The D-backs are between a rock and a hard place with Bumgarner. Where do they go?
Spencer: I’ve long been a proponent of letting the youth play, no matter what. There’s enough depth/options to rifle through rotation arms as players hit walls too big to climb on their own. I say if he’s willing to move the bullpen, let him try to be effective as a mop-up/long reliever. If not, oh well. Cut him and give the spot to Tommy Henry. When Davies is back, one of the rookies will likely be hurt or struggling. And there are other AAA options as well if something breaks before Davies’ return. I love watching competitive Diamondbacks Baseball, but I’m willing to sacrifice a contending 2023 season if it means getting rookie mistakes/development out of the way.
Dano: I agree with Spencer, and with all the Snakepit commenters who’ve weighed on this in various comment threads over the course of this weekend. Jim’s “DFA Watch” article was particularly devastating and persuasive. Give Bumgarner a mop-up job, and if he won’t take it, then cut him. He’s a sunk cost, and he’s continuing to sink, and he’s obstructing young players who may well have MLB upside going forward, and bringing the rest of the team down as he continues to try and continues to fail to find a path to some late-career success.. Let the youth play.
ISH95: I think they should buy him some nice, warm clothes because, as of writing, it’s 26 degrees in Greenland. He’s got to go. He’s blocking young, probably better, pitchers, he is the literal opposite of a winning culture, and frankly, I’m tired of watching him “pitch”
Makakilo: Bumgarner’s post-game comments included the revelation that a lot was going on between his last start and his previous start. He made it clear he would not provide more information, even going so far as using the word “secret”.
Let’s look at a few of the possibilities (in order that I would guess):
- He was asked to voluntarily accept a minor league assignment. But the veteran consent rule allowed him to turn it down.
- Bumgarner’s wife had a medical procedure, and his start was delayed so he could be there for mental support. This would be personal and not disclosed to fans.
- As has happened in the past (like when he moved to a different place on the pitching rubber), Brent Strom made a suggestion to Madison Bumgarner. Either he made that adjustment or he tried it and rejected it (either is possible).
- The Diamondbacks negotiated a trade and Bumgarner said no (because his contract allowed him to). The Diamondbacks are very secretive about trades and fans would likely never know what happened.
- Issues between Bumgarner and the coaching staff may have emerged (a possibility suggested by Jack Sommers).
- Instead of a DFA, the Diamondbacks put Bumgarner on waivers. The Diamondbacks didn’t want him pitching just before a claim could have happened. No other team claimed him so the waiver ended with no action.
- The Diamondbacks offered Bumgarner a coaching position in AAA, but he turned the offer down.
As I wrote in a previous comment, my estimate of the over/under is 6.5 games of Madison Bumgarner pitching (unless he improves).
Addendum #1: Madison Bumgarner would not fit in the Diamondbacks’ bullpen because of his low strikeouts per batter faced (.156 when my standard is .250) and because of his low whiffs per pitch (.080 when my standard is .130). Perhaps a face-saving placement would be a long reliever in low leverage situations.
Addendum #2: Let’s compare Madison Bumgarner to former Diamondback Patrick Corbin (now playing for Nationals). They will both turn 34 during this season. Their contracts last through 2024. Corbin has more dollars remaining on his contract ($59.8 M vs $37 M). The following table shows the comparison is not one-sided. Madison Bumgarner has better spin on his fastball. Although Madison Bumgarner is better in preventing hard hits, in his latest start hard hits happened. Data pulled on 16 April from Baseball Reference and Baseball Savant.
DBacksEurope: If this Front Office really is interested in winning, like they say they are with their bullshit #WinningCulture theme, then the answer is quite obvious. Right now each time Bumgarner goes out there, the Diamondbacks are gambling a win.
We are fans so we should look at this from a fan’s perspective. From a fan’s perspective Bumgarner has to be taken from the roster. I don’t see anything in a bullpen role for Bumgarner. We already have our issues with that part of the roster so we probably wouldn’t want to stress it even more.
