Orioles right-hander Dylan Bundy was a slightly better than league average pitcher in 2016 and 2017, but not in 2018. Last year, he went 8-16 with a 5.45 ERA in 31 starts. While he set career highs in innings, strikeouts, strikeout rate and starts, he also set career highs in homers allowed and tied for the major league lead in losses.
The 41 homers allowed jumps off the stat sheet. That was seven more than any other pitcher in the majors, with James Shields of the White Sox next with 34. That set a new O’s record, well past the previous mark of 35. And it topped Bundy’s 2017 homer total allowed by 15.
The 41 homers were the most allowed in the majors since Cincinnati’s Bronson Arroyo surrendered 46 in 2011. It was the most allowed by a pitcher in the American League since Jamie Moyer gave up 44 home runs in 2004 with the Seattle Mariners.
One school of thought is that Bundy just was never right after he suffered a left ankle sprain June 23 in Atlanta while running the bases. In 15 starts from July to September, he went 2-9 with a 7.61 ERA and allowed 2.7 homers for every nine innings. This followed the month of June where Bundy was 3-0 with a 1.98 ERA and allowed two homers in 27 1/3 innings.
If you take Bundy’s first five starts of the year, where he allowed just one home run, and his four in June, he gave up three homers in those nine starts. He allowed 38 homers in the other 22 starts. Yikes.
So job one for the right-hander is to keep the ball in the ballpark more in 2019. In an attempt to do that, is the answer simply found in how much rest Bundy gets between starts?
If you look at Bundy pitching on four days’ rest and five days’ rest last season, you get two very different pitchers. He was actually much better on the regular four days of rest between outings.
In 11 starts on four days’ rest, Bundy went 3-6 with a 3.86 ERA and a WHIP of 1.157. On exactly five days of rest - an extra day between starts - he went 3-9 with a 7.59 ERA and a 1.783 WHIP. Big difference.
But even beyond that on four days’ rest, Bundy allowed a .395 slugging percentage, a .690 OPS and yielded 1.16 homers per every nine innings. On five days’ rest, he gave up a .652 slugging percentage, an OPS of 1.031 and allowed 3.1 homers per nine. A very big difference.
Not sure what made for such a difference, but is the answer as simple as keeping Bundy on a regular turn, pitching every fifth day and not giving him the extra rest?
As it relates to the homers, Bundy actually gave up more versus right-handed batters, 24 to 17. And surprisingly, more on the road, where he yielded 2.28 per nine innings to a rate of 2.05 at Camden Yards.
Hitters seemed to attack Bundy early in the count, homering seven times against him on the first pitch and eight times on a 1-0 count. They only hit one homer each all year on 2-0 and 3-0 counts. So they came into the box in swing mode against Bundy.
But the stats were very different based on a difference of one day of rest. This was not the case for Bundy in 2017. Then on four days’ rest, he went 7-4 with a 4.68 ERA, allowing 1.52 homers/nine innings. On five days’ rest, he was 3-4 with a 4.69 ERA and 1.46 homers/nine innings.
Bundy is an important pitcher for the Orioles. He is just 26 and under team control for three more seasons. He could be a big piece of the rotation as the club rebuilds and still around if and when they return to winning. He could be re-signed to a longer deal over the next couple of seasons.
So they need to get him back pitching at least to the level he showed pre-2018. Is it as simple as rest between starts or is more at work here?