Every time Madison Bumgarner hits a home run, the baseball gods smile. 

So it stands to reason that if Bumgarner were to participate in the Home Run Derby, there would be grins all over the place.

First, the background: Bumgarner, the left-handed ace of the San Francisco Giants, recently put on a display in batting practice at Busch Stadium, as is his wont.

And then he said this to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney about the Derby: “I want to do it.” 

There’s someone else who’s not so keen on the idea.

“No, to be serious, I couldn’t let him do it,” Giants skipper Bruce Bochy told Olney. “We couldn’t let him do it.”

That’s understandable. Bumgarner is the Giants’ rotation-anchoring stud, the guy who carried them to their third World Series in five seasons in 2014 and now is flashing his dominant October form in June.

Why would they let him potentially injure himself in a meaningless fence-clearing exhibition?

They probably won’t is the answer, even though it would be great for MLB when the Derby rolls into San Diego next month.

Last year, remember, MLB tweaked the Home Run Derby rules in an effort to add more excitement to an event that had vacillated between stale and irrelevant.

But while television ratings inched above 2014’s rain-interrupted snoozefest, they fell slightly below 2013, per SportsBusiness Daily‘s Austin Karp. Clearly, the Derby needs something more to make it must-see TV.

Enter Bumgarner. 

Now, granted, this whole thing reeks of too-cute novelty. A pitchereven a big, strong, tree-chopping one—competing against actual MLB sluggers? 

Well, yeah. On June 2, Bumgarner clubbed his 11th home run in his last 190 plate appearances, matching the total posted over that same number of plate appearances by Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout and the Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper, per Ace of MLB Stats

Or there’s this, from Sports Illustrated‘s Jay Jaffe:

[Bumgarner’s] 6.0% rate of home runs per plate appearance over the past two seasons (incorporating five homers last year plus two this year) exceeds all but 14 players with at least 100 PA in that span, not to mention every participant in last year’s [Home Run Derby] field, with both Todd Frazier (who beat Joc Pederson in the final round) and Edwin Encarnacion tops at 5.8%.

More than anything, Bumgarner passes the eyeball test. There are pitchers who run into a homer on occasion or Bartolo Colon types who light social media on fire with their unexpected exploits

When Bumgarner swings the lumber, however, he looks like a hitter. Heck, the .743 OPS he put up last season was higher than 53 qualified position players.

Consider the fact that Bumgarner has taken Los Angeles Dodgers southpaw/demigod Clayton Kershaw deep twice, including this shot fired on April 11:

With that homer, Bumgarner joined an elite fraternity of 17 players who have sent more than one Kershaw offering over the wall, per FanGraphs’ August Fagerstrom. In today’s least surprising news, Bumgarner is the only pitcher on the list.

What would he do in the Derby? He’d swing from the heels, that’s what. And while he might not win, he’d surely light up the crowd at Petco Park and lure more eyeballs to screens.

Whether you like this idea probably depends on where you come down in the “Make Baseball Fun Again” debate. 

For purists who abhor the bat flip, one of the game’s elite pitchers stooping to participate in a glorified batting-practice session probably sounds like stupid on stilts. 

If you’re in the other campthe one that wants MLB to loosen up a bitthis is precisely the type of Twitter-breaking phenomenon you’re rooting for.

And why not? What’s the harm, really? Sure, the Giants have every right to be protective, and even if there’s only a one percent chance Bumgarner will hurt himself, that’s one percent too much for San Francisco.

For the rest of us, however, this would be a giddy, popcorn-popping diversion. Perhaps it’d even spawn a second, pitchers-only Derby. The Chicago Cubs’ Jake Arrieta recently said he wants in, per Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (h/t Bleacher Report’s Brian Marron). Maybe Colon could be tempted as well.

Here’s the bottom line: In a crowded sports marketplace, baseball needs to do what’s necessary to stay relevant. Some gimmicks are beneath the game and its rich history, but others merely add to the fun. Like, for example, Bumgarner in the Derby.

He wants it. We want it. The world wants it.

Make it so, baseball gods—please?


All statistics current as of June 13 and courtesy of MLB.com, unless otherwise noted. 

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