James: The fact that they are doubling down by announcing already that Bumgarner will continue to remain in the rotation tells me everything I need to know. It was all bologna lip-service that this team is actually committing to try and be competitive this year. You simply cannot run Bumgarner out there every five days and seriously claim to be attempting to compete. It makes even less sense when the team has young arms with higher floors and astronomically higher ceilings waiting for a shot. None of those young arms are going to start getting the needed MLB experience to be effective MLB pitchers until they are actually on an MLB mound. What do I think they should do? I think they should cut bait and then live or die by their rookies the rest of the season. If they work out, great. If not, then the team knows just where it needs to invest in the offseason. What do I think they will do? I think, barring injury or an ERA exploding to 15+, that Bumgarner remains in the rotation for a while still, quite possibly up until the trade deadline. If Bumgarner is able to turn things around some by then and get his ERA back down into the 5-7 range, he may even finish the season in the rotation, which would be terrible for this team’s development and the supposed deviation to a “winning culture”.
Ben: Ummmm, next question? I don’t think there’s a good answer honestly. In an ideal world, they move him into the bullpen as either a multi inning reliever or a piggyback starter with one of the younger guys. But given how proud of a player MadBum is and the rumblings about his conflicts with the pitching staff, that scenario looks less and less likely with each passing day. As of writing, he’s scheduled to pitch the finale of the St Louis series and since there haven’t been any roster moves to date, I suspect he’ll get at least one more start if not more. If he refuses to come out of the rotation, then they have to cut him. There’s a possibility that another team might pick him up, but if the D-Backs want to take a step forward, they can’t pencil in a loss/bullpen game every fifth game. I’m trying to be as dispassionate as I can be honestly. I’ve always had a soft spot for Bumgarner, even dating back to his Giants days, but his contract will likely go down as one of the franchise’s most disappointing.
What do you think of Corbin Carroll’s overall play so far this year?
Spencer: Honestly, I’ve been a tad disappointed. But that was my own mistake for hyping him up too much. He’s doing much better than his counterpart Gunnar Henderson, which I do appreciate. It’s a nice perk to be able to watch two ROY favorites learn the Bigs at the same time. Although that said, I think Jordan Walker became the NL Favorite for that award when he made the Opening Day Roster in St Louis. Carroll is exciting and I look forward to many more years of his shimmy in the box and toe taps on the basepaths.
Dano: Despite his much vaunted HR-power potential, I’m not seeing a whole lot of that yet, which makes me a bit sad. But overall I’m quite happy with what he’s been doing so far. He hits pretty well, he fields pretty well, he often gets on base by beating out infield squibblers that other players couldn’t, and oh, lord, he does raise hell in the best of ways once he’s on the basepaths. I wish he were already closer to what projections say is his ceiling in various areas, but I’m having a ball watching him show what he’s got right now, and I’m very much looking forward to watching more of his potential develop game after game.
ISH95: Let’s be honest for a second, there was no way he was going to immediately live up to the hype. I’ve seen some reasons to believe he will, but he isn’t quite there right now. I’ve still loved the energy, the effort and the speed he brings to the game though. He’s made such a warm, cozy home in the heads of every team in baseball when he is on base.
Makakilo: My focus is on the NL rookie-of-the-year competition. In the preseason, it looked like Cardinal Jordan Walker was his main competition. Now it looks like Dodger James Outman is his main competition. Nevertheless, we are still in the first month of the season. There is plenty of time for Corbin Carroll to pull ahead.
DBacksEurope: Season is still very long but so far he is looking really good for a guy whose career took a flight in the minors and was injured for quite some time. We shouldn’t forget he is just 22. We still have plenty to enjoy.
James: His play displays why they locked him up early. He’s already flashing all the tools and instincts that have made him one of the top-two prospects in baseball. That said, he’s still learning and growing at the MLB level. There are already some clear signs that growing pains loom on the horizon. But, those have always been to be expected. The real test is how he manages the adversity.
