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Should the Giants Be Worried About Suddenly Mortal Madison Bumgarner?

The second half of the season has not been kind to the San Francisco Giants, to put it mildly.

Since the All-Star break, they've gone 11-25 with a minus-29 run differential and watched a 6.5-game lead over the archrival Los Angeles Dodgers evaporate into a three-game deficit. There are problems all over, from slumping hitters to bullpen blowups.

But this might be the most concerning development of all for San Francisco: uber-ace Madison Bumgarner suddenly looks mortal.

Bumgarner took the loss Tuesday to the Dodgers, surrendering nine hits and five earned runs in five innings in a 9-5 defeat.

It's one game, sure. And Bumgarner's overall stats remain exemplary, as we'll delve into shortly.

But August, overall, has not been kind to the Giants lefty. In 30 innings this month, Bumgarner has yielded 30 hits and 18 runs—14 of them earned.

He mixed in a couple of strong outings Aug. 7 and 13 against the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles. But he was tagged for 10 hits and eight runs Aug. 2 against the Philadelphia Phillies. And on Aug. 18, the New York Mets hung four runs on him in five innings.

"He wasn't Bum-like," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said after Tuesday's dud, per's Chris Haft. "He wasn't quite himself. That was pretty evident."

Here's the question now: Is this an anomaly or the start of a disturbing trend?

Again, Bumgarner's overall numbers are great. He ranks second among qualified pitchers in ERA (2.44) and third in strikeouts (202). He paces the pack with 180.2 innings pitched.

That last number, however, hints at one explanation for his recent struggles: fatigue. The other "F" word.

Bumgarner is the definition of a workhorse. He's eclipsed 200 innings every season since 2011. He's logged another 88.1 postseason frames since 2010, including a historic run of dominance in 2014.

Add it up and Bumgarner has carried a much heavier load than most 27-year-old pitchers. He's absorbed it like an invincible, tree-chopping demigod so far.

Is it possible he's finally tuckered out?

McCovey Chronicles' Grant Brisbee floated the possibility Tuesday:

The curve was sharp, but the slutter [slider/cutter] was never buried on the hands of the right-handers. He couldn't do anything but chuck it down the middle against left-handers.

He looked tired, in other words. No idea if he is, at least to a greater degree than most starting pitchers in August, but he looked it.

Because of the small sample, the eyeball test is all we have. Bumgarner's average fastball velocity has dropped from 92.0 in 2015 to 90.6 this year. Again, though, he's putting together one of his best campaigns even with the diminished zip. Despite the August speed bump, he's squarely in the National League Cy Young conversation.

More than anything, Bumgarner has struggled against the Dodgers, who have tagged him for 10 runs in 19 innings over three starts this season.

As Fox Sports' Chris Bahr noted, "Dating back to last September, Bumgarner is 0-4 in his past five starts against L.A., allowing seven homers and 36 hits in 28.2 innings."

Do the boys in blue have his number?

"If that continues, maybe there is something," Bochy said of L.A.'s MadBum ownage, per Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.

The same could be said for Bumgarner's troubles overall. Give it another start or two. If he keeps coughing it up, let the handwringing commence.

Johnny Cueto has thrown like a co-ace in his first year with the Giants. Jeff Samardzija and trade acquisition Matt Moore also have the talent to be front-line starters, though the results have been up and down.

The offensedespite some haplessness, particularly with runners in scoring position—ranks fourth in the NL in batting average (.260) and third in on-base percentage (.333).

Make no mistake, though: San Francisco's fortunes rest on Bumgarner's shoulders. He authored the club's last even-year run in 2014, single-handedly at times.

If that's going to happen again, he needs to prove his uneven August is more a fluke and and less a fatigue-induced harbinger.

In other words, he needs to be Bum-like.


All statistics current as of Aug. 24 and courtesy of and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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