After an extremely difficult first month for Madison Bumgarner, the left-hander was officially designated for assignment by the Diamondbacks on April 20. The moves marks the likely end to Bumgarner’s tenure with the D-Backs, one that didn’t go well. So, where does Bumgarner go from here? It’s not an easy question to answer.
A Look at Bumgarner
To say that the 2023 season has been a bumpy one for Diamondbacks LHP Madison Bumgarner. The three-time World Series champion has been hit hard this season, as he’s 0-3 with a 10.26 ERA, 8.40 FIP, and 2.40 WHIP across 16.2 IP. The control artist’s command has completely evaporated, as he owns a 8.1 BB/9 and career lows in Zone% (46.6%) and Chase% (16.6%).
Among the 115 MLB pitchers that threw at least 15 innings between March 30-April 19, Bumgarner owns the second-highest ERA in all of Major League Baseball, and has yielded the second most earned runs (19) in the league. Only Rockies LHP Austin Gomber owns a worse ERA (12.12) in that span.
Bumgarner, who relies primarily on a four-pitch mix that includes a four-seamer, cutter, curveball, and changeup, has never been a hard thrower throughout his MLB career. The lefty’ has mostly topped out in the 92-94 MPH range with his heater over the years. However, his four-seamer’s average velocity is down to 89.5 MPH per Statcast. While it’s sat there in the past at times, the dip hasn’t been great for the effectiveness of his changeup. Batters are 6-6 with three extra base hits off the pitch, despite a 27.3% Whiff% in 2023.
Not to mention, Bumgarner’s Edge% is down to 36.3%. The 33-year-old normally has made a good living painting the black and getting hitters to chase his diverse arsenal, but that hasn’t happened this year.
In total, Bumgarner will likely finish his D-Backs career with an ERA of 5.23 over 363.1 IP between 2020-23. That figure is significantly higher than the 3.13 ERA Bumgarner sported as a Giant between 2009-2019.
The move to DFA Bumgarner will buy the D-Backs a week to attempt to trade the lefty, but that will be a tough sell given the nearly $23 million he’s owned in 2023, plus another $14 million in 2024. More than likely, the Diamondbacks will be forced to cut him and eat the remainder of his salary.
What it Means
The Diamondbacks are 1-3 in Bumgarner’s starts this season. Arizona’s lone win when “Mad-Bum” was on the hill came on April 7, when Bumgarner gave up just two runs but six walks in a 6-3 victory over the Dodgers. That night, young right-hander Drey Jameson threw 2.1 scoreless innings of relief for the D-Backs. The former Ball State star is now in the Diamondbacks rotation due to an injury to Zach Davies, and Jameson is just one of several reasons why the move to DFA Bumgarner needed to happen.
Besides Bumgarner’s struggles on the mound, Arizona does own several young pitchers that are expected to be a key piece of the D-Backs’ future. Jameson, Ryne Nelson, as well as Minor Leagues Tommy Henry and Brandon Pfaadt are all among the next generation of Diamondbacks pitchers, alongside the likes of Zac Gallen and veteran arm Merrill Kelly. While having a veteran like Bumgarner on the roster can be beneficial for a young team, results are still important. And at 11-8 after the D-Backs’ first 19 games, Arizona needs to throw its best roster out on the field.
It’s a stark fall from grace for Bumgarner, a once-dominant left-hander who was part of the Giants’ World Series dynasty from 2010-14 and included the likes of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. At 33 years of age, Bumgarner will likely get a chance with another Major League team on a league minimum deal. Whether he can re-gain his form or tweak his arsenal with another team, though, will be a question that he needs to answer.