Dylan Bundy has mostly looked like a failed prospect, but a trade to the Angels seems to have unlocked him with an accelerated new approach.
In making him the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft, the Baltimore Orioles were hoping Dylan Bundy would become an ace. He made his major league debut in September of 2012, at 19 years old. But injuries (elbow, shoulder) kept from appearing in the big leagues again until 2016.
Bundy made 89 starts for the Orioles from 2017-2019 with a 4.83 ERA (4.76 FIP). In 2018, he allowed a major league-high 41 home runs, effectively deleting solid K/9 (9.6) and BB/9 (2.8) rates on his way to a 5.45 ERA.
Last year, in a season defined by the home run like no other before it on a broad level, Bundy dropped his HR/9 rate to 1.6 (2.1 in 2018). Essentially, Bundy had become a league-average starter.
The Orioles traded Bundy to the Los Angels Angels for four pitchers last December. In his first two starts this season, he allowed just four runs in seven hits with 15 strikeouts and two walks over 12.2 innings (2.84 ERA). As cited by R.J. Anderson CBS Sports, his slider is his best pitch by a good margin and he threw it close to one-third of the time in those first two outings. Then came Thursday night.
What has changed for Dylan Bundy?
Bundy pitched his third career complete game Thursday night against the Seattle Mariners, allowing one run on four hits while striking out 10 and walking none. His fastball velocity is still below par thus far (90.7 MPH, via FanGraphs), and he’s mixing in a changeup (18.8 percent), a curveball (12.2 percent) and a sinker (6.3 percent). The rate he’s throwing his fastball and slider are nearly equal (33.5 and 29.3 percent respectively).
Moving away from his fastball has been a general trend for Bundy, but it’s become more drastic this year. He was in over his head as the New York Mets’ manager, but Mickey Callaway’s resume as a pitching coach with the Cleveland Indians was strong and it’s easy to point to Bundy as an early reclamation project for him as the Angels pitching coach.
According to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, the Angels had one starter finish eight innings last season. They’ve long been in search of some stability in the starting rotation, to little avail as they’ve failed to maximize the peak of Mike Trout.
Three starts is still too small a sample to proclaim a lasting and complete reinvention for Bundy, or that he’s the No. 1 starter the Angels need. But the trend is undeniably good, spurred by a change of scenery to accelerate a change in pitch usage.