ESPN: Bumgarner is D-backs’ biggest storyline of offseason

Feb 20, 2021, 6:55 AM
Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) throws a pitch against San Diego Padre...

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) throws a pitch against San Diego Padres Manny Machado (13) in the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Derrick Tuskan)

(AP Photo/Derrick Tuskan)

Madison Bumgarner just wants to win.

The 2014 World Series MVP may be as competitive as they come, but the desire to win doesn’t erase last season’s campaign that started with lofty expectations and ended with a 1-5 record, a 6.48 ERA and -0.3 WAR.

ESPN’s David Schoenfield highlighted each team’s biggest storyline heading into Opening Day, and for the D-backs, Bumgarner and the starting pitching rotation is the biggest question mark after last year.

Bumgarner and Luke Weaver went a combined 2-13 with a 6.53 ERA. With Merrill Kelly attempting to come back from thoracic outlet surgery in September, it’s imperative those two back up Zac Gallen at the top of the rotation.

Even with the over-arching struggles of the D-backs’ rotation, Bumgarner is Schoenfield’s player to watch in Cactus League play due to his dip in velocity and suspect pitch control.

Bumgarner is the one to watch in camp: His fastball velocity declined from 91.4 mph to 88.4 mph in 2020, and he ranked at the bottom or near the bottom in Statcast measures such as barrel rate (1%), expected batting average (3%) and expected ERA (2%). If his velocity is still down late in camp, that’s a huge red flag.

Bumgarner’s first year in Arizona was a struggle, and after the season was postponed due to COVID-19, he said he didn’t take care of his arm the right way. Bumgarner said on Wednesday that he’s ready to learn and move forward.

“I wish I kept it at a steady pace,” Bumgarner said. “I was trying to take it days or weeks at a time, Instead of staying somewhere in the middle. I think that would have been more beneficial.”

Bumgarner said that last year’s uncertain offseason was difficult, due to the fact that there was a lack of clarity on when the season would start.

“It’s hard to say for sure. You look at the kind of year I had and I want to say that it drastically affected me,” Bumgarner said. “There are so many variables, I’m trying to learn from every experience that I can and get ready for this year.”

Heading into Opening Day, Bumgarner is focused on moving on from last year and working on getting back on track in 2021.

“We’re starting with new goals for this year, but everybody remembers what happened last year,” Bumgarner said. “I underperformed as bad as anybody, maybe worse than anybody. As a team, we underperformed and that’s tough to push aside. We’re all here to win and we’ll do what we can to change that.”

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ESPN: Bumgarner is D-backs’ biggest storyline of offseason