Throwing the pitch exclusively to righties, Bumgarner bumped the zone rate on his changeup yet again in 2019, reaching 39.9% after previously bottoming out at 27.3% in 2015. After its movement reverted back to below-average numbers, 2018’s outlier O-Contact% also leveled off, cutting its SwStr% to just 4.8%. While batters mostly saw it outside, hits against it almost exclusively came when it was thrown middle-middle.
With a 16.4% SwStr% and a 46.7% O-Swing%, Bumgarner’s curveball misses being a Money Pitch only on its 36.8% zone rate. The pitch hit a career-high in velocity in 2019, but did lose almost five inches of drop. All told, the changes seem to have worked; its pVAL of 9.3 was the best of his career.
Bumgarner’s fastball saw its best season in years in 2019. Its velocity ticked back up to 91.7 mph, where it sat in 2016 before his accident, and just slightly ahead of the two years between. Its 4.2 pVAL was also positive for the first time since 2016. Its O-Swing rate jumped almost six points to 26.5%, and its SwStr% nearly doubled to 9.1%.
Famously neither and both a cutter and a slider — just ask the 2014 Royals — this offering traded increased average velocity to 87.2 mph for decreased drop. In turn, its SwStr% jumped almost two points to 13.5%, but it also allowed a career-high 13 home runs, and notched a career-low 4.8 pVAL.
Bumgarner’s cutter was the slowest it’s been since 2010. That said, he struck out a lot of hitters with it, and he held batters to the lowest average against the cutter since 2013—the second-lowest of his career. Along with his curve, it’s his bread and butter.
MadBum almost threw his fastball as much as his cutter in 2018 despite not experiencing tremendous success with it. Its velo has been on a steady decline since 2015, though that’s not something Bumgarner cares much about.
Along with his cutter, Bumgarner’s curve was as tough as ever in 2018. Although it had the lowest swinging-strike percentage on it since 2011, opposing batters still struggled to get solid wood on it. And it continued to be a pitch Bumgarner went to when ahead in the count.
MadBum can catch guys sleeping with his changeup, but it hasn’t been where he’s wanted it to be the last two seasons. Hitters don’t necessarily drive the ball (two extra-base hits), but they did reach base off it frequently. It was a step in the right direction from 2017, so maybe Bumgarner will have it fixed up for 2019. But there is a reason he uses this the least of all his pitches in his arsenal.