2012 NLCS: Should the S.F. Giants Trust Madison Bumgarner to Start Again?

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistOctober 15, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 14:  Madison Bumgarner #40 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning of Game One of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park on October 14, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Back during the Giants' World Series title run in 2010, a 21-year-old left-hander by the name of Madison Bumgarner was the story of the postseason in San Francisco. He went 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA in four appearances (three starts), including a gem in Game 4 of the World Series when he threw eight shutout innings.

Fast forward to 2012, and Bumgarner has emerged as one of the game's best young pitchers. Coming off of a regular season that saw him go 16-11 with a 3.37 ERA and reach 200 innings for the second consecutive season, he gave the team a fantastic No. 2 option in the rotation behind Matt Cain.

However, it has been a different story in his second postseason go-around, as he's been roughed up both times he's taken the mound.

He took the ball in Game 2 of the NLDS and went 4.1 innings, allowing seven hits and four runs while getting tagged with the loss in the process.

Back at it in Game 1 of the NLCS, he was even worse, lasting just 3.2 innings and allowing six runs on eight hits on his way to his second loss of the postseason.

That is enough for the Giants to at least re-examine their pitching schedule from here on out in the NLCS, and there are a number of ways it could shake out.

Ryan Vogelsong earned the Game 2 start, and Cain will take the ball in Game 3 for the Giants, but the team will have a decision to make from there.

The original plan appeared to be that Tim Lincecum would get his first start of the 2012 postseason in that slot, after pitching 6.1 solid innings of relief in the NLDS and throwing two scoreless innings in relief of Bumgarner in Game 1.

In the process, Barry Zito would be relegated to the bullpen after going 2.2 innings and allowing two runs on four hits during his NLDS start against the Reds.

Looking back at it now, though, is Zito really a worse option than Bumgarner at this point? Should the team opt keep Zito in the rotation they could go one of two routes.

They could simply go Lincecum in Game 4, Zito in Game 5 and remove Bumgarner from the rotation all together. Another option, however, would be to push Zito up to Game 4 and give Bumgarner the start in Game 5 on an incredibly short leash with Lincecum ready to come in at the first sign of trouble.

The Giants have a number of options, but one thing is for sure; after serving as an anchor of the team and helping propel the team to the NL West title, Bumgarner no longer appears to be someone the Giants can rely on to help carry them to a World Series.