Question: You’re the general manager of a major league baseball team making a push for its first playoff appearance in 7 years. Among your rag tag group of players, you’ve got a very talented — and quite young — left-handed pitcher who’s been a blessing since he stepped into the rotation. The problem is this: Your Very Talented Pitcher has now thrown a combined total of 176 innings across both the minors and majors. That’s about +35 innings above his previous career high for innings pitched in a single season and he should make at least 3 more starts on the regular season. That doesn’t count any postseason starts if you’re lucky to make it that far.
What do you do?
We’re talking about Madison Bumgarner, of course, and his workload is something the Giants should be thinking about. Since joining the rotation in June, Bumgarner has been a terrific addition to the Giants — and part of the reason that they’ve been able to compete in the NL West. Since he joined the team, Bumgarner has pitched 93.1 innings with an above-average FIP (4.10). He strikeout rate has been solid (6.27) and his walk rate has been superb (2.22). Bumgarner has shown the ability to throw strikes and compete in almost every start he’s made. The total package adds up to a 1.2 wins above replacement in less than 100 innings of baseball. That’s very impressive. Maybe even more so when you consider that he’s only 20-years-old.
The Giants are going to find it hard making the playoffs if they don’t pitch Bumgarner. And that’s where things get tough. The team really can’t afford to not pitch Bumgarner. The farm system is bare of any other high level impact arms. Kevin Pucetas will not do. One data point that seems encouraging to me is Bumgarner’s velocity. It was a major focal point before he started the year. After throwing in the mid-90′s as a prospect in A-ball, Bumgarner lost velocity as he climbed the minor league ladder. Most, if not all, were shocked to see him throwing in the mid to upper-80′s in Spring Training this year. But, one thing I’ve noticed about Bumgarner from the TV radar gun readings is that his velocity seems to have picked up a little. At least from where it was when he started the year. He’s not back to the mid-90′s level he was as an A-ball prospect — and chances are he never will be — but he’s been around 91-92 more often lately.
Above is a graph depicting the average fastball velocity for Bumgarner this season by start. I wanted to use only home games to remove any stadium biases, but Bumgarner has pitched more on the road and I wanted to get as much data as I could. The graph is self-explanatory, but Bumgarner’s velocity has been pretty consistent lately.
I don’t know what’s the right thing for the Giants to do with Bumgarner. I’m sure they are monitoring him — whatever that means — but the Giants desperately need him to make the playoffs. I just hope that push for the playoffs doesn’t come at a huge price.
Comment Starter: Your thoughts on Madison’s workload?