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Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Is Madison Bumgarner an injury risk?

By David Schoenfield

Over at Bay City Ball, Chris Quick has a post titled, "Is Madison Bumgarner an injury risk?" (Thus, the headline above.)

There are two concerns with Bumgarner: First, he throws a lot of sliders (Chris reports the most in the majors in 2012) and many baseball people think throwing a lot of sliders leads to an increased chance of injury. The other concern is that Bumgarner has thrown a lot of innings at the major-league level at a very young age.

Chris compares Bumgarner to other starters who also throw a lot of sliders. It's hard to draw any conclusions. In summation, Chris writes:
The Giants have built themselves a lot of credit when it comes to the development (and handling) of their pitchers. I don’t always agree with what the team does, but their recent success in the pitching department is undeniable. Bumgarner, the Giants’ No. 2 starter heading into 2013, is a key piece to the team. If the Giants exercise his options, he’ll be on the team until 2019. So there’s a bunch of reasons — both present and future — to keep Bumgarner’s health in check. Ultimately, it’s hard to say how much Bumgarner’s reliance on the slider will affect him long-term. That’s kind of the thing with pitching, to me at least; it’s hard to know when your time might be up. Bumgarner’s health is definitely something to keep an eye on for 2013.

Couldn't agree more. While all eyes will be on Tim Lincecum and his attempt to rebound from a poor 2012, it does seem an equal number of eyes should be watching Bumgarner. Remember that he struggled the final month (5.47) and looked tired in the playoffs, with Bruce Bochy skipping him for a second start in the NLCS. (With the season on the line for the Giants, down 3 games to 1, Barry Zito drew the Game 5 start.) Bumgarner did rebound to throw seven shutout innings against Detroit in the World Series on 10 days of rest.

What's in store for 2013? His 2012 and 2011 numbers are nearly identical, other than allowing slightly fewer hits in 2012 (183 versus 202) but more home runs (23 versus 12). He's pitched 204.2 and 208.1 regular-season innings the past two seasons, but he's still just 23, so I don't anticipate a big increase in workload just yet. A year ago, I thought he was a sleeper Cy Young candidate. If he stays healthy, I think that ability remains.