Last week I surmised that Giants prospect Madison Bumgarner’s significant drop in velocity and recent struggles meant “something clearly isn’t right with him physically” and Rob Neyer of ESPN.com took that conclusion a step further:
I’m afraid this goes beyond “something clearly isn’t right with him physically at this point.” I’m afraid he’s hurt.
I’m sure the Giants would tell you that they’ve run all sorts of tests and they can’t find anything and it’s just a mechanical thing, and blah blah blah I’ve heard it all before. This kid’s probably been lighting up radar guns since he was in the ninth grade, and now all of a sudden he’s throwing 87 and all he needs to do is keep his elbow a little higher during his delivery? Maybe. But probably not.
Of course, we’re just a couple guys with keyboards and yesterday Giants general manager Brian Sabean assured Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News that “there is nothing physically the matter” with Bumgarner:
It’s this simple: He was preoccupied this winter and it cost him. He had personal stuff to straighten out, getting married, and he was ill-prepared to come into spring training. I don’t know how much he threw to get ready. Some of it is our fault because we didn’t track him as well as maybe we should. We’ve got to do a better job eyeballing that.
That all sounds perfectly reasonable until you consider that Bumgarner’s decline in velocity actually dates back to last season, when he averaged just 89.2 miles per hour with his fastball during a 10-inning stint in San Francisco. So yes, perhaps Bumgarner didn’t do everything he should have done this offseason, but if anything that only compounded a problem that had already surfaced months earlier.
Whatever the case, after giving up 11 runs over seven innings in his first two starts Bumgarner turned in a solid outing at Triple-A last night with six innings of two-run ball. He still managed only three strikeouts, but Fresno announcer Doug Greenwald told Baggarly that “the scoreboard radar gun had Bumgarner’s fastball consistently in the low 90s, topping out at 93 mph.”