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Diamondbacks Game Preview #120: 8/20 vs. Cardinals

Can MadBum overcome his recent struggles?

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Today's Lineups

Dylan Carlson - CF Daulton Varsho - RF
Tyler O'Neill - LF Emmanuel Rivera - DH
Paul Goldschmidt - 1B Josh Rojas - 2B
Nolan Arenado - 3B Christian Walker - 1B
Albert Pujols - DH Jake McCarthy - LF
Tommy Edman - 2B Carson Kelly - C
Paul DeJong - SS Sergio Alcantara - 3B
Andrew Knizner - C Alek Thomas - CF
Lars Nootbaar - RF Geraldo Perdomo - SS
Dakota Hudson - RHP M. Bumgarner - LHP

It has not been a good few weeks for Madison Bumgarner. Over his last four starts, he is 0-3 with a 7.33 ERA, having allowed 19 earned runs in 23.1 innings. He has perhaps deserved a better fate: his FIP over the same time is 4.58. But that’s just part of the almost inevitable regression. After his June 17 start, his FIP was more than a run and a half higher than his actual ERA, at 5.00 compared to 3.45. The gap between them has steadily been reeled in - mostly by his “real” ERA going up. That now sits at 4.37, while his FIP has dropped to 4.51. We can only hope that the regression has almost completed, though a 4.50 ERA pitcher is not what we hoped for - and certainly not worth $23 million a year.

Here’s his summary page at, and you can see that his peripherals are blue almost across the board. That’s not good. Of the fourteen areas measured, he’s in the bottom 30% for eleven of them, around average for walk-rate and fastball spin, and significantly above average for one category: extension. Which is, per the site, “How far off the mound, in feet, a pitcher releases the pitch.” Yeah, I’m hardly organizing a ticker-tape parade on the basis of that...

He has already picked up 12 losses this season in 24 starts, with almost certainly nine more to go the rest of the way, including today and health permitting. I mean, it’s not as if there’s much change of MadBum moving to the bullpen or accepting an assignment to Reno. [Though the old “shoulder soreness” is always a possibility] If the current pace is kept up, that would mean four or five more losses. Given the relatively tough schedule the D-backs have down the stretch, I’d be learning towards five. That would give him a shot at the franchise record for losses in a season, currently held by Brandon Webb (2004) and Rodrigo Lopez (2010), both of whom went 7-16.

There would be something very ironic about this - in an Alanis Morissette kind of way - for members of the 2022 Diamondbacks to set franchise records for most losses by a starter AND most losses by a reliever in the same season. Mark Melancon, of course, has already got the latter sewn up, with 10 losses in 41.2 innings of work, to blow past the previous high of eight L’s. What makes it even more “amusing”, is that Bumgarner is our highest-paid starter, and Melancon our highest-paid reliever. Together, they have combined for a record of 9-22 with an ERA+ of 93, while earning $29 million. Read into that what you will...

Joe Mather audio

Joe Mather notes

Alek Thomas’ slump

“He’s hit a stage where the league is definitely pitching to him, on top of hitting a “rut”, which is expected of every player. He definitely hasn’t had to get out of what he’s in now”

Mather used the word “rut” several times in this part of the discussion, judiciously avoiding the use of the word slump, which is of course what it is. He indicated that Alek was probably pressing, which is understandable. Thomas’ batting line is down to .237/.291/.368, 86 OPS+. He’s 5 for his last 43, without any extra base hits.

Addressing Thomas’ MLB highest Ground ball percentage Mather said they would work with him during the off season to level off his swing a bit but he did not believe a fundamental swing changes were needed.

Foam Balls

Christian Walker has pulled back a little bit on his practice routines to preserve his body through the end of the season. Not only has he pulled back on the total number of swings but he’s also been utilizing foam balls in batting cage work, which are little bit lighter on your hands and body. You can still get the exit velocity up to target. Mather described this as a solid veteran adjustment. Walker’s leadership role is evident in the expanded use of Foam Balls over the last few weeks with the rest of the team as well.

“We’ve had the Foam Balls all year. Really it allows us to work at a fast speed without hurting your hands and jamming you. It’s just a little bit easier on your body. I would say up until three weeks ago we had very limited use. As of the last three weeks, I’d say more than half the team has bought into it”

Josh Rojas and Expected Statistics

Mather was asked why Josh Rojas seems to be able to out perform his expected statistics, (x stats such as xBA, xSlug, xwOBA, etc) and if there is a profile for the type of hitter that may be more likely to do that:

“Generally the guys who beat their expected stats keep the ball lower in the air, so their line drives ...they either hit a lot of them or they’re lower line drives. Those fall over the infielder and in front of the outfielder, no matter how hard you hit them. That’s a trap for some guys that want to hit the ball harder, but where they’re at (with slightly lower exit velo on line drives) is actually allowing them to get more hits.”

Mather went on to say that trying to hit the ball harder than he does would take him out of that range. He also said that a guy like Christian Walker who is trying to hit the ball hard in the air might have the opposite result.