Ben: I think he’s been pretty good. He definitely seems to be taking some lumps here and there, but several of the ROY candidates are having a hard time adjusting to the expectations of a full-time role. Self-serving plug: I am planning on doing monthly check-ins on Carroll’s ROY competition around the league so keep an eye out for that! As for the here and now, you can take a quick glance at the screenshot below from Baseball Savant and see the amount of red to know how well he’s been doing overall. Obviously, you’d like to see the walk percentage tick up, but he might just be taking a more aggressive approach early and settle in as the season progresses. To say the least, I can see why the D-Backs extended him and we can all take a collective breath to think how lucky we are to see an excellent ballplayer mature right in front of us.
Has Josh Rojas shown he can handle the hot corner?
Spencer: Last season, I was extremely critical of Rojas’ ability to man the hot corner. I was overly harsh, and in retrospect, biased because I caught the unlucky recaps of some of his worst performances. He has worked exceptionally hard to become better at the position, and I applaud him for that. I have no issues with him being the everyday third baseman for the club. It’s not like there’s a better option coming up behind him either.
Dano: The broadcast team has been emphasizing, over and over, how much work he’s put into getting better as a third baseman over this past off-season, and, well, I can see it. I’m writing this on Saturday, and just tuning in late, I saw two or three stellar plays that he made there. His bat and what he’s capable of once he gets on base make me want him in the lineup always, and he seems to be doing a much better job fielding his position. So yeah, I’m satisfied that 2023 Josh Rojas can handle it. And as Spencer points out, it’s not like there’s a better option on the radar.
ISH95: I don’t know who has replaced Rojas defensively, but it’s been a lot of fun to watch him over there. He made three great plays in Saturday’s game alone, and I believe I read somewhere he is leading the league in a few defensive stats for third? It’s impressive, but I’ll be more impressed if we can still ask this question in, say, June.
Makakilo: Yes. His defense is great (his 3 Outs-Above-Average was ranked second at third base in the Majors, and his 1 DRS was ranked fifth at third base in the Majors). And in addition to his great defense, his 156 OPS+ was the second highest (behind Perdomo) on the Diamondbacks.
That being said Evan Longoria has played excellent defense at third base with a 146 OPS+. Torey Lovullo has choices!
DBacksEurope: Nothing to add to what has already been said. I love that Rojas was able to finally find that offensive output last year and that it looks to be sustainable. Concentrating on just one position has done him well, I think we’ve seen by now that this multi-positionaltiy dream the Front Office once had was also a complete failure and has done more harm than good in several seasons.
James: I thought he could more or less handle it last season. He was a mess over there defensively, but not the way he was at SS, where he is an abomination. He just didn’t have the hands for the position and also lacked fluidity with his footwork. He’s still not what one would classify as “good” defensively, but he has worked hard and improved his game there enough that the team really should be looking to just let Rojas and Rivera play there for the next year or so unless a top drawer third baseman becomes available. Third base is not what is going to cost them games and Rojas has some dynamic offensive talent when he is on.
Ben: I had already settled on my answer being yes to this question even before Rojas made several excellent plays at third last night, including this nice one. There are definitely some questions about his current offensive tear being a mirage rather than a genuine change in his overall talent, but he’s been a difference maker early in the season and I have no reason to think that will change anytime soon at least in the field. As others have said, whoever the third baseman is will not make or break the D-Backs’ season.
Is the closer situation any more settled in your eyes?
Spencer: I don’t like the idea of having a designated closer with our current bullpen. None of them give me confidence, so I say play the splits and parts of the game. McGough has looked horrible so far. Chafin is better than I remember, but not what I was told to expect after his last few years’ experiences either. Jameson was a great weapon in there, but I prefer him as a starter. Maybe Mantiply can recapture his 2022 first half form when he’s back? I’m doubtful, but ready to see.
