Madison Bumgarner

Madison Bumgarner placed on IL after rough start to D-backs career

Madison Bumgarner placed on IL after rough start to D-backs career

This isn't how anyone expected Madison Bumgarner's career with the Arizona Diamondbacks to begin.

As if his stats already weren't bad enough, the longtime Giants ace was placed on the 10-day injured list for a mid-back strain just four starts into his career in the desert.

Bumgarner allowed six earned runs over only two innings pitched Sunday in Arizona's loss to the San Diego Padres. He also allowed four home runs in a game for the first time in his career. It's now clear his struggles have been more than a rough change of scenery. 

Since the start of the season, Bumgarner has continued a troubling trend. The 31-year-old keeps declining with his four-seam fastball velocity. He topped out at 87.7 mph while getting shelled in San Diego, and his average fastball velocity through four starts this season is 87.8 mph. That's a big difference from his last season in San Francisco.

After a three-year run of his four-seam fastball dropping in velocity, Bumgarner was back up to 91.4 mph last season for the Giants. His decline in velocity this season very well could be due to back issues, but it's concerning nevertheless.

The D-backs signed Bumgarner to a five-year, $85 million contract in December. Meanwhile, the Giants signed starting pitchers Kevin Gausman, Drew Smyly and Tyler Anderson to one-year deals. Gausman looked great Sunday against the Log Angeles Dodgers and struck out six batters over 6 1/3 innings, Smyly has a 3.24 ERA and Anderson's is even lower at 2.14.

[RELATED: Why Kapler pulled Gausman after 80 pitches in Giants' loss]

Bumgarner, on the other hand, leads the league in losses (3), hits (20), earned runs (18), home runs (7) and hit by pitches (4). To top it off, he has a 9.35 ERA.

Both D-backs and Giants fans alike surely hope this only is a minor setback for Bumgarner in the long run.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Madison Bumgarner struggles again as Kevin Gausman shines for Giants

Madison Bumgarner struggles again as Kevin Gausman shines for Giants

The Arizona Diamondbacks signed Madison Bumgarner to a five-year, $85 million contract in December. Less than a week before Bumgarner agreed to continue his career in the desert, the Giants signed Kevin Gausman to a one-year, $9 million contract.

The two pitchers had much different results Sunday, with the one making $76 million less having a lot better day.

Bumgarner continued a troubling trend when he toed the rubber at PetCo Park. The longtime Giants ace got absolutely shelled by the San Diego Padres, allowing six earned runs and recording just six outs. With his fastball never coming close to 90 mph, Bumgarner allowed four home runs in two innings.

Through four starts in his D-backs career, there is something seriously off with Bumgarner.

Bumgarner topped out at 87.7 mph with his four-seam fastball against the Padres. Last season with the Giants, his average fastball speed was 91.4 mph. That big of a dip might be more than just mechanics for the veteran left-hander.

After the D-backs' 9-5 loss to the Padres, Arizona manager Tory Lovullo told reporters that Bumgarner left Sunday's game with back spasms, and the pitcher will return to Phoenix to be examined by the team's doctors.

The D-backs have to hope Bumgarner can recover quickly and return to his previous form. At the same time, the Giants have to be happy with Gausman's game against the Dodgers.

Gausman, 29, allowed just one earned run on three hits over 6 1/3 innings. He became the first Giants pitcher to throw a quality start this season, and had six strikeouts on the day. While Bumgarner was getting crushed, Gausman was firing 99-mph pitches like this: 

[RELATED: Zaidi flexes creative muscle in two Giants trades in a week]

Twice on the day, Gausman's fastball was registered at over 99 mph. He averaged 97 on his fastball, and his slowest one was 94.9 mph, according to Baseball Savant.

The Gausman contract continues to look like a steal for the Giants, while Bumgarner was on the wrong side of personal history in yet another rough outing early in his D-backs career.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Madison Bumgarner's D-backs career has started with troubling trend

Madison Bumgarner's D-backs career has started with troubling trend

The Giants had a decision to make last year as the July 31 trade deadline neared. Do they trade Madison Bumgarner, their longtime ace and postseason hero, during Bruce Bochy's final season as manager? Or do they hold on to him and compete for a wild-card berth? 

President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi ultimately held on to Bumgarner, but the Giants came back down to reality after a red-hot July and fell well short of the NL Wild Card Game. When it came to free agency, however, Zaidi and the rest of the Giants' front office weren't willing to give Bumgarner his desired contract. The big lefty still stayed in the NL West, signing a five-year, $85 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Through three stats, though, Bumgarner has shown a troubling trend in the desert. His velocity has continued to dip, and he now has a 7.04 ERA after allowing eight runs (seven earned) over 4 1/3 innings Tuesday against the Houston Astros. Bumgarner leads baseball in earned runs allowed (12) and hit by pitches (four). 

After a three-year run of his four-seam fastball dropping in velocity, Bumgarner was back up to 91.4 mph last season for the Giants. But his fastball velocity so far for the D-backs is back down. And it's a big drop. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Bumgarner's average four-seam fastball this season is just 87.9 mph, according to Baseball Savant. Despite not being a flamethrower on the hill, Bumgarner still has found ways to be effective in past seasons. He did have a career-high 3.90 ERA last season, but that number is far from concerning.

Again, the sample size is only three games so far in 2020. Still, it has been a concerning start. 

The recently-turned 31-year-old is averaging a career-low 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings while also allowing career-highs in walks per nine (3.5) and homers per nine (1.8). 

Bumgarner threw 83 pitches Tuesday against the Astros. Not one was recorded at 90 mph. The highest-velocity pitch Bumgarner threw was an 89.3 mph fastball to Yuli Gurriel. That was his only pitch that even reached 89 mph, too.

His fastball has reached career-low levels in each of his three starts this season.

While Bumgarner just turned 31, he has an unbelievable amount of wear and tear on his left arm. Since he became a regular at 20 years old for the Giants in 2010, Bumgarner averaged 184 innings pitched in the regular season, and that includes two shortened seasons to freak injuries. Including the playoffs, Bumgarner already has 1,963 2/3 innings pitched to his name.

[RELATED: Giants' Bart refining skill Posey mastered, Kapler says]

The Giants used their Bumgarner compensation pick in the 2020 MLB Draft on NC State lefty Nick Swiney, who already comes in as the Giants' No. 17 prospect in MLB Pipeline's most recent update. It's unfair to forever connect him to a franchise icon, but that will be true of his situation, good or bad, throughout his career. There's no minor league season for Swiney to get off to a good start, though it's clear the Giants have high hopes in someone who went 4-0 with a 1.29 ERA before his college season came to a close this year.

No matter what the future holds for Bumgarner or Swiney, Giants fans never will forget MadBum's many postseason heroics. The fact is, early on in Bumgarner's Arizona tenure, there seems to be good reason for the "Trust in Farhan" crowd to grow.