Coming into the 2017 season Dylan Bundy was an untested, but still promising young pitcher. It was unclear how many innings the Orioles were going to allow Bundy to pitch in 2017 considering he only reached his career high of 109.2 innings in 2016 after being pressed into a starting role. It was also uncertain how Bundy’s body would respond considering his light professional workload to date and his lengthy injury history.
Bundy responded by being far and away the Orioles best starting pitcher in 2017. That’s only sort of damning with faint praise. As the saying goes “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Still, Bundy managed to make 28 starts and pitched 169.2 innings, a 69 inning jump over 2016. The hope will be that he can use that to be a springboard to a full season’s workload next year.
Over his 28 starts, Bundy went 13-9, posting a 4.24 ERA, which was just about league average. He ended up with a slightly higher ERA than his 2016 number, but most of his peripheral numbers looks better year over year.
For instance, Bundy reduced his walk rate from 8.9% to 7.3% while keeping his strikeout rate almost exactly the same at 21.8%. His FIP was 4.38 in 2017 versus 4.70 in 2016. He even reduced his home run to fly ball rate (HR/FB) from 13.3 percent to 11.5 percent.
Like many MLB pitchers this year, Bundy did still struggle with the long ball, ending up with a 1.38 HR/9. The uptick in home runs is likely influenced by the fact that his fly ball rate increased by about five percentage points. More balls in the air will generally equal more home runs.
Bundy’s 2017 was plagued by talk of how hard the Orioles were pushin himg. Every pitch over 100 in a given start meant about 50 more tweets about how the Orioles were abusing his arm. Every start where the gun read a mph or two off his baseline meant he was broken and it was all Buck Showalter’s fault.
Bundy’s velocity was down in 2017 compared to 2016, 93.8 mph average compared to 92.2 mph average in 2017. However, from month to month in 2017 his velocity never really changed, maybe in a game here or there, but over the course of the year it remained relatively stable as shown in the chart below.
The big spike in August can be explained as when the Orioles started to skip a start or give Bundy an extra day rest here and there. This did yield some positive results.
On the regular four days rest, Bundy had 13 starts and posted a 4.68 ERA and a .779 OPS against. With an extra day of rest at five days, Bundy had 9 starts and posted a 4.69 ERA and a .730 OPS against.
Go a step further to six or more days of rest and Bundy had 6 starts, posting a 2.68 ERA and a .583 OPS against. In those six starts, Bundy struck out forty batters and walked only three. These are all small sample sizes, but there may be something to the extra rest.
For most of the year, it seemed like the first inning was one of the biggest problem innings for the Orioles staff. Bundy did not suffer this problem in quite the same way. Actually, Bundy’s worst innings were the third (6.43 ERA) and fifth innings (6.57 ERA). This could be a sign of the times through the order penalty in action.
2017 was also the first year Orioles fans got to see the Dylan Bundy slider, which is not one of Dan Duquette’s hated cutters, we swear. Bundy has a 25.21% whiff rate on his slider. That’s basically double the rate of his next best pitch—his changeup. The slider/cutter was the pitch that was shelved in 2016, but was brought out in full force in 2017. Bundy used the pitch 22.06% of the time, second only to his four seam fastball.
Seeing Bundy out on the mound 28 times for the Orioles in 2017 throwing sliders showed the Orioles and their fans what Dylan Bundy can do. Bundy had his highlight of the season, and the best Orioles start in recent memory, back on August 29th against the Mariners. Bundy threw a complete game one hit shutout in which he struck out twelve hitters and walked only two. It was a masterful performance.
That August night is a microcosm of Dylan Bundy’s 2017 a glimpse of what could be for the Orioles if Bundy is ever able to realize his full potential. Getting 32+ starts out of Bundy each year may be impossible, or at least inadvisable, or maybe not. Maybe the workload of 2017 will allow Bundy to be even stronger and better in 2018.
In many ways, Bundy still has as much uncertainty about him going forward as he did going into the 2017 season. If the Orioles are going to be any good in 2018, Dylan Bundy will need to flourish and be the pitcher that was promised so many years ago.