From Alex Pavlovic’s Giants Extra blog:
But here are the more concerning numbers: 89, 90, 89, 89, 89, 89, 90, 89, 89, 89. Those are his fastball velocity numbers from the fourth inning, when he gave up two doubles, a homer and four runs.
In last night’s start, Madison Bumgarner, per Brooks Baseball, averaged 89 miles per hour on his fastball. Coming in to the start, Bumgarner averaged around 91 mph on his heater during the 2012 season.
I also found this quote very telling:
It’s been gone for a while. It might be the result of back-to-back 200-inning seasons after a 2010 postseason or it might be something else, but something is wrong and Bochy and his coaches know it. They’ll discuss and give a Game 5 answer soon. They still owe us a Game 4 starter, too. Either way, the starters those nights are going to have to be better.
There’s a couple of thoughts that are running simultaneously in this discussion: 1) Has Bumgarner lost velocity as the year has progressed and 2) how you juggle the short-term rewards of trying to win another championship with the long-term goal of Bumgarner’s health.
First, briefly, let’s look at point number one — the velocity.
I compiled two line graphs of Bumgarner’s fastball velocity by appearance in 2012. I have included both two-seam and four-seam fastballs into the mix. These are the PitchF/X classifications that I’m using and they often have some overlap — i.e., two-seamers being called sliders and sliders being called two-seamers. However, this is quick and dirty, so we’ll have to make d0.
This graph includes all appearances — home and road — and you can see some velocity loss as the season goes on. How normal, or abnormal, this is, well, I’m not sure. However, I think we can all assume that most pitchers are likely to lose velocity as the season goes on.
Because there can be some differential speed readings between home and road parks, I removed all of Bumgarner’s road starts to remove any bias from the speed readings. The result is similar, albeit a bit more stark: a steady downtrend in fastball velocity over Bumgarner’s last six home starts.
I cannot say for sure what the right move for the Giants and Bumgarner is. Clearly if the team thinks that Bumgarner needs to be shut down, then they should do so now. The problem is that shutting down Bumgarner means more Barry Zito and, as we’ve seen, more Barry Zito is never a good thing. Especially in the playoffs. Then, it’s a really, really not-good-thing. Getting into the postseason is hard. It’s some combination of good team design, luck, and pure chance, at varying levels. So when you get there, you really need to field your best team if possible because you never know when you’ll get back. You can’t count on punting a chance because “you’ll be back next year” because sometimes that “next year” never comes.
Bumgarner will be a Giant until 2017 — through 2019 if his options are exercised. That’s five to seven more years of baseball. If possible, I think you absolutely have to protect that. Even though a part of me wants Bumgarner to continue to pitch in the postseason, I understand the long-term ramifications of an injury. If the Giants’ evaluators determine that it’s time to shut him down, or move him into the bullpen to limit his innings, I think it’s the right decision.
I can’t say I envy the decisions of a major league club.
In short: I’m not sure what the right decision is. Thanks for reading!