Breaking down Dylan Bundy's start on 4/17/12

It’s amazing how quickly a huge glass of Marker’s Mark, The Band on Spotify, and duck-shot videos of Dylan Bundy dominating can make you forget about watching yet another disappointing Matusz outing and the O’s offense being stymied by Jerome Williams. (I wrote this Friday night)

Before diving into the weeds, let’s start with some background. Entering his start on Tuesday, Bundy had pitched 6 professional innings spread out over 2 starts, striking out 12 batters, while allowing no base runners, and compiling a 2-1 groundball/flyball ratio. Bundy has reportedly been sitting 95-99 with his fastball and mixing in a plus change-up and 12-6 curveball at 83-86 and 77-79 respectively.

In adhering to Rick Peterson’s plan to gradually build his innings, Bundy went 3 innings for the third consecutive start. He retired the first 6 batters he faced with a strikeout, two groundouts, a flyout, and two more strikeouts to run his string of consecutive batters retired to 24 (8 perfect innings). In the third inning he got two more groundouts, before permitting his first professional batter to reach base via a walk. He quickly recovered to strikeout the last batter. Apparently he then headed to the bullpen for additional work, but Bundy now sports a stat line of 9 IP, 0 H, 1 BB, 15 K, and a 9-3 GB/FB ratio. He further raised the level of hype by hitting 99 multiple times on scout radar guns and lighting up the stadium gun at 102 (although it is believed to have been a mistaken reading). Bottom line: he’s been absolutely dominant.

That being said, he’s facing pretty marginal talent and has yet to go through a lineup more than once, so the extent to which we can read into or extrapolate from his results so far is quite limited. Luckily we can look at more than results, as duck recorded every pitch Bundy threw on Tuesday, with the first and third innings shot from the third base side and the second inning shot from behind home plate. Check out the first inning after the jump.

Here is Dylan Bundy's first inning

This is not the first time you’ve heard this, but I was struck again by how effortless his delivery is. The first four pitches Bundy delivered were 96, 98, 98, and 98 (at least according to the stadium gun) resulting in a K, but what I was impressed with was the consistency and simplicity of his delivery. He has very little head movement as he takes his step back – looking at the Dodge sign on the outfield fence behind him at 1:08 you can see that his head stays within the letter E. His leg kick is mostly straight up, with a slight hip rotation to give him a bit more power, but he doesn’t over-rotate his shoulders toward 2nd base which some gurus see as a red flag. His timing is perfect at foot-strike – if you can pause the video right as his foot lands (which is admittedly difficult), you’ll see that his elbow is below shoulder with ball above elbow. At release he has a strong front side which prevents him from flying open at all. It’s a very compact and powerful delivery with very little excess motion.

Pitch number 5 gives us a wider angle and we’re able to see that the catcher doesn’t even have to flinch as Bundy’s effortless 98 hits his target at the knees. Pitch 6 is a repeat with another fastball right to the glove, past a swing and a miss. Pitch 7 results in poorly hit grounder to second, but gives us an opportunity to see Bundy react to a ball on the ground on the right side and he immediately breaks to first even though it was unnecessary (somebody was paying attention to the PFPs in spring training).

We get our first look at a change-up at 3:17 and despite being delivered at 88 MPH, I could detect no decrease in arm speed or delivery aggression. His next pitch was another heater at 95 and his motion was identical. This tells me that he is relying purely on the grip and not employing any of the change-up cheating devices that are common among high school pitchers. At 4:05 we see our first curveball which he spins up there at 76 MPH for a ball in a 2-2 count, but again I detect very little, if any, change in delivery or arm speed. He comes back, presumably with a fastball, to get a grounder to end the inning.

Here is Bundy's second inning:

For the 2nd inning, duck moves our vantage point to behind home plate, giving us the opportunity to see the action on Bundy’s pitches as well as a new view of his mechanics. The first pitch doesn’t tell us much as it’s hit for a lazy fly ball to right field, but it appears to be right to the glove with a bit of arm side run. However, it is clear that Bundy doesn’t show the batter the ball for very long behind his back. He is not hiding the ball dramatically, but it’s only visible for a very brief period which makes it that much harder for hitters to time him and there’s no concern that even the most observant hitter will spot his grip back there.

