Madison Bumgarner

When to deploy the Giants’ not-so-secret weapon: Madison Bumgarner

Tim Hudson Madison Bumgarner Hunter Pence

We all know it’s coming, and the Royals are bracing for it — like east coasters when a category five hurricane is headed their way. Madison Bumgarner is two outs away from tying Curt Schilling’s record for innings pitched in a single postseason, and there’s a chance he’ll tie or pass Schilling in Kansas City.

But when? To hear some tell it, Bumgarner should’ve either been moved up to pitch in Game 4, or pulled after the seventh or eighth inning of Game 5 to preserve his arm for more work in Game 6 or 7. But starting guys on short rest nowadays represents a jarring departure from routine, and Bumgarner wasn’t stressing his arm out much — if at all — with those pitches in the last two innings on Sunday. If anything, it looked like he and Buster Posey were playing catch.

So, despite 265 innings from April through October, Bumgarner is a full go. But he can only be used one more time, so Bruce Bochy will need to be judicious. We already tried to climb inside Bochy’s cranium with Bay Area Stats Guy’s post on the similarities between tonight’s Game 6 and Game 6 of the 2010 NLCS. Now I’m going to try to venture in once more and determine if/when Bumgarner will pitch again in 2014.

Game 6

Bumgarner is so solid, so strong, and so absolutely on fire that it isn’t crazy to ponder a relief appearance for the Giants’ lefty ace tonight. But remember how Bochy handled the Yusmeiro Petit situation in Game 2 — he did everything he could to keep his Ryan Vogelsong insurance off the field in that game, knowing he’d probably need Petit over the weekend. Now increase that hesitancy by a factor of at least two or three in regard to Bumgarner tonight.

There’s only one possible scenario where I see Bumgarner coming into Game 6:

  • The Giants go into extra innings.
  • They take the lead in the top of an inning.
  • All of the other dependable* bullpen arms have been used.
  • Eric Hosmer is due to come up in the bottom of the inning.

* Petit, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla … even Tim Lincecum and/or Vogelsong may fall into this category.

If the guys with closing experience are done for the night, and there’s a game to be closed in extras, Bumgarner could be the guy to come in for two or three outs. Otherwise, he’s resting tonight.

Game 7

Clearly he’s available tomorrow if the Royals win Game 6. With two days rest, Wednesday would be a normal “throw day” if the season kept going. The question is when Bumgarner would be used, and for how long.

As for when, I’m guessing early. That’s a hunch based on what happened in the previously mentioned Game 6 in 2010 against the Phillies — Affeldt saved the day in the third and fourth innings, and Bumgarner came on and somehow got through the fifth and sixth despite giving up three hits (including two doubles).

That’s in case of a Hudson collapse, which doesn’t seem as likely as the meltdown we saw from Jonathan Sanchez back in that pennant-clincher. As for length of outing, Bochy will probably roll with Bumgarner as long as he doesn’t appear to be laboring. Two innings sounds about right, but if he breezed through two innings in 20 pitches or so, three innings is a possibility.

There’s an incredible amount of hypotheticals here, and the one Bochy would prefer would be a scenario where Bumgarner wasn’t needed at all. Which presents a daunting task for Kansas City: if they’re going to come back and snatch this World Series from the Giants, they’re going to need to pry it out of Bumgarner’s left hand.

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