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Madison Bumgarner to Diamondbacks - Fantasy Impact

The Arizona Diamondbacks signed three-time World Series champion Madison Bumgarner to a five-year, $85 million contract in the middle of December. This will be the first time in 11 seasons that Bumgarner will not take the hill for the San Francisco Giants, but instead will head the rotation of their division rivals.

The Diamondbacks finished the 2019 season with a decent 85-77 record. The Diamondbacks finished with the 12th-best ERA and have some intriguing younger arms, but lacked a true head of staff after trading Zack Greinke. This will be Bumgarner's role on the team, although he does have a lot of mileage on his arm, entering his 12th season at age 30.

How impactful can Bumgarner be with his new team and what does his change mean for his fantasy players? Taking a closer look at some of his advanced metrics can help us answer these questions.

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Aging Ace, What's Left in the Tank?

MadBum has been one of baseball's premier workhorse starters over the past decade, bringing home World Series championships in 2010, 2012, and 2014 and taking home the World Series MVP award in 2014. Then came the infamous dirt bike injury in 2017 and the unlucky hand injury in 2018. There was concern in the fantasy community that Bumgarner would not be able to fully recover to the ace level he once was on. However, Bumgarner posted higher-end numbers in 2019, going 9-9 with a 3.90 ERA, an 8.80 K/9 rate, and a 1.86 BB/9 rate over 207 ⅔ innings pitched. This was certainly an encouraging sign, but what can his underlying stats tell us about his potential performance in 2020?

There were some good and not-so-good signs behind MadBum's peripherals. We'll start with the good. First, Bumgarner has never thrown all that hard, but he regained some of his fastball after really not having it in 2018 (fastball 91.4 MPH in 2019 vs 90.8 MPH in 2018, cutter 87.2 MPH in 2019 vs 85.5 MPH in 2018). Just as importantly, Bumgarner was able to get much more spin on his fastballs (87th percentile of baseball), leading to an increase in swinging-strike rate on both pitches (9.1% in 2019 vs 4.7% in 2018 for fastball, 13.5% in 2019 vs 11.8% in 2018 for cutter). The improved fastballs, in combination with his great curveball led to a noticeable bump in his strikeout rate (24.1% vs 19.8% in 2018), a respectable mark for a fantasy starter.

We'll now move to the not so good. Bumgarner's 2019 batted-ball profile is the biggest concern for his future success. We saw a potentially deadly duo of both an increase in hard-hit rate (41.4% vs 35.3%) and launch angle (17.4 degrees vs 12.6 degrees). The hard-hit rate is particularly concerning, as it was in the bottom 10 percent of baseball. The effects of his batted-ball profile were reflected in his 4.15 SIERA, which, while not awful, was not what fantasy players have come to expect from him (3.49 career SIERA). It certainly affected his ERA, which was a career-high for Bumgarner.


A Move to Less-Friendly Confines

We have identified some flaws that could hurt Bumgarner in 2020; what part could a new home field play? Bumgarner has spent his career in one of baseball's most pitcher-friendly parks; Oracle Park was baseball's most pitcher-friendly park in 2019 per ESPN's park factors. While he is an excellent pitcher, it is easier to get away with a mediocre batted-ball profile when you have the field in your favor. The move to Chase Field would have been alarming a few years ago, but, with the installation of the humidor, the field slightly favored pitchers in 2019. The move won't be horrible for MadBum, but it is still a downgrade.

The good thing about the move is that Bumgarner will have a much-improved offense backing him up. The Giants had one of baseball's lowest OPS', compared to the Diamondbacks, who were in the top half of baseball in OPS. Further, the Diamondbacks scored almost a run more per game than the Giants. The bottom line is that the move for Bumgarner will be a slight downgrade in home-field advantage but an upgrade in terms of getting offensive run support and, hopefully, more win opportunities.


2020 Outlook

Currently, per NFBC draft data, Bumgarner is the 38th pitcher (starters and relievers) to come off of the board with an average draft position of about 117. This seems reasonable, as it slots him as about a number-three starter in 12-team leagues. Given his relatively high floor but downgraded ceiling, slotting Bumgarner into your fantasy rotation as a number three starter seems like an appropriate value.

While signs do point to some negative regression, Bumgarner has an excellent track record of pitching at least 200 innings when healthy with a strong ERA and decent strikeout numbers. He will certainly be a fantasy contributor and will benefit from being on a more competitive team this season. Given your pitching needs during your drafts, it would be reasonable to take MadBum as early as pick 100.

Overall, Bumgarner is slated to take a step back, but should still be a solid fantasy contributor. His batted-ball profile could punish him more in Chase Field than Oracle Park, but his new team should set him up to win more games in 202o. He should be targeted as a number-three starter in your fantasy rotation this season.

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