In this space over the last few years, we have devoted perhaps too much energy to explaining why Madison Bumgarner is an overrated (and suspect) pitcher in Major League Baseball. We have supported this assertion with statistical analysis and common sense, while also demonstrating his minimal value for fantasy baseball as well.
Looks like the Arizona Diamondbacks did not do their homework, however.
This is what we wrote in March about MadBum’s fantasy prospects: “MadBum has just a 10-16 record the last two seasons combined, and he’s now 29 years old with a lot of mileage on his body and arm. He hasn’t been bad, despite the injuries that have kept him off the diamond a lot since the 2016 postseason. However, last year, Bumgarner had his lowest K rate since his rookie year (2010) and the highest walk rate of his career. Those are not good trends.”
In 2019, he posted just a 9-9 record over 34 starts with a 3.90 ERA, demonstrating his career is already on the decline now. He was “above average” overall, with a 107 ERA+ mark, but Bumgarner is not worth the $85 million Arizona agreed to pay him over the next five seasons, and here is why.
Away from the San Francisco Giants’ cozy home field, the lefty is downright terrible: He posted a 5.29 road ERA last year, and over the last three seasons combined, his road ERA of 4.61 is distinctly ugly. It’s clear to see just how much MadBum benefitted from home-park dimensions.
Now, in 20 appearances at the Diamondbacks’ facility over his whole career, Bumgarner does have 3.13 ERA. But doing a simple comparison of his career ERA (also 3.13) to his efforts last season, you can see how relevant that number in Arizona might be to his effectiveness over the next five years as he just gets older and less effective.
Regardless, the Diamondbacks may think they’re getting that postseason hero from October 2014, and that’s nowhere near the reality of what MadBum is now (or what he was even in the 2014 regular season for that matter).
In truth, the former Giants ace is not even historically great at all: He rates out as the 213th-best starting pitcher in MLB history, currently, based on the JAWS system for measuring Hall of Fame worthiness.
We won’t really know how this works out for the Arizona organization for a couple of seasons, but you can be assured that statistically speaking, the Diamondbacks just took themselves out of postseason contention for the foreseeable future by committing a big chunk of money to a fading pitcher with a undeserved reputation built on a fluky month of statistical anomalies.