There is little doubt that Madison Bumgarner's performance in the 2014 postseason was one for the record books. The World Series MVP title and the media plaudits make that much clear to a common fan. His ridiculous 1.03 ERA in 52 2/3 innings in October only bolster Bumgarner's greatness.
But how does his 2014 World Series performance compare to the legendary feats of those who've preceded him at MLB's grandest stage? The media today has a tendency to oversell its heroes, meaning a critical mind might be justified in thinking that the MadBum show, though impressive, was nothing out of the ordinary.
However, there is enough evidence to say that the 25-year-old pitcher's domination of the Kansas City Royals will long be remembered, and might even be considered the new barometer to judge future World Series pitchers.
Why? Well, he is only the sixth pitcher ever to pitch at least five innings in three different World Series games while limiting his opponents to no more than one earned run per contest. The great Sandy Koufax was the last person to accomplish this feat in 1965 before Bumgarner did it a few hours ago. It took 49 years for someone to join this highly exclusive club, which further accentuates Bumgarner's greatness.
In the 1965 World Series, Koufax had a 0.38 ERA in 24 innings, for which he is rightly applauded. But Bumgarner is not that far behind with an extraordinary 0.43 ERA of his own in 21 outings. It shows how close he came to Koufax's record.
Of course, the man widely regarded as the greatest pitcher in the World Series history is another Giant – Christy Mathewson. In perhaps what was the single greatest pitching performance of all-time, Mathewson in 1905 recorded three shutouts within a week to lead his side to a 4-1 World Series win over Philadelphia. Once again, Bumgarner came as close as anyone has to replicating Mathewson's tenacious display of operating without proper rest.
He terrorized the Royals in game 1, threw a shutout in Game 5 and then answered the call as a relief pitcher in the deciding game despite the fact that he had only had a two-day rest.
As Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said: "He came back out on short rest and dominated. You just have to tip your cap to him. He's a bulldog out there, he's a workhorse."
By pitching 52 2/3 innings in the playoffs, he also surpassed Curt Schilling's record of 48 1/3 – further proof of his talent.
While Bumgarner may not have bested Koufax and Mathewson's efforts, for someone to come close to their records during a time in sports which has been marked by increased competition, one has to put him on par, if not above his legendary predecessors.