A Conversation With Los Angeles Angels Right-Hander Dylan Bundy

Dylan Bundy had his best statistical season in 2020. Pitching for the Los Angeles Angels after four-plus years with the Orioles, the 28-year-old right-hander posted career-bests in ERA (3.29), FIP (2.95), and K/9 (9.87). Small sample that it was — 11 starts in a pandemic-shortened campaign — the results represented a breath of fresh air. Bundy had become somewhat stagnant in Baltimore, putting up pedestrian numbers for a club that was going nowhere in terms of short-term contention. Change proved to be a panacea.

Bundy’s secondary pitches, paired with improved command, went a long way toward his success. The fourth-overall pick in the 2011 draft no longer has a plus fastball, but buoyed by a better understanding of his craft, he no longer needs one. With his third decade on planet Earth looming in the not-too-distant future — and his early-career injuries long in the rearview — Bundy has made the full transformation from thrower to pitcher.

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David Laurila: How would you describe your career so far?

Dylan Bundy: “It’s flown by, that’s for sure. You learn a lot when you first break into the league — 2016 is when I stayed here — and that’s [continued] up to now. The game doesn’t change, but with hitters’ swing paths, the analytics, the shifting… there are ways that the game does change, slowly over time. I think that would be the biggest thing I’d take away from when I first started, to now.”

Laurila: Have you changed?

Bundy: “Overall, I guess… numbers-wise, I have changed. Obviously, everybody knows about the velocity. It’s come down, so now I’m learning how to pitch more. Ever since 2016-2017, I’ve been learning how to throw more off-speed stuff, and finally it clicked. You know, these hitters can time up a 110 mph fastball if you throw it down the middle three times in a row. Eventually, they’re going to catch up to it.

“I’ve really learned that you’ve got to throw pitches for a purpose. That’s whether it’s off the plate, in, off-speed stuff earlier in the count, heaters later in the count, or whatever it may be on that specific day. But it’s definitely been a long journey, learning this stuff.”

Laurila: Looking back at the interview we did in 2014, what stands out to me is you saying, “I consider myself one, but you don’t know how long you’re going to be a power pitcher.” In retrospect, that was pretty thoughtful, if not prescient, for a 21-year-old with a live arm.

Bundy: “Yeah, especially in 2014, because 2016, in a bullpen, I was still throwing 95-96 to 97 [mph]. Once that velocity came down. I had to learn how to pitch in a different way.”

Laurila: When did you come to terms with that? When did you truly recognize that you weren’t “a power pitcher” anymore?

Bundy: “I still kind of consider myself one. I’m not a 95 to 100-mph power pitcher, but I still feel like a bulldog, or a power guy, out there. Even though my fastball plays at 89-90, that’s the mindset I have.”

Laurila: Your velo may be 89-90, but according to StatCast, your four-seam spin rate ranks in the 79th percentile.

Bundy: “Right. So even with that 90, if you can control the count… but even if you have to use a heater in a fastball count, when your 90 plays like 93-94 because of the spin, you can get away with it every now and then.”

Laurila: Does it take gumption to throw 90-mph fastballs up in the zone?

Bundy: “No, because if I go in, it’s always… I like to pitch up-and-in a lot. You just have to read the hitter’s swings. I’ve always said the hitters will let you know how good your stuff is. If they’re hitting it all over the yard, you might want to change something. If they’re not hitting it, then keep doing it.”

Laurila: You’ve probably been asked this 100 times already this spring, but why were you so successful last year? You were a year older, and a year wiser, but was it that simple?

Bundy: “It’s not like I purposely said, ‘I’m going to throw 48% fastballs, 37% sliders.’ It’s not like I did anything like that. I just felt like throwing the curveball a little bit more, mainly because I had a better feel for it. If you can get an early strike with a curveball, and then your real strikeout weapons are your fastball, slider, and changeup… I mean, you’ve got three weapons that you haven’t even shown the hitter yet, and he’s already down 0-1.”

Laurila: If I ever become a pitching coach at the youth level, one of the first things I’ll do is show kids the numbers on what hitters do in advantage, and disadvantage, counts. As simple as it sounds, getting ahead is crucial.

Bundy: “It is very simple. But then again, sometimes it’s so hard to do.”

Laurila: How much of last year’s success was due to better sequencing? Looking at your pitch profiles, the velocity and movement weren’t any better than they were in 2019.

Bundy: “You know, between sequencing and controlling the count, getting ahead in the count the majority of the time… and then maybe it was being in a new division. Those guys haven’t seen me as much as, say, the AL East guys have seen me. Maybe. I mean, I’ve faced all those teams before, but in your division, sometimes you’ll face one team five or six times. That’s a lot.”

Laurila: Did you sequence any differently last year?

Bundy: “I wouldn’t say it was anything out of the box. I wouldn’t say I did anything totally different than what I’ve done before.”

Laurila: As much as anything, it sounds like you commanded the ball better, and threw a few more curveballs early in the count.

Bundy: “Yeah, I’d say that’s probably what it boils down to. Maybe I was throwing more strikes with the off-speed stuff than I have in years past. That gets you ahead, and like we’ve talked about, if you’re ahead in the count, usually you’ll have good results.”

Laurila: Do you think changing teams had much of an impact?

Bundy: “I do feel like it was kind of a fresh start. When you go to a new team and no one really knows you — the players, the coaching and training staffs, the front office — you don’t want to not do good. You want to impress all those people who don’t know you very well. If you’re in the same organization, or on the same team, you might get a little… it might get a little monotonous, I guess. You kind of just go through the motions, because you’ve seen those guys and are more comfortable. Not being comfortable is when you can really surprise yourself, I think.”

Laurila: That said, could you have been just as good in Baltimore last year as you were in Anaheim?

Bundy: “That’s a bunch of what-ifs. You never know.”





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Josh
2 years ago

I really enjoyed this! Didn’t know any of that about Bundy and, as a mostly fantasy baseball fan at this point, I really never would have looked further into his career. Articles like this are appreciated.