WHIP, 4.61 SO/BB

Overall, Arrieta seems to be at an advantage as he wins the categories two to one. He has been better against the Giants compared to Bumgarner against the Cubs, and has been better, understandably so, on six or more days of rest compared to Bum on four days. At the same time, all of that may not matter as the 27 year old lefty has the huge advantage in pitching statistics and experience in the playoffs. Also, Bumgarner has been far from bad against Chicago, with an elite 5.33 SO/BB ratio.


There is no statistic to measure resilience, but it is a quality the Giants surely have. They have won their last eight elimination games, and have won the past six playoff games in which Bumgarner has pitched in.

The Cubs are a terrific team, most likely the best in all of baseball. But, tonight, in Game 3 of the NLDS, they will take a backseat to the greatest playoff pitcher of all time in Madison Bumgarner.

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Look for the Giants to string together a couple runs spread throughout the game on walks, baserunning, and sacrifice flies to put their ace in position to win. Bumgarner is also a career 0-26 in the postseason, look for him to end this hitless streak and break through with a big at bat against Arrieta. Final score: 2-0