SARASOTA, Fla. - For a pitcher selected fourth overall in the 2011 draft, who had an ERA of 4.02 in 2016 and 4.24 a year later, pitching to a 5.45 last year and leading the majors in homers allowed was not nearly what he had in mind.
“Absolutely. You don’t ever want to see that ERA or that many homers given up. That just gives me more motivation to come back and fix that problem,” said Dylan Bundy, who went 8-16 in 2018 and led the majors in homers allowed with 41.
I interviewed Bundy a few days ago for this story. But his spring has not gone very well so far and yesterday he allowed six runs in 1 2/3 innings in Port Charlotte versus Tampa Bay. In three spring starts, Bundy has thrown 6 2/3 innings, allowing 15 hits and 10 runs.
Last year that Bundy homer total was an Orioles team record for most ever given up by a pitcher, and the most allowed by any pitcher in MLB since the Reds’ Bronson Arroyo yielded 46 in 2011.
Bundy said that, above all, poor location was the reason for the homers.
“Yes. You look at every one of those homers and 95 percent of them were about the location of the pitch. Not necessarily the wrong pitch, but the location of it,” he said.
Bundy is a flyball pitcher, and I asked him if he’s accepting that some of those fly balls will leave the park and that his home park can be homer-friendly.
“Maybe at the very, very back of your mind. But you never want to accept that you are in a hitter’s ballpark,” Bundy said. “I accept the fact that balls fly out of there a little easier. But that just means you have to get the pitch where it needs to be more often.”
And last year, Bundy actually had a homer rate of 2.04 per every nine innings at Camden Yards and 2.28 per nine in road games.
When I interviewed Orioles GM Mike Elias during a recent Orioles.com broadcast, he talked about Bundy’s homers allowed last year. He feels analytics could help the 26-year-old right-hander.
“He’s one that we’ve already sat down with and suggested some differences in mixing his pitches, against what he was doing last year,” Elias said. “And he took to it very well. He’s a guy that has always had a tremendous feel for pitching, even going back to high school. He was one of the more advanced pitchability high school pitchers that anyone had seen in a while. So, I think his ability to absorb and deploy that type of information, I think we’re going to see a very strong season from him.”
Bundy said he’s very open to using advanced data and high-speed cameras to help him improve his pitching. He said it’s eye-opening to him.
“A little bit (it is) for me because I had never been around any of that,” Bundy said. “You hear about it from other players in the league and what they are using. And what they’ve done. Then you see it for yourself. Everybody in the league had been doing it. We just haven’t been. The information can help, but you also at times need to trust your gut and how you are feeling. Using your eyes to read swings is still important.”
Bundy is out to polish up all four of his pitches before the Orioles head north, and also to throw more right-on-right changeups.
“My goal is to be able to use four in any game. Just because it keeps hitters off-balance,” he said. “But there may be days with a lot of lefties in the lineup and maybe the changeup works better versus lefties, and the slider when a lot of righties are in there.
“But one thing I am trying to do this spring is throw that changeup to more right-handed hitters so they can not just look for fastball and slider. So it is about refining all your pitches, but sometimes you also lean on what is really working that day.”
Bundy said he is less worried about producing good results in early spring outings, but hopes to put up more zeros as opening day approaches.
“Mainly now it’s just about getting your body and mechanics right before you head north. You need to have your body prepared for the long season. And be able to go six, seven, eight innings the first game out. So, you have to take care of your shoulder and elbow down here and get your innings and pitch count up to that 85 or 90 mark.
“When you get to the middle and late in spring you want to see some zeros up on the board before you head north. That is always a confidence-booster,” he added.
Bundy is still looking for those confidence-boosters after his latest struggles on Saturday afternoon at Charlotte Sports Park against the Rays. That game left his ERA at 13.50 through three spring training appearances.