It’s not a shock that Madison Bumgarner has never been on the disabled list before now. He’s a big horse of a man, made purely of muscle and tree sap. The only thing that’s prevented him from being sidelined is Bruce Bochy not letting him throw 400 innings in a year and, apparently, that he’s been steady on a dirt bike until now.
Bumgarner is on the DL after a dirt bike accident. He has bruised ribs and a Grade One or Two Strain of his shoulder AC joint. #SFGiants
— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) April 21, 2017
The AC joint, for those of you at home who aren’t medical professionals, is at the top of your shoulder, and connects your shoulder blade and your clavicle. Bumgarner’s injured his left one, which is especially troublesome, given that he’s made his living and his legend with his left arm. This is not good news for either Bumgarner or his team.
San Francisco is currently 6-10 and in last place in the NL West. Their slow start has already done a number on their chances of making the postseason.
At its peak, we thought the Giants might finish 90-72. This morning, we thought the Giants would finish 84-78. Now, they have to try and survive two months without their best pitcher.
To put it bluntly, the Giants are in a whole world of trouble. They’ve still got Johnny Cueto, but Bumgarner is an incredible talent and replacing him with whichever depth option is called upon is extremely sub-optimal for a team that has real aspirations at a playoff spot. Bumgarner is supposedly going to be out for six to eight weeks, which translates to about mid-to-late-June. That’s two months without one of the ten best pitchers in the game.
Shoulder injuries are especially troublesome for pitchers. They have a habit of flaring up again and having lingering effects. Bumgarner could come back on schedule, but there’s no promise he’ll be the same as he was before, and there’s no problem he won’t aggravate his shoulder again at some point down the stretch. If the Giants are to have success in the playoffs, there are few better assets to have then than him.
Internal candidates like Ty Blach or Chris Stratton (Stratton was just recalled from Triple-A, for what it’s worth) could replace him for the time being, but they’re no Bumgarners. The domino effect goes further, too. Bumgarner typically provides length for the Giants, and his replacements will likely leave more work for the San Francisco bullpen.
The Giants as a team are hitting just .233/.294/.366 so far this year. We know for a fact that they’re almost certainly better than that. They’ll be banking on the offense picking up just as they suffer a massive blow to their pitching staff. They’re already four games under .500, though, and the NL West is looking like a tough cookie this year. The Rockies are better, and the Diamondbacks are playing like their hair is on fire. The Dodgers are the Dodgers.
Besides Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner is pretty much the last player that the Giants can afford to lose right now. No team is ever well-equipped enough to absorb the loss of a true ace, but the Giants simply aren’t deep in this department. If Bumgarner’s absence drags on longer than those 6-8 weeks, then they may be done for.
San Francisco has always seemed to just hang on by the skin of their teeth, to always have a new scrappy infielder to call up and just enough prospect depth to fetch a starter to bolster a rotation that always seems to be in need of another arm. They’ll now be tested like never before. Bumgarner has always been there to shoulder the load. Not this time.
It’s April 21st, and the Giants already have a crisis on their hands.
Nick is a columnist at FanGraphs, and has written previously for Baseball Prospectus and Beyond the Box Score. Yes, he hates your favorite team, just like Joe Buck. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets, and can contact him at stellinin1 at gmail.