In 2011, SBNation writer Dave Coleman wrote of Orioles righty Dylan Bundy that he” has the stuff to be a No. 1 ace for a long time for whichever team drafts him. His fastball and two other plus pitches right now make him scary enough. Imagine once he learns how to pitch! Bundy could join Stephen Strasburg and Tim Lincecum as the best pitchers of the next decade.”
After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2013 and solidifying himself in the Orioles staff in 2016, it seems that Coleman wasn’t too far off from his 2011 claims of Bundy becoming a No.1 starter. The problem is that he is nothing like Strasburg or even pre-Apocalypse Tim Lincecum … Dylan Bundy is remarkably unremarkable.
Stephen “Disabled List” Strasburg carries the pure arsenal to make a batter check his drawers and uses it when healthy as evident by his career 10.46 career K/9 and 30.6% K rate in 2016. Strasburg pairs his massive strikeout ability with a comfortable 45.3% GB rate. These are the kind of stats that you expect from an ace level pitcher, especially one attached to $175 million over 7 years. Tim Lincecum used to carry the same kind of weight, striking out more than a batter per 9 with a 46% GB rate during his majestic 2008-2011 run with San Francisco. Lincecum carried the Giants to multiple World Series Wins and Strasburg, although behind Max Scherzer, remains one of the most gifted pitchers in the majors.
So how is Dylan Bundy meeting his expectations?
For starters, he is carrying a typically understaffed Orioles rotation that finds itself in second place in the American League East. His 1.2 WAR leads the Orioles and far exceeds his Steamer projections. But let’s look at how his K/9 compares to Lincecum and Strasburg
Bundy comes in well below peak Lincecum and current Strasburg yet is close to matching Strasburg on 2017 WAR (1.2 v 1.7). Bundy’s K/9 is almost exactly league average (6.40 v 6.29).
Looking at other peripherals against Strasburg in 2017
Groundball rate) 32.1% versus 47.6%
Fly Ball rate) 43.3% versus 32.9%
BABIP) .261 versus .281
WHIP) 1.14 versus 1.11
ERA-) 69 versus 76
Bundy and Strasburg have been sort of close but Strasburg pulls away with pure dominance. So how is Bundy producing like an Ace without the big Ace numbers that we have come to expect from no.1 Starters?
Bundy has been stranding runners at a well above average rate this year. He is 8th in the majors in LOB% (min 60IP) which has certainly aided his hot start. Obviously some regression is to be expected (.394 FIP), but Bundy has certainly been able to leave runners on base thus preventing them from scoring crucial runs.
If Bundy can keep up some sort of pace close to this, he should finish in the upper echelon of AL starters despite average peripherals. Bundy is not Strasburg or peak Lincecum like Dave Coleman clamed he could become in 2011, but Bundy is Bundy and this year he has been remarkably unremarkable.
Data from Fangraphs.com