D-backs sticking behind Madison Bumgarner amid worst season of career
PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks left-handed starter Madison Bumgarner is not the same pitcher from his days with the National League West rival San Francisco Giants.
After coming to the D-backs via free agency ahead of the 2020 season on a five-year, $85 million contract, he has failed to keep his ERA under 4.67 for a season. It’s 5.99 in his 61 games with Arizona.
And after turning 33 years old on Aug. 1, Bumgarner still has two years and $37 million left on his deal, according to Spotrac. Bumgarner is accounting for more than 20% of the Diamondbacks’ payroll this season with an adjusted salary of $18 million. Ketel Marte is the next-highest-paid D-back at $8.5 million.
This year has arguably been the worst of Bumgarner’s career, and of late, Arizona general manager Mike Hazen and skipper Torey Lovullo elected to skip his road start last Wednesday against the Chicago White Sox in order to get some “quality work” done with pitching coach Brent Strom.
Bumgarner returned from the time off Monday only to put together his worst outing of the season, allowing seven runs on 11 hits (one home run) and one hit-by-pitch while striking out two in 3.2 innings pitched. It required the team to recover from the largest deficit in franchise history with 13 unanswered runs to beat the Philadelphia Phillies.
So it begs the question: Should the D-backs shut him down for the rest of the season?
“No, we haven’t had that conversation yet,” Hazen said Tuesday. “He needs to keep going out there and pitch.”
Lovullo, however, admitted that discussion could be on the table if the performances keep putting Arizona behind the eight-ball.
“I think there will be (a discussion) and we’ve had discussions with Bum directly about certain things at certain times and they’re very difficult discussions,” Lovullo told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo. “We just know what he’s capable of doing, he’s had some good runs. And if we can get him on a run for the next five or six starts, we know he can go out there and give us some quality starts. We’ve got to have that discussion, nothing has been written in stone.
“We want to give Bum the baseball (on Saturday vs. Milwaukee), we want to allow him to go out there and work through some of these things,” Lovullo added. “He’s grinding, he’s in a miserable fight with trying to get out there and go out and try to win baseball games. … So I’m not going to turn my back on that. I want to make sure I get all the information in the hopper and we’ll make the decision moving forward. As of right now, he’s going to be getting the baseball against the Brewers.”
For now, it appears the Diamondbacks will keep trucking along with Bumgarner despite his massive struggles. He lines up to start Saturday against Milwaukee at Chase Field.
Through 26 starts this year, the lefty has posted career worsts in ERA (4.87), WHIP (1.47) and opponent batting average (.286) in seasons with at least 42 innings pitched.
But over his last six outings, Bumgarner’s ERA has ballooned to 8.63 while opponents are slashing .369/.416/.617 for an OPS of 1.033.
In 32.1 innings pitched in that span, the lefty is 0-4 and has allowed 33 runs (31 earned) on 52 hits (six home runs) and 10 walks, making up for an abysmal 1.917 WHIP. Bumgarner has hit two batters and struck out 21 in that span.
“Velocity is probably down a little bit,” Hazen said. “I think it’s probably command, execution mistakes like it does with most guys at that stage.
“If the stuff ticks down a little bit, the command and the execution need to be that much more finer-tuned. I think maybe he’s in that middle stage right now where it’s between having that velocity to beat a guy versus executing a pitch to beat the guy.”