Dylan Bundy is probably not going to ever regain the form he demonstrated in the COVID-shortened 2020 season. Signed as a free agent in the offseason by the Los Angeles Angels, the right-hander posted an 11-6 record with a 3.29 era and a 1.04 whip in eleven starts compromising of 65 2/3 innings. His strikeout rate of 27.0% of the batters he faced was the highest of his career.
Yet in his second-year with the Angels, Bundy was a major disappointment. He had a 2-9 record with an ugly 6.06 era and a 1.36 whip. He made nineteen starts in twenty-three appearances in pitching 65 2/3 innings. His strikeout rate dropped to 21.2%, and his walk-rate rose to an 8.6% mark of all the batters he faced, a five-year high since his second season in the league with Baltimore.
The Minnesota Twins signed him in the offseason with the hopes that he could find that 2020 formula that worked so well with the Angels. Going into his start on Monday against Boston, many of his numbers did not look promising. For the year, Bundy had a 7-6 record with a 4.56 era and a 1.21 whip, yet there were reasons for optimism for his starts this month that helped persuade us to back Minnesota in our MLB Game of the Month on that day.
Bundy was coming off a start in Houston the previous Wednesday where he allowed only three hits and two runs in five innings of work. In his four previous starts in August, Bundy has a 2.32 era and a 0.86 whip. His walk-rate of 5.1% of the batters he has faced was the lowest of his career. He had walked only four batters in his last five starts consisting of 24 1/3 innings, and he has not walked more than one batter in an outing since July 26th.
The 29-year-old held the Red Sox to just two runs but could not get the final out in the fifth inning to complete five full innings of work. In hindsight, the effort was indicative of where Bundy has gone in his career. He struck out only three batters, and he has a mere six strikeout in his last four starts comprising 20 innings. His strikeout rate of 16.7% is the lowest of his career.
Yet he did enough to put his team in a position to win the game, and Minnesota did pull the game out, 4-2. Bundy has only allowed six earned runs in his last four starts for a 2.70 era. While he is not striking out batters like he was in 2020, he has changed his tactics to rely more on his control. After walking only one Red Sox batter on Monday, his walk rate has dropped to 5.0% while averaging just 1.91 bases-on-balls per nine innings. His previous career-low was in that 2020 season with the Angels when he walked 2.33 batters per nine innings.
Bundy is a fly ball pitcher with 44.3% of the balls that batters are putting into play being fly balls. Yet his home run rate of 1.27 per nine innings is the second-lowest of his career, behind the 0.68 home runs per nine innings he allowed in his benchmark 2020 season.
Bundy is not likely to ever approach the numbers he put up in that shortened season in 2020. Yet by reducing his walks and getting more batters to settle for fly balls when pitching half his games in Target Stadium for the Twins, he just might find a new formula for success. That 2020 campaign was the only year in his career where he posted an era below 4.00. He could develop into a veteran who can be a 3.75 era in the back half of his career just yet.
Good luck - Team Del Genio.