Please forgive me if there has been a large discussion of this elsewhere -- and feel free to delete the post if that is the case.
I am wondering, though, what the consensus is on how to handle Madison Bumgarner down the stretch. As many of you are no doubt familiar with, there are some alarming statistical trends regarding young pitchers, workloads, and injuries. Analyzing these trends leads to two primary conclusions: a) that pitchers shouldn't throw a ton of innings before a certain age (Nate Silver and Will Caroll at BP posited a seasonal marginal breakpoint of 175 innings prior to an age 23 season), and b) that pitchers should have their workload increased very cautiously from year to year until they've escaped the "Injury Nexus."
Now -- I'm not a fan of the rigid application of statistical principles like this. They are useful as guidelines, but they are merely trends -- not hard and fast rules. There are the Matt Cains of the world, who spit on these theories; and there are the Stephen Strasburgs, who imploded even under extremely judicious usage. (Incidentally: hurry back, Stephen.)
But while I think the idea of limiting pitchers to predetermined pitch limits or inning limits is or can be a little misguided from a methodology standpoint, I do firmly support the idea of proceeding with caution when bringing along young pitchers. Even acknowledging that every pitcher is different, and that every body responds differently to the rigors of hurling a baseball, it's quite clear that pitchers are less likely to break down if their usage patterns are closely monitored and given priority.
Which brings us to the case of my beloved Madison Bumgarner. MadBum has been outstanding for the Giants this year, consistently giving his team a chance to win and seemingly getting stronger as the year wears on. His last start against the Padres was sensational, and his velocity has trended upwards as the season has developed (not dramatically in the majors, but appreciably).
And yet...how will the Giants reconcile the need for quality pitching down the stretch on one hand, and the desire to protect their budding stud on the other? And how should they? Bumgarner threw an almost identical number of innings in 2008 and 2009, but he's already blown past his career high by more than 30 IP here in 2010, and he's in line for three more starts. He'll be approaching 200 by the end of the season; and a trip to the playoffs would add to this total (though it's unlikely he'd be a starter at that point). All this, and he's barely one month removed from his 21st birthday.
I am curious to know what you all think. Personally, I wouldn't mind the Giants using an off-day to skip one of his starts down the stretch. I've noted that he's been outstanding lately and that, if anything, his stuff seems to be improving; but even so, I'd rather employ precaution than waiting for a sign that something's already wrong. The Giants have off-days on each of the next three Mondays, and unless the late hour is interfering with my brain, skipping MadBum once would end up giving Timmy one extra start on the last day of the season.
Of course, the NL West and Wild-Card races couldn't be tighter, and maybe it's best to let everyone on the staff take advantage of the off-days equally. Maybe, too, circumstances will dictate the right course of action -- maybe there will be enough separation in those races that the decision will be obvious.
Anyway, thanks for reading -- it's my first Fanpost and I hope it wasn't just a rehash of something that's already been beaten to death.