I really, really like Madison Bumgarner . Despite the rough Spring Training, I felt talent-wise, he was the best person to pitch in the fifth spot in the rotation over Todd Wellemeyer and Kevin Pucetas. Furthermore, I was impressed by his numbers last year in his short September call-up. Was he throwing gas? Not really (he only averaged 89.2 MPH on his fastball last year in his callup), but he had 10 strikeouts in 10 IP, only walked three guys and posted an ERA of 1.80 and a WHIP of 1.10.
That's impressive in my book.
This year, Bumgarner started off the season miserably. He struggled in Spring Training and his first two starts in the minors were disastrous, with his fastball still hovering in the mid-to-high 80s (Bumgarner was known for his 90-plus stuff). However, look at what 22 Gigantes said today in a blog post about Bumgarner's return to form:
"Since April 14, "MadBum" has compiled the following statistics, through six starts:
35 IP / 1.54 ERA / 0.943 WHIP / 26 K / 11 BB"
Those are impressive numbers, especially when you look at Bumgarner's current line for the season (eight games started, 42 IP, 3.64 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 32 K, 13 BB; it's shuddering to think how bad those two starts were when you put it together).
What has made Bumgarner such a success in the Pacific Coast League after such an awful start? According to Frisco Fastball , Bumgarner has added a cutter to his arsenal. One of the big knocks on Bumgarner last year was that he primarily was a two-pitch pitcher, relying heavily on his fastball and slider.
That was evident in his call-up last season, as he threw his fastball 64.5 percent of the time and his slider 29.7 percent of the time (he also threw a changeup 5.9 percent of the time).
Having a cutter to the mix should make Bumgarner more valuable and effective as a starting pitcher. And, with his fastball velocity apparently back , Bumgarner seems to be even more ready to make the move from Fresno to San Francisco.
That being said, the Giants should wait to pull the trigger.
If you know my stance on Buster Posey, this may come as a surprise (since I believe that not only Posey should be up, but Bengie Molina or Eli Whiteside should be dealt in order to make room for him) to some Giants fans.
However, Bumgarner is in a different situation than Posey. Additionally, Bumgarner plays a different position from Posey.
The latter makes all the difference.
For starters, Bumgarner is only 20 years old. He is still fresh from high school and is still learning how to pitch at the professional level. Yes, he is doing well in Fresno now, but how will he adjust when he has bad nights? It's one thing to go on a roll like this when the going is good, but what happens when that BABIP rises? What happens when he isn't striking out the house? Does Bumgarner step up to the challenge or does he fall apart?
Bumgarner has time to learn this in Triple-A because he's so young. Posey on the other hand is 23 years old and has played college baseball and 35 games in Fresno prior to this season. Posey is more developed and MLB ready than the younger, fresher Bumgarner.
Sure, Posey needs more catching experience, but how's he going to learn about the Giants pitching staff if he is in Fresno?
Hence, Bumgarner and Posey are in different boats, and shouldn't be compared to each other.
Secondly, I believe the Giants should hesitate to pull the trigger on Bumgarner for another reason: the fifth spot in the rotation.
Honestly, I don't believe he is ready to handle that spot in the rotation now. Look at the difference between Jonathan Sanchez this year and Sanchez last year. Sanchez is pitching fourth and looks immensely more comfortable going against opposing teams' three, four, and five starters. Last year, he struggled holding the end of the rotation, occasionally going against opposing teams' aces.
Granted, Bumgarner isn't Sanchez, but you can't risk Bumgarner losing his confidence early. Sure, he could flourish and break out, and show that the Giants have another budding ace behind the four-headed monster of Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, Matt Cain, and Sanchez, but he could also blow up, go back to Fresno with shattered confidence and never be the same again.
As a Giants fan who understands how much the Giants have invested in Bumgarner, I just don't think it's worth it, especially considering he's not extremely needed right now. The Giants' problem is not starting pitching. It's offense, and that's another reason why the Giants need Posey and can afford to keep Bumgarner in Fresno for the time being.
Now, Wellemeyer isn't going to hold the fifth spot all year. I understand that. However, the Giants have options and should exhaust those options before they thrust Bumgarner into the rotation. Eric Hacker has had a great year, as evidenced by his 6-1 record, 2.61 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. Joe Martinez spent some time in the fifth spot last year, and could use a second go-around as well. And as for Pucetas ? Well, I don't think he has much to offer, but you gotta see what he can do at the Majors at some point, right?
It's easy for Giants fans right now to say "Call up Bumgarner! He's killing now, like Posey, so let's bring him up while he's hot!" In my opinion, the Giants don't need to be in a rush. They have plenty of options to fill Wellemeyer's eventual spot, and the fifth spot in the rotation is not going to make the difference in a playoff berth (the difference is whether or not the Giants offense can get some consistency).
At the earliest, the Giants should call up Bumgarner in August, which would allow him to continue to develop his newly found, and effective pitch repertoire.
Giants fans will be thankful Brian Sabean and his management team waited on Bumgarner when it is all said and done (though I think the opposite will be true with Posey).