The Giants’ 2017 season was already off to sputtering start, but a manageable slump turned calamitous on Friday. Madison Bumgarner, the man, the myth, the homer-smashing, shutout-spinning, rabbit-rescuing legend, evinced mortality for the first time in his MLB career. Per a series of Ken Rosenthal reports, Bumgarner is projected to miss six to eight weeks because of injuries to his ribs and throwing shoulder sustained in an off-day dirt-biking accident, throwing San Francisco’s postseason hopes into disarray.
At 6–10, the Giants already sit in last place in the NL West, and the team can’t afford any disruption to its starting pitching core, which, at full strength, features Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto as possibly the best top pairing in the league, and quality back-end rotation options in Jeff Samardzija and Matt Moore. Losing its best arm, even if for just a month or two, creates a ripple effect for San Francisco, likely forcing Samardzija and Moore into more prominent roles, and a shaky Matt Cain and an unproven Ty Blach into the spotlight.
Even if his postseason heroics have overshadowed his regular-season exploits, Bumgarner is a darn good pitcher from April through September too. Since the start of 2011, only six pitchers have been worth more wins above replacement, and only eight qualified starters have compiled a lower ERA. He’s a younger (seriously!) version of Chris Sale with a more traditional windup and bat skills, if not as many strikeouts; between his durability — he’s thrown 31 or more starts in six consecutive years — and talent, it’s hard to imagine a more devastating injury to a prospective contender, and that’s assuming that a “grade one or two left shoulder AC sprain” doesn’t signify anything more serious
Unless Bumgarner had fallen while “wrestling a bear” or “pulling an 18-wheeler with his teeth,” as resident Ringer Giants fan Claire McNear suggested to me, his dirt-bike mishap fits best with his personal brand of rugged outdoorsmanship. That doesn’t comfort the Giants organization, which was sufficiently afraid of an injury to its star that it forbade him from competing in last year’s Home Run Derby, but given the massive value Bumgarner provides his team on a relatively inexpensive salary, it’s hard to blame him for seeking entertainment on an off day.
If he recovers fully by June to reclaim his spot atop the San Francisco rotation, this accident will become just another chapter in his ongoing adventure book. Unfortunately for San Francisco, this entry might preclude a 2017 postseason tale, and the #OddYear jokes will continue without pause.