09 August 2017

Dylan Bundy Has Been Just What The Orioles Needed

Dylan Bundy hasn't been amazing this year. He's not a Cy Young candidate, and he doesn't get discussed among the best pitchers in the game. He isn't one, at least, right now. But for the second season in a row, he has maintained his health, and he's producing actual, needed results in a rotation that has been filled with question marks and disappointment for most of the season. Simply put, he's more than been up to the task.

Most recently, Bundy was excellent in Monday night's win over the Angels. In seven innings of two-run ball, Bundy struck out 10 and didn't walk a batter while mainly relying on his fastball and infamous slider/cutter.
It was one of Bundy's best starts of the season, and it just so happened to come after he held the Royals scoreless over eight innings in his previous outing (while only throwing 93 pitches).

The Orioles have continued to give Bundy extra rest when they can, with the apparent goal for him to throw about 180 innings. Some think that's too much, while some don't think he should be limited at all. I tend to lean on the more cautious side. For now, though, Bundy seems fine. Perhaps the additional rest has helped. In the first half of the season, his average fastball velocity was 92.45 mph. In the four starts after the break, he's averaging just under 93 mph. That's not much, but everything little bit helps.

From mid-July on last season, after Bundy transitioned from the bullpen to the rotation, he averaged 94.8 mph on his fastball. So that is definitely a decrease of a couple miles per hour from last season, but there's also one major difference in Bundy this year. He's throwing his slider/cutter! (And he's using it about 20% of the time.) One concern among scouts (and obviously notorious cutter hater Dan Duquette) is that throwing the cutter too often can lead to a decrease in fastball velocity. I'm not saying that's directly the reason for Bundy's velocity decline, but it can't be easily discounted.
It's worth pondering whether Bundy can be a top-of-the-line starter with an average fastball velocity (the major league average for starting pitchers this season is 92.3 mph). Bundy is easily one of the Orioles' best options, but, well, any decent starter would be in the team's current situation. You might take the resurgent Kevin Gausman over Bundy, but that's it.

Most importantly, Bundy seems to be healthy. And he has taken a step forward this year, even if his velocity hasn't followed suit. In his 71-plus innings last year, Bundy had a 4.52 ERA and a 5.24 FIP. In a little over 134 innings this year, he's lowered both, with an ERA of 4.15 and a FIP of 4.70. His strikeouts have taken a bit of a tumble (from 9.04 K/9 to 7.17), but he's also issuing fewer free passes (from 3.77 BB/9 to 2.68).

There's no saying Bundy doesn't have another gear. He could be even better next season, especially since the O's will surely be done talking about innings limits with him. But even if this current version is what he's going to be, that's still pretty good! The Orioles need more cost-controlled young pitching. Obviously Bundy's hype from 2012 got many people excited and hoping he could be a superstar, but he'd be far from the only amazing talent to not end up being phenomenal. The Orioles went through this with Matt Wieters. The hype can get out of control, and there's almost nothing a player can do to live up to that potential. Sometimes it can be just as simple as having a good player is better than a bad player.

It's been well discussed that the Orioles will need starting pitching next season. They sure do, with only Bundy and Gausman penciled in as starters. But you could do worse than building a rotation around those two pitchers, with Gausman under team control through 2020 and Bundy through 2021. It would be nice if the Orioles could develop more pitchers to join them, or even just add some veterans who aren't terrible. It seems easy, but maybe it's not.


Unknown said...

Give me the post all-star version of Guasman the last two seasons and Bundy and I'll show you a quality front end MLB rotation. The potential is there if Gausman ever learns how to be consistent throughout a season. I'm also digging this Castro guy. The O's need to add a cutter to his arsenal just as they did with Bundy. If they can do that this offseason, he can wiggle his way into the back end of the rotation next. He has serious talent with the fastball and slider speed differential.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I'm not buying Castro as a starter, though there would be no harm in trying. Maybe give him a shot and see what he can do. I still think this is about what his ceiling is because he doesn't generate enough strikeouts.

Also, you can't just add a cutter to someone's arsenal and compare it with Bundy. Bundy's cutter/slider was easily his bread-and-butter pitch and was often discussed because of how fantastic it was. Luckily, he's still able to throw it now and he seems to be healthy. Perhaps Castro will need a fourth offering, or maybe he would just need to throw his changeup more and vary his fastball speeds.