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Analyzing how the Orioles' Dylan Bundy bounces back after uncharacteristic fastball velocity dips

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Dylan Bundy has had some wide swings in his velocity during his three-plus seasons as a major league starter. What matters more for the Orioles right-hander is whether he's able to bounce back the following start.

Often in his career, Bundy has bounced back, which will add a little more intrigue to his start Friday at Cleveland. If it was one off night, it will be evident in his fastball velocity all game long. If not, Bundy might be in one of his mini-funks that have frustrated the Orioles for years.

For Bundy, whose career-low 89.8 mph average fastball velocity raised red flags Saturday, the ensuing week of work has been the same as any other, manager Brandon Hyde said.

"He's on the same routine he normally is," Hyde said. "I just think he fatigued a little bit there in that outing, for whatever reason. It feels like nothing happened."

Bundy, too, insists there's nothing amiss. It's a matter of percentage points. Saturday was the ninth start in which Bundy's average fastball velocity — four-seam and two-seam combined — has been below 91 mph, according to MLB's Statcast data from Baseball-Savant.com. In the previous eight, there's little consistency in how he followed them up.

Some games count both as him following up a low-velocity outing and as one itself. For instance, his May 8, 2018 start in which Bundy allowed four home runs to the Kansas City Royals without recording an out came after another poor outing on the velocity front. Several of the dates also come this year, when his velocity has been lower than ever.

But if it's a one-off velocity dip — the type of bad day that any pitcher can have — then Bundy is usually pretty emphatic in showing that he's back to his old self. After his previous low average of 89.9 mph on April 26, 2017 against the Tampa Bay Rays, still a quality start with 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball, Bundy increased his average fastball velocity to 91.6 mph with seven, two-run innings against the Boston Red Sox on May 1.

After that fateful start against the Royals — which came in a two-game stretch where Bundy allowed seven home runs as he dealt with a minor groin issue — Bundy elevated his average fastball velocity from 90.5 mph to 91.7 mph in striking out seven in seven innings of shutout ball on May 13 against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Those represent two of his biggest velocity jumps after he was down the previous outing. But they are indicative of the kind of starts that typically follow them if there's not something else at play. After he averaged 90.6 mph last Sept. 7 against the Rays and allowed six earned runs on two home runs in four innings, the next time out against the Oakland Athletics, he struck out eight without a walk in six innings of two-run ball.

What's unclear is how to regard this season. Including Saturday's start that garnered so much attention, Bundy has four of his nine starts with an average fastball velocity under 91 mph. That's half of his eight starts.

His highest of the season, his 91.8 mph average on April 28 against the Minnesota Twins, came on six days rest. He got five days rest the next time out and averaged 91.3 mph before getting six days again for Saturday's fateful outing.

With an extra day before Friday’s start due to this week’s rainouts in New York, the benefit of those extra days will be tested in significant circumstances.

jmeoli@baltsun.com

twitter.com/JonMeoli

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