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Madison Bumgarner frustrated by career-low velocity in D-backs outings

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner kicks dirt off the pitching rubber after giving up a solo home run to Texas Rangers' Todd Frazier, background, during the fourth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

Like any numbers in baseball, velocity on a starting pitcher’s fastball is not the end-all-be-all indicator if they will sink or swim in the majors.

It can, however, be linked to some of their success or failures, and seeing those numbers drop can often correlate with a pitcher exiting their prime.

So when Madison Bumgarner’s fastball that averaged out at a little over 91 miles per hour the last three seasons is now at 88 mph in Arizona, that can prove to be significant.

It’s at least significant enough for Bumgarner to bring it up unprompted when he spoke for the first time this season after an outing.

“Man, I feel good. That’s what’s been frustrating. I know the velocity is down a good bit. I’ve had a bunch of it over my career, but this is certainly a big drop right now and that’s been frustrating for me,” he said. “But at the same time, I’ve gotta go out there and pitch with what I’ve got.”

Per MLB’s Sarah Langs, Bumgarner’s average fastball velocity on Wednesday in a 7-4 loss to the Texas Rangers was 87.9 mph. That’s the same number he put up in the opener, with both tying for the lowest of his career. The 30-year-old said he wants to get that number up a few ticks at least, back to what he averaged over his career.

Bumgarner said he “couldn’t tell a big difference” as to something he might be doing to affect it.

“Everything is moving the right way and spinning good so we’ll take that and go but hopefully things start to pick up,” he said, noting he hasn’t changed the way he pitches because of the dropoff.

In 11.0 innings through two starts, Bumgarner has mostly been fine. He’s allowed eight hits and four walks for five earned runs to his record.

A three-run RBI double by Eric Hosmer in a loss to the San Diego Padres was the extent of the damage on Opening Day, and ditto for a solo homer Wednesday by Texas’ Todd Frazier and an RBI single to Jose Trevino.

An acceptable output from a starter for sure, but surely the D-backs will want more out of the lefty as their ace.

D-backs manager Torey Lovullo co-signed what Bumgarner had to say on his overall stuff and liked what he saw in Texas.

“I thought he was in control and command of all his pitches,” Lovullo said.

Regardless, Bumgarner seems annoyed by not knowing how or why it’s happening, and that’s concerning.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” he said.

BULLPEN COLLAPSE

Through seven and a half innings against the Rangers on Wednesday, the D-backs looked like they finally got a breakthrough moment six games in.

The D-backs offense achieved some semblance of a rhythm, scoring two runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth, putting Arizona up 4-2 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning.

A surge of momentum they were desperate for was there, and then the bullpen threw it all away.

Relievers Andrew Chafin and Hector Rondon gave up five runs in that eighth to bring that 7-4 loss, dropping the D-backs’ record to 2-4 right before seven games against the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros.

Lovullo after the game wouldn’t let his frustration show.

“Certainly would have been a nice game to win and I thought we did enough to put ourselves in the right position and the bullpen got banged around and made some mistakes, pitches that were out over the plate,” he said.

To go back to some flow being halted, that comes fresh off an awesome ninth inning out of closer Archie Bradley in Tuesday’s win that also included Chafin retiring the one batter he faced.

An RBI triple for Eduardo Escobar plus a run scored and a sacrifice fly for David Peralta was a sigh of relief for the offense, as those two have struggled out of the gates and are crucial pieces in the batting order.

Lovullo likes what he’s seeing from the offense game-by-game to getting out of that rut.

“Our guys are into the at-bats,” he said, noting improved approaches as of late.

“Offensively, I think we’re piecing things together better and better.”


D-backs Interviews and Segments