The Giants had a decision to make last year as the July 31 trade deadline neared. Do they trade 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 Madison 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. His fastball velocity so far for the D-backs is back down. And it's a big drop.
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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. The sample size is only three games this year. 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 been historically slow for himself this season.
Madison Bumgarner averaged 88.1 mph on his four-seam fastball tonight.— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) August 5, 2020
That's his 3rd-lowest average 4-seamer velo in a game in his career.
The 2 outings with lower? His 2 prior starts this season.
Before 2020, his lowest was 88.7 mph Sept. 8, 2009.
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.
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 the 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.