Dano: No, beyond it seeming like Chafin is probably it for the foreseeable future. I don’t feel great about that, but he’s been pretty good for us this year, better frankly than I expected. McGough has been a disappointment–given his closing experience in Japan, I felt like the expectation was that he would wind up being that guy for us, and well, he’s not. Not yet, anyway. Transitioning from the Asian pro leagues to MLB can take time for a lot of players, and I remain hopeful that McGough will eventually figure it out, but presently I’m not seeing any indications that he’s making progress with that. Committee may be best for the time being….might be the only way we can discover if anyone on our bullpen roster can actually win the job and keep it.
Makakilo: It is settled: closer-by-committee. Although Andrew Chafin has entered the game in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, he would likely be considered the closer in a high leverage situation (think wild card berth on the line). In seven games, he did not allow an earned run, although in four games he had a total of 7 inherited runners with 3 inherited runners that scored.
DBacksEurope: The bullpen wasn’t really addressed this off-season and the closer position even less. The reliever corps is a big mess and we can only hope Melancon doesn’t return to make things even more difficult.
James: The closer situation has been quite settled for me since the decision to slide Jameson back into the bullpen. Closer by committee until one of the young arms down on the farm grabs the role for themselves. No one in the current bullpen should be a dedicated closer, not for this team.
Ben: No, certainly not, and honestly there’s very little in the bullpen that feels settled at the moment. Outside of Chafin, who as Makakilo pointed out, is better than I remembered, and the duo of Kyle Nelson and Miguel Castro, I have very little confidence in very many of any of the arms coming out of the bullpen right now. It is likely the weakest component of this team at the moment and will have to get addressed through a trade or other roster moves throughout the season.
How impressed were you by the Rays’ 13-0 start?
Spencer: Mildly. 13 wins in a row is impressive no matter what. But they also drew the exact opposite schedule that the Diamondbacks did. Honestly, I am happier to see Toronto figuring their stuff out against Tampa this weekend. The Rays may be our sister club, but Toronto has been exciting for a few years now and I’d like to see Vladdy, Varsho and Bichette really become the powerhouse we all know they can be.
Dano: It was fun while it lasted. I will always root for the Rays, as a small-market, small-budget team that, every year, manages to compete in a division with some of the most well-heeled big dogs in MLB, and make them look bad. That said, those first thirteen games were against the easiest strength of schedule anyone had to start off, and any reasonably respectable team would have been disappointed not to steamroller that particular collection of opponents. I was deeply disappointed that Tampa didn’t manage to get their streak to 14, and no doubt they’re a team to be reckoned with again this year, like they always are. But impressed? Sort of, I guess, but mainly meh.
ISH95: Any time a team wins 13 in a row, regardless of when it happens or what their schedule looks like, it’s impressive. It was the only non-Dbacks storyline I’ve been following so far. Am I going to tell my grandkids about it though? Probably not.
Makakilo: Winning streaks are fun! In 2022, the Braves and the Mariners had 14 game winning streaks. In 2017, the Guardians had a 22 game winning streak. Data from Baseball Reference.
Their batters and pitchers played excellent baseball at the same time. After the last game of the streak, the Rays’ offense led the Majors in home runs(32), OBP(.364), and SLG(.576). They ranked fourth in hits(124). The Rays’ pitchers allowed the fewest homers(6) while ranking a tie with the Twins for least allowed hits(79). Data from Baseball Savant.
DBacksEurope: Very impressed! Winning that many games in a row no matter who your opponents are is never easy in baseball. We see it now with the Diamondbacks: you win and split series against the Dodgers, Padres and Brewers and then lose against the Marlins. My congratulations to the Rays.
James: The biggest thing that impressed me about the run was how they went about it. Tampa is so synonymous with finding success in the small margins. BUt, that isn’t how they strung these wins together. The streak came about by the Rays just hammering the hell out of their opponents with the long ball. Now that they are flashing some serious power threat potential like that, they are even scarier as the front-runners for the AL East.
