There were plenty of rumors as to where Madison Bumgarner would land via free agency, but the Arizona Diamondbacks were not generally named among the perspective destinations. So of course that’s where he landed, surprisingly signing a 5-year, $85 million contract (and one that included deferred money). Regardless of where he ended up there were going to be questions about his long-term potential, as he’s already started to look like a shell of his former self, but Arizona may be among the worst locale’s.
Just look at last year’s home/road split as a reason for significant concern:
- Home – 2.93 ERA (122.2 IP)
- Road – 5.29 ERA (85.0 IP)
The biggest issue was home runs, with his HR/9 jumping from 1.10 to 1.59 away from San Francisco. Bumgarner has never been a strong groundball artist, with a career 43.2% groundball rate, but it really plummeted last season with his 35.8% mark. The mark was consistently down, with only one month above 38.1%, and he didn’t significantly alter his approach on the mound. Instead his cutter, which once routinely generated groundballs over 50% of the time, wasn’t doing the job. Just look at the marks over the past four seasons (GB/BIP):
- 2016 – 50.00%
- 2017 – 50.91%
- 2018 – 38.73%
- 2019 – 38.89%
The struggles are more than a one-year aberration, and while his 2018 came over 21 starts his down mark has lasted over 337.1 IP. That makes it hard to believe he will suddenly start keeping the ball in the ballpark, especially considering his new home is far more hitter friendly than his old.
While the control can be elite and he misses enough bats, Bumgarner has also seen his Hard% rise every year since 2013. While he started at 25.8% in ’13 and kept it under 30% through 2015, the regression has been expedited since:
- 2016 – 31.6%
- 2017 – 35.0%
- 2018 – 41.6%
- 2019 – 43.8%
While he still managed a .289 BABIP last season, it was .307 in the first half (the overall mark was saved by a .267 after the All-Star Break). Maintaining a .300+ BABIP all year long, coupled with the home runs, creates a tough sale overall. Just look at our preliminary 2020 projection to get an idea:
190.0 IP, 12 W, 4.41 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 179 K (8.48 K/9), 47 BB (2.23 BB/9)
Are those numbers completely unusable? Not quite, though the risk far outweighs the potential reward as Bumgarner simply isn’t the ace that he once was and the move to Arizona magnifies it. While the name could cause some to reach for him towards the top of their fantasy rotations, Bumgarner doesn’t deserve that status anymore. He’s got massive over-draft risk, making him a pitcher to avoid on draft day.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball