Early this season Dylan Bundy came out firing. He allowed just a single run through his first 15 1/3 innings this season and posted a dazzling 0.59 ERA. Then came two starts in which he allowed six and nine runs before going on the Covid list. Maybe you could chalk up the performance to effects from the virus, but things haven’t gotten better.
Blasted by the Blue Jays in his latest outing, Bundy owns a 5.29 ERA with a 5.44 FIP over his last four starts. If you want to include the two complete blowups prior to that streak, it’s an 8.44 ERA giving up 26 runs in his last 26 2/3 innings. Any way you cut it, and if you could cut it in a positive way I’d love to see it, the results are ugly.
What’s problematic for both Bundy and the Twins is that there simply may be no end in sight. Bundy is not a velocity pitcher anymore by any means, and his velocity against Toronto was actually the high point of his season.
The stuff simply isn’t playing in any juncture. The chase rate against Toronto was the lowest he’s generated in any game this season, and his zone contact rates the past five games are all at 85% or high with two being at exactly 100%. He’s throwing some of the least amount of first pitch strikes on the season and he’s generating whiffs less as the season goes on.
The flip side is what’s being done to the balls put in play. Bundy’s allowing an ever-increasing hard hit rate, and has been over 42% in three of his last five starts after being below 30% in each of his first four starts, with three of them being at 20% or below.
Rocco Baldelli and Wes Johnson find themselves in somewhat of a pickle at the moment though. Bundy is healthy and that’s more than can be said for a host of Twins arms. With Sonny Gray on the injured list, Chris Paddack done for the year, and an ever-evolving door of who hits the skids next, it’s tough to put down available starting arms.
The emergence of Devin Smeltzer has been a significant positive for the Twins, but more depth hasn’t really taken shape yet on the farm. Cole Sands has come up and been hit around, while Jordan Balazovic looks out of sorts at Triple-A. Maybe the tides turn as the season goes on, but the refrain right now has to be about going to battle with the guys you have.
A $5 million deal is hardly a glowing endorsement of Bundy’s expectations or future prognosis in Minnesota. It isn’t negligible as a whole though, and he’ll be given ample opportunity to work through things as long as the Twins remain in the driver’s seat of the division. It’s becoming more clear though, that Bundy is tough to trust any time you run him out there, even if alternative options are not present.
How long of a leash should Bundy have at this point? If you’re replacing him, where are you turning to do so?