Report: MadBum's decline with D-backs due to 'lack of trust' originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
The four-time MLB All-Star struggled to find that same success after leaving San Francisco as a free agent in late 2019, however, signing a five-year contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks that ended prematurely with his designation for assignment and subsequent release in April.
Bumgarner's decline with Arizona ultimately boiled down to "a lack of trust," The Athletic's Zach Buchanan reported, citing sources, in a lengthy piece published Monday that takes a deep dive into the pitcher's recent struggles. Buchanan details how conversations with multiple people in the Diamondbacks organization painted "a complex picture of a headstrong former star struggling to confront the reality of his own decline."
From 2009 to 2019, Bumgarner compiled a 119-92 record as a Giants starter with a 3.13 ERA while striking out 1,794 batters. In contrast, he posted a 5.23 ERA and a 15-32 record in just over three seasons with the Diamondbacks, tallying 276 strikeouts.
One of his lone bright spots with Arizona came during the 2021 MLB season, when COVID-19 rule changes carried over and doubleheaders featured two seven-inning games. Bumgarner held the Atlanta Braves hitless through seven frames during one of those games, but he wasn't awarded with an official no-hitter. After several quality starts in a row during that time, Bumgarner told reporters that "a big part" of his improved performance was avoiding the team-provided scouting report, per Buchanan.
That's reportedly when the tension began. Diamondbacks pitching strategist Dan Haren, who prepares the scouting reports, confronted Bumgarner about the comment, Buchanan reported, citing sources within the organization, and the two didn't speak again for the rest of Bumgarner's time in Arizona.
Bumgarner's steep decline continued after his short-lived string of good outings, and he made just four starts with a 10.26 ERA in 2023 before the Diamondbacks released him. Bumgarner's resistance to change contributed to his fall from grace, Buchanan reported, citing several sources, and the former ace "had trouble accepting that he wasn't the pitcher he used to be."
Some adjustments the Diamondbacks tried to get Bumgarner to make, per Buchanan. included mechanical suggestions, like where he should stand on the mound, as well as his pitch mix. Buchanan reported people within the organization told him Bumgarner was too impatient to let the on-mound adjustments work, and, citing sources, the pitcher prioritized regaining his fastball velocity rather than adapting to his current skill set.
These issues reportedly all contributed to the aforementioned lack of trust. Amid Bumgarner's struggles and his unwillingness to make real adjustments, Buchanan reported, citing sources, Diamondbacks staffers' frustrations about the left-hander occasionally made their way back to him.
After his relationship with Haren soured, the same reportedly happened between Bumgarner and Arizona pitching coach Brent Strom.
"During a road series in July , multiple sources said, Bumgarner caught wind of Strom’s frustration with the veteran pitcher. The two were said to have hashed it out, but Bumgarner’s trust in the coach was damaged, multiple sources say," Buchanan wrote. "Others in the organization think the relationship would have had a chance to work if the coaching staff had sometimes taken a gentler approach with Bumgarner, who often expressed that alterations were being forced down his throat."
At the end of the day, things didn't work out between Bumgarner and his new team. He's now a free agent, and the Diamondbacks are responsible for paying the nearly $34 million left on his contract. But the two parties did end things on good terms, Buchanan reported, citing a source.
And if Bumgarner signs with another team this season, he'll certainly have plenty to consider if he wants to rediscover his old form.