Most of the time, a pitcher's plate appearances are best ignored. They happen because the rules in the National League say so, and it's something we all tolerate. While it's fun to think about Bartolo Colon hitting because those opportunities are of such visual pleasure, it's fun to think about Madison Bumgarner hitting because he's good at it.
He's very good at it, at least relative to what you'd expect of someone listed in every box score with a "P" next to his name. Bumgarner is such a good hitter for a pitcher that you can actually leave out those last three words -- for a pitcher -- and not be exaggerating.
Why does Bumgarner the hitter get so much coverage? You could ask: Why does Mike Trout get so much coverage? The answers are the same. Trout is the best player in the game. Bumgarner is the best hitting pitcher in the game. Madison Bumgarner, in fact, could be described as the Mike Trout of hitting pitchers.
Although Bumgarner is just 27 years old, he's the active leader in pitcher home runs with 16. On Opening Day, Bumgarner went deep twice, hitting one of those home runs 111 miles per hour, according to the ESPN Home Run Tracker. That's the 15th-fastest home run of the young season. It's faster than any home run Mookie Betts has hit so far in his career. It's faster than any Joey Votto home run over the past two-plus years. Bumgarner has hit for real power because he has real power.
During his entire major league career, Bumgarner the hitter has not been good. Maybe you know the stat wRC+. Maybe you don't know that one, but you do know OPS+. The idea is the same: 100 is average, better than that is better than average, etc. Bumgarner has a career wRC+ of 53, meaning he has been 47 percent worse than the average hitter. Still good for a pitcher, but not good-good.
This is where we have to make a call: When did Bumgarner turn good?