At one point during the season, the San Francisco Giants were the best team in baseball. That seems like an eternity ago to Giants fans and understandably so. The team has struggled in every facet of the game the last two months or so, but one particular area of struggle is baffling.
Madison Bumgarner has been terrible at home.
Bumgarner may not be an ace on the level of Justin Verlander or David Price among others, but he is a key cog in the Giants’ pitching staff and his success (or lack thereof) affects the Giants in a big way. This is more true now than ever with the recent news of Matt Cain‘s need for season-ending surgery.
On the road, Bumgarner has been nothing short of brilliant. He’s posted a 8-2 record with a 1.75 ERA, giving up only 16 earned runs in 82 innings of work. His strikeout to walk totals on the road are also outstanding, with 80 strikeouts and just 15 walks. Lastly, hitters are only batting .216 against Bumgarner on the road.
At home, however, it’s almost the complete opposite. Bumgarner’s record at AT&T Park this season is just 4-6, but his 5.60 ERA is sure to make you cringe. In just 62 innings of action, Bumgarner has given up 39 earned runs. His strikeout to walk totals are still decent at home, with 63 strikeouts and 21 walks, but perhaps the most telling part of Bumgarner’s home struggles is his opponent batting average of .309.
You would think that if Bumgarner, or any player for that matter were to struggle, that it would be the opposite. Players in any sport are generally more comfortable at home and thus, tend to have more success there. The road offers challenges such as a hostile crowd, and while some players thrive in this environment, that’s not the norm. On average, home teams win about 55 percent of the games in the MLB so home-field advantage is definitely real.
Bumgarner’s run support at home hasn’t done him any favors and that undoubtedly plays a part of it, but regardless of run support, Bumgarner isn’t getting the job done at home. In five of his last six home starts, Bumgarner surrendered the first run(s) of the game. As of late, the Giants have not played well from behind so once the lead was lost, the chances of Bumgarner earning a win or even a no decision are minimal.
So why does Bumgarner struggle at home? There may not be an exact answer for that and in a recent post-game press conference, even Bruce Bochy couldn’t nail down a reason.
You only have to tune in for a few batters and you can tell that Bumgarner’s command at home isn’t up to his normal standards. Perhaps he got into an early slump and it’s just mental at this point? Whatever the reason, the Giants need Bumgarner to turn it around at home sooner than later if they are going to have any chance of making some noise in October.