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MLB San Francisco Giants

San Francisco Giants’ Madison Bumgarner Flirting With Dangerous Vice

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no doubting the fact that San Francisco GiantsMadison Bumgarner has been great in 2013.

In fact, with a 2.84/1.04 ERA/WHIP and a team-leading 171.0 innings, he easily been the defending World Series champs’ most valuable starter at 2.7 fWAR … even if they’ll have no chance to defend their trophy. Still, while the 24-year-old has continued to make strides on his quest to become the team’s ace for good, things have hardly been all sunshine and roses lately.

Useless as it may be, perhaps the most simple sign is that he’s just 1-2 in August through five starts thus far, number that is seemingly dismissed by his 3.19 ERA, yes?

Well, maybe it’s not that straightforward either.

Take his latest start for example: an otherwise stellar eight-inning, seven-hit outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates that was undone by an errant 1-1 slider to Clint Barmes with one out and two on in the eighth. The lefty finished his night having thrown 117 pitches to get there, which also happens to be the most that he’s thrown in an outing all season.

A major reason for the season-high workload? He’s been taking a dangerous road in being too generous on the mound lately.

Though he was definitely more than effective throughout most of his last turn, what might be overlooked is that Bumgarner has been effectively wild. With four walks in this outing, he’s now posted eight walks over his last 13 innings thanks to his previous five-inning, four-walk performance, and has in fact given up at least three free passes in four of his five August starts.

Those 15 walks over 31 innings is good for a season-high monthly rate of 4.35 BB/9, a far cry from the 1.86 he posted in july.

The last month that his BB/9 rate was over 3.00? His 3.73 rate in May over 31.1 innings … where he also posted a 5.17/1.31 ERA/WHIP. Though he’s definitely not getting burned in the ERA department these days, the 1.42 WHIP suggests that he’s definitely flirting with the danger zone with all those free bases.

If he doesn’t take a step back and hone his stuff, that slippery slope could start resulting in outings over the final month of the season that could see his sterling 2.84 ERA trend closer to his 3.45 xFIP.

And that wouldn’t be very ace-like way to end the season now, would it?

Thom is an MLB writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @BlueJaysRant, or add him to your network on Google