The second pitch is 96 to the glove on the outside corner at the knees, followed by what I believe is an 81 mph changeup although that’s quite a bit slower than his other changeups and a pretty big gap between fastball and changeup. At 1:48 we see Bundy’s first truly bad pitch, a curveball that comes out of his hand far too early and stays high and outside. He’s human! This actually happens to everybody that throws a curveball now and then and is certainly nothing to worry about. He comes back with high heat and blows Adrian Nieto away for the K. Not where he wanted the pitch, but at 97 it’ll work. Watching how long it takes Brett Newsome to get in the box following the K, it is obvious that the Suns are trying to slow Bundy down. I don’t know about you guys, but I love a pitcher that works fast and I bet the O’s crappy defense will too. Once Newsome finally gets in the box, Bundy is back to dotting the outside corner at about the thigh with his slowest fastball of the evening at 93. After coming back at 94 for a ball, Bundy throws a great changeup at 87 on the outside corner resulting in a foul ball. After missing with 98 off the outside corner and 97 just off the inside corner, he finishes Newsome swinging with 97 to the glove on the outside corner.

Here is Bundy's third and final inning:

We've moved back to the view from the 3rd base line for inning number three and it appears that duck has snuck down into the expensive seats (security must be pretty loose) (EDIT: HEY, I paid for that seat! $11, bud! I was legit!!!!!). While duck was distracted for the first two pitches by some city slickers that invaded his stadium for the Bundy show, if you can pause the clip precisely at foot strike for the first pitch to the second batter you’ll get a great view of how good Bundy’s timing is. I stopped it right at 1:56 and you can see that his hips have just started to rotate, his shoulders are still perpendicular to the plate, his PAS (pitching arm side) elbow is below shoulder, the ball is nice and high and appears to be pointing at third base or SS, his spine not tilted, his head is going straight toward home plate and not cocked, and his plant leg is slightly bent. All of this is pretty much perfect and if he can repeat and maintain this, most of the pitching gurus would likely say it bodes well for future arm health.

At 2:42 Bundy pops 102 on the stadium gun, but again that appears to have been a misreading. Still… After getting ahead 0-2 and a few foul balls, he allows his first professional base runner with a two out walk. For the purposes of this review, this is actually not terrible because it gives us a chance to see what he looks like in the stretch, even if only for one batter since he quickly gets ahead and induces a grounder to end his outing. The first thing you’ll notice is that his velocity doesn’t suffer at all as he’s right back to work at 96-97. He also looks very comfortable from the stretch, with a balanced and slightly closed set position that I’ve always been a fan of because it helps to keep you closed as well as hide the ball. He takes a full leg kick, but like his windup, it’s very compact and when you combine that with his velocity he is quite quick to the plate. I clocked him at around 1:10 (estimated because I had to guess when the pitch got there), and pair that with Wieters’ pop time which has been reported at 1.9 and below and I don’t think many people will be stealing against him.

This was only one outing and he’s only had three professional appearances and we all know that he’s not currently being challenged by his opposition, but I love what I see both in the statistical results (obviously) and the video that duck has provided. It’s clear that Bundy is a pitcher with lights out stuff, great mechanics that he repeats consistently, command of all three pitches, who works fast and with a ton of confidence. I look forward to seeing more video and perhaps what happens to his mechanics when he gets a little deeper in games, but given his well-known conditioning, my guess is that he’ll carry his mechanics deep into games without any problem. Anybody see anything in the video that I missed? If not, let us bask in the warmth of the knowledge that while there are likely to be many more O’s games this season as frustrating as Friday night’s ridiculous display (Jerome Williams, seriously???), we also have many more dominant Bundy performances to pore over and imagine the possibilities, which at the moment appear quite endless. I can't wait to see what he does tonight Tuesday when he'll be "extended" to 4 innings.

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