When he was drafted fourth overall in 2011, the Orioles envisioned a day Bundy would pitch like a top-of-the-rotation starter and that day is at hand. Whether he continues on this path and eventually earns the title of “ace pitcher” has yet to be seen, but he’s done some pretty special things so far this year.
Let’s start with seven consecutive quality starts. Considering the team total is 17, that is pretty strong. Let’s add the club’s 6-1 record in his starts. Heading into Thursday’s games, Bundy ranked tied for first in the major leagues in wins (five) and ninth in ERA (2.17). He also ranked seventh in the American League in homers allowed per nine innings (0.59) and innings pitched (45 2/3) and 11th in WHIP (1.05). He has given up two runs or less five times.
He brought the cutter/slider back into his repertoire this season and the pitch has been huge for him. His secondary pitches overall have been huge for him. According to BrooksBaseball.net, Bundy throws his four-seam fastball 44 percent of the time and his two-seam sinker four percent. He throws his slider 22 percent, his changeup 16 percent and his curveball 14 percent.
The secondary pitches have been of such quality and he has commanded them well that opponent batters are hitting just .194 on his slider and just .125 off his curve and changeup. They bat .312 versus the four-seamer, but he’s still been effective with that pitch, using it to get ahead of hitters and set up the other pitches. Opponent batters can’t sit on a pitch against Bundy. He has also varied the pitch usage from start to start so no pattern develops.
Two other areas featuring big improvements from 2016 are his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark and fare much better when facing a lineup the third time through the order.
He allowed 1.5 homers per every nine innings last year and that rate is down to 0.6 per nine in 2017, when he has yielded just three homers over 45 2/3 innings.
When facing an order for the third time in 2016, Bundy gave up a batting average of .245 and that is quite respectable. But he allowed a .633 slugging percentage and .960 OPS. That is when opponent batters hit some of those homers and did big damage. This year he yields a batting average of just .186 with a .302 slugging percentage and .547 OPS. So yes, dramatic improvement on that so far.
Moving forward, the rotation’s outlook might be brighter than it was even a week or two ago. And certainly better than national analysts projected. Bundy and Miley are throwing well, Chris Tillman returned with five scoreless and Kevin Gausman had his best start (two runs, seven innings) Monday. Even Ubaldo Jiménez has shown improvement, allowing four runs over 10 2/3 innings (an ERA of 3.37) his past two games. For most of the night on Tuesday, he matched up well with Washington’s Max Scherzer.
After last night’s rainout at Nats Park, the Orioles take a 22-11 record to Kansas City tonight. While they have to survive several weeks without closer Zach Britton, their rotation may be better than the preseason predictions. Bundy is a key reason for that.
Just for fun: Last night, I went down memory lane and looked at a few stories from June 2011 when the Orioles drafted Bundy. I found this one. Here is a quote from Jim Callis then on Bundy. Callis is now with MLBPipeline.com but at that time was still with Baseball America.
“Some scouting directors think he’s the best pitcher in the draft, even better than all these college guys - and it’s an exceptionally deep college draft,” Callis said.
“We have him No. 2 on our prospect list, ahead of all the college pitchers and you could argue he’s No. 1. If you are worried about a high school pitcher as a top pick, I would tell people this guy is so exceptional it’s almost like he’s a college pitcher. He’s not just some guy that is raw and throws hard and you wonder about his other pitches. Dylan Bundy can do it all; his resume is ridiculous.”
Dusty said it: During “The Mid Atlantic Sports Report” on MASN yesterday, they aired a portion of the pregame press conference from Nationals manager Dusty Baker. He was asked about the Orioles in light of preseason predictions that the team would not do well.
“Who are these experts that don’t see what they have? I don’t know what they are looking at,” Baker said.