Ben: Pretty impressed, a thirteen-game winning streak is nothing to sneeze or scoff at, regardless of the time of year or the opponent. I suspect there was a decent amount of luck involved in at least some of that win streak, but that gets swallowed up in the length of a 162-game series. I think the way they completed the win streak is the most impressive and makes me extra glad they aren’t in the NL West and we only have to play them a handful of times this season. But let’s see how they respond now that they’ve lost a couple and have to maintain that kind of performance.
If you were on a desert island and had to listen to ONE band’s output for the rest of your life, who would it be?
Spencer: I’m not the biggest fan of bands in general. I much prefer songs and albums over bands’ entire catalogs. So I’m choosing Lindsey Stirling. She makes her own excellent music, but also does phenomenal covers of others’ popular songs, so I would not want for variety. She has enough emotional music I can have my 15-minute grieving session when appropriate, but also creates a solid amount of pump up music, so I can be productive on finding my way off the island!
Dano: Hmmm, this is an interesting one. I think my criteria would have to be (a) a band with a sufficiently robust catalog that I’d have a lot of different things to listen to, depending on my mood on a given day or week or year; (b) a band I like, but that I don’t have a comprehensive knowledge of at the outset, because otherwise I would get bored relatively quickly, even if I like all their music; and (c) a band whose songs aren’t too rooted in the grittiness and detail of modern life, because that would just make me miss civilization all the time, which would be miserable regardless of how good the music was; and (d) lots and lots of story songs. So. My shortlist winds up being Tom Waits, Jimmy Buffett, or Bruce Springsteen. Tom is crossed off the list because his work is too rooted in gritty urban stuff. Buffett is great for story songs, and also many of them have a nautical theme, but I’m not sure his catalog is large enough, and I’m weirdly familiar with a lot of his songs, so I think I would wind up getting bored, especially because, as Spencer notes, I will periodically need a 15-minute (or 15-day) grieving session, and part of Buffett’s charm but also part of where he suffers is that there’s not a whole lot he seems to take seriously. So, I think it would have to be Springsteen….god only knows how many albums that dude has, but I like his music but am broadly unfamiliar with anything but the stuff that gets or got radio play, and while his emotional range is somewhat limited he does cover a decently broad range from sad to upbeat. And holy crap, the man is good with at least a particular variety of story songs. So there you are. Springsteen. Desert Island Jersey. Yeah. Bring it.
ISH95: It has to be a band? Not an artist? Hmmmm I’m not sure. There are a lot of bands I like, but my favorite music typically is artists, not bands. I’m going to follow Dano’s lead and cheat a bit, since he said Springsteen and not The E Street Band, and go with Bob Dylan (and The Band)
Makakilo: Band music…what first came to mind was the Marine Band playing John Phillip Souza music. My next thought was big band music, which is better suited to the desert island. My final preference would be a music group on the light and mellow side, such as ABBA.
DBacksEurope: Well, a band surely limits the options here. Best would be a band with a big repertoire. I like all kinds of music but don’t really listen to the same music for hours except for country music, because it is great to have in the background at a low volume, but I can’t think of any group there I could listen to the rest of my life. Maybe I’d have to go with The Supremes in the end.
James: I have a trio of artists I truly enjoy and can listen to at severe, even ridiculous length. Of them though, I think I would have to go with Prince. The man’s catalog is massive. Most people lost track of him in the mid-to-late 90’s, but he released a slew of albums after that, more than he did during his peak. Those albums also sound much different, so the complete library allows me to have different themes and moods to listen to to finish out my days.
Ben: I love all the different thoughts and approaches to the question about style of play, vibe of the music, etc, but I think it would be a toss up between Nickel Creek and Green Day for me personally. Those are both bands that I have a lot of nostalgia for, have wide sets of styles of play, and have a range of emotions to their music.
Jim: Abba. Makakilo is spot on.