A couple of months after Madison Bumgarner came out of the Kauffman Stadium bullpen, riding an allosaurus that devoured everything in its path, he was in the Scottsdale bullpen, trying to figure out what's wrong. Repeating the mantra "it's only spring" helps, but with every start, the words start bouncing off the walls of your brain. They leave a chalky taste in your mouth. It's only spring. It's only spring. Bleah. Hrrkleeahhck.
Seriously, though. It's only spring!
It's only spring.
Four games. Eight-and-one-third innings. Solid strikeout numbers. One walk. A billion hits. Two dingers. An 8.64 ERA. A bullpen session after his latest awful start, planned because of intra-division subterfuge, but still. We were told that Madison Bumgarner was going to be tired after throwing the most innings in postseason history. Here are 8⅓ innings of proof.
We know that 8⅓ innings of proof is the baseball equivalent of this:
We can see the outline of a neck. It's probably a monster. They didn't have Photoshop back then, you know. Probably legit. And you can't Photoshop a pitching line. Ex prompter post hoc ergo, Madison Bumgarner is probably broken. That's a monster, and Madison Bumgarner is probably broken. Is that your paper bag? Mind if I breathe in it for a few hours? I'll get it back to you. All breathed in.
It's only spring. Does anyone even remember what Bumgarner was doing in spring last year?
Oh. What about 2013?
Uhh ... let's see 2012, then.
Oh, come on. I'll bet 2011 was awful.
YES. SEE? IT'S ONLY SPRING. HE'S HAD BAD SPRINGS BEFORE.
It's only spring. I'm ignoring it, dammit. You can freak out. I'm going to just breathe into this here paper bag ...
And if you're ignoring the spring, what you have is one of the most compelling, interesting pitchers in baseball. The A's are hoping for a breakout season from Sonny Gray. Same with Jesse Hahn. The continued evolution of both pitchers is central to their plans to contend. They're the same age as Bumgarner. So if it's reasonable to expect young pitchers like Gray and Hahn to improve, why should we settle for this version of Bumgarner? Maybe instead of worrying about his postseason workload, we should get greedy. This is a 25-year-old pitcher. Can't they get better?
Maybe! It's probably not a good idea to expect it, but not goofy to hope for it. We expect-hoped for it last year:
Madison Bumgarner (2014 Projection)
HR (allowed): 15
HR (hit): 2
That was too optimistic. Probably because I knew how the postseason was going to happen, but I couldn't tell you. But the ERA was too low, probably because I underestimated the dingers allowed. Noted.
Pitchers don't develop in a linear fashion -- hitters don't either, but they fake it better than pitchers -- so expectations should probably be pegged to what Bumgarner has done in the past. This is a good thing because my expert analysis shows that Bumgarner has pitched very well in the past.
He cut down on walks last year, without losing the strikeouts. I'd say he already has improved, but the FIP doesn't show that. I don't know what FIP really is at this point. I'm such a fraud. Luckily Madison Bumgarner isn't! It's only spring.
It's only spring
It's only spring.
It's only spring?
HR (allowed): 20
HR (hit): 3
Damn straight, it's only spring. Madison Bumgarner will be fine. I'll put my paper-thin reputation on it.