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Quiet changes make Dylan Bundy a better pitcher

The 25-year old Orioles starting pitcher has made quite the name for himself, while make small changes with his pitch usage.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Baltimore Orioles Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Dylan Bundy has been one of the few bright spots. This is especially for a team that has began its season at 6-14, for fifth place in the division. Before Friday night’s six-inning, one run outing, Bundy had a 1.40 ERA. He also had no wins and two losses to show, despite starting the season at such a fierce pace.

To begin the season, Bundy has pitched in five games, holding a 1-2 record, with a 1.42 ERA and a WHIP of 1.11 in 31.2 innings. That’s obviously impressive. However, these are not the only stats that pop out with Bundy. His 40 strikeouts rank for third in the MLB behind Houston Astros starter Gerrit Cole (41) and Washington Nationals starter, three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (47).

In 2016, Bundy pitched to a 10-6 record, with a 4.02 ERA and a 1.377 WHIP in 109.2 innings pitched. To follow up in 2017, Bundy had a record of 13-9, with a 4.24 ERA and a 1.196 WHIP in 169.2 innings pitched. Obviously in the 2018 season, something is different with Bundy, but what exactly is different.

What is Bundy doing differently in than in the past?

Bundy’s command has been reminiscent of a pitcher from Orioles past, who is none other than Mike Mussina. Mussina offered batters a fastball, slider, changeup and curveball. Similarly, Bundy also offers those same pitches, as well as mixing in a sinker at higher rate this season.

Since becoming a full-time starter in 2017, we’ve seen dips and jumps in his slider usage. In April 2017, Bundy used his slider 25.78% of the time. Then in May, he used it just 16.77% of the time. By the end of the 2017 season in September, Bundy used his slider 29.66% of his pitches.

At the beginning of the 2018 season, Bundy has used his slider very often with a rate of 26.68 during the month of April. It is his second most used pitch after his fastball, which he has used 46.13% of the time this month. His slider has generated 61.67% whiffs upon its usage.

Its not just his slider that’s gotten harder to hit this year, it’s all of his pitches. In September, Bundy had a 14.49% whiff rate on his fastball, 33.33% on his changeup, 41.86% on his slider and a 33.33% rate on the slider. In April so far, his whiff rate has been 22.77% on his fastball, a 15.38% rate on the return of his sinker, a 40% rate on the slider and with his curveball, a 40% rate.

Another difference between this year and last season is Bundy’s sinker usage. In 2017, Bundy didn’t throw a sinker. As a reliever for the majority of 2016, Bundy used his sinker 5.01% of the time. In 2018, Bundy’s sinker has come back to usage, with him throwing the pitch 12.61% of the time.

With these stats, Bundy has been able to increase his strikeout per nine innings rate by three more strikeouts. In 2016 and 2017, Bundy struck out 8.2 batters per nine innings. In 2018, Bundy has increased that rate to 11.4 batters per nine innings. He’s also lowered his walk rate, going from walking 3.0 batters per nine innings in his first two seasons, to 2.6 batters per nine innings.

One has to take into consideration that Bundy has started a season off very hotly in the past. Just last year, Bundy had a 1.65 ERA in 32.2 innings pitched between March and April last season. Last year at this time, hitters were slashing .224/.262/.316 against Bundy. It would continually go up before spiking in July 2017, where Bundy had an ERA of 8.41.

Despite the strong start, Bundy has extremely different splits between right-handed and left-handed batters. In 15.1 innings against left-handed batters, Bundy has allowed 21 hits, with batters slashing .318/.371/.446 and a wOBA of .360. On the right-handed side, Bundy has pitched 16.1 innings against them, allowing just five hits and batters slashing .094/.172/.151 and a wOBA of .158. However, he has been able to guide through rough patches against lefties by making quick work of right-handed batters.

It’s been a very long road for Bundy. After making his first appearance in the major leagues as a 19-year old fireballer in 2012, Bundy has changed the way that he’s pitched. He suffered through a few years of injury, receiving Tommy John surgery to repair his torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in 2013 and dealing with calcification in his right shoulder.

Before the injuries, his out pitch was his hard slider and one could see that the usage of that slider dropped before Bundy built full strength to use that pitch again. As it has come back and he has added another pitch in his sinker to get batters out, Bundy has been a thorn in the side for opposing clubs this season and has matured into quite the pitcher.