It’s not a coincidence that our 2019 Community Projections begin with Madison Bumgarner.
He is the measuring stick for the current iteration of the orange and black - a team that hopes to end two-and-a-half years of stupefying futility. Bumgarner simultaneously represents every possible rendition of this squad.
Do you think the Giants will outperform their win projections, and surprise everyone by flirting with a wild card spot? Well, let’s talk about Madison Bumgarner.
Do you think the Giants will once again play with a level of vim and enthusiasm that would depress Charles Bukowski, en route to another top-three pick? Let’s talk about Madison Bumgarner.
Think Farhan Zaidi puts every opposing GM on speedial in July and mashes the reset button? Hey there, MadBum.
Think the trade deadline comes and passes meekly, and the team builds on their core going forward? Bumgarner!
No matter how the year unfolds, Bumgarner is story of the season for the team, at least as far as players go.
The computer-generated projections, which are far from infallible but not nearly as far from infallible as I am, aren’t too excited about watching the World Series hero blow snotrockets and yell at Yasiel Puig.
Steamer sees the poor performance of the last two years, and spits out this:
ZiPS sees the injury-riddled campaigns of 2017 and 2018, and, being a computer who doesn’t understand circumstantial nuance very well, expects Bum to slip while chopping wood and drive the maul straight into his shin (pro tip: it looks a little dweeby, but I recommend sporting a Luis Gonzalez-esque open stance, so that should the maul miss the wood and swing back towards you, it will slide through your legs like that cool dance move in Grease. Your crotch will get thwacked by a blunt object, which isn’t the most fun thing in the world, but it beats slicing your leg in half):
One of these projections presupposes that, because Bumgarner got hit by a line drive one year and auditioned for Nitro Circus in the other, that his body is now ready to give out and succumb to more injuries. Both projections presume that the pitcher who had (relative) struggles in his post-injury outings is the new normal.
They might be right. They might be wrong.
There are reasons, of course, to feel both ways.
A pitcher trying to rehab multiple upper-body injuries doesn’t exactly keep the pessimists at bay. But then again, he’s not being rushed back this time. He arrived at Spring Training amid a flurry of (MadBum-contorted) cliches, noting that he feels much better than in the last two years. His spring velocity is up, even if the results aren’t there yet.
There are reasons to think that Bumgarner - built like the F-150s he so overtly adores, and still just 29 - is going to look a lot more like his 2015-16 self than his 2017-18 self.
If you’re trying to be optimistic, the reason is there.
Which brings us back to the measuring stick. If the Giants want to have a quality season once again, they’ll need a lot of players to bounce back and live up to their potential - that starts with Bumgarner. If they disappoint their way to a loss total approaching triple digits, it will be because their older, declining and injured players are exactly that: declining and injured. That also starts with Bumgarner.
And of course the question on everyone’s mind when Zaidi strapped himself into the driver’s seat - would the team finally abandon sentimentality and start selling? - will be answered by whether or not Bumgarner, an impending free agent coveted by playoff teams, is on the roster when the calendar flips to August.
HR hit: 2
No. The team will hang around .500 long enough to keep them trying to win, and internal discussions will reveal that Bumgarner would like to re-sign for a modest price.