Thursday, September 20, 2012

Birdland Bulletin: Bundyball

I instantly popped a broner when the wheels of Flight 49 touched down in Seattle.  Following the Orioles 18 inning victory over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night, the Birds’ brass decided the time was now to call up 19-year-old phenom Dylan Bundy.  You’ve heard of him right? The kid whose fastball makes Helio Castroneves’s car look like an old guy driving a Buick on 495. The kid whose curveball breaks more than Jennifer Aniston’s heart.  This decision has been met with a ton of excitement and a ton of question marks.  Both are valid, but let’s temper everything and look at the addition of Bundy in a rational light, or at least as rationally as we can given how amazing this season has gone.

There are more than a few tenants in Birdland who fear the Orioles are making a knee jerk reaction and rushing the prized prospect to the big leagues.  This is a pessimistic view that fans cannot be blamed for. In fact it has been cemented by the development of arms past such as Adam Loewen, Matt Riley, and Hayden Penn.  These are the same fans who have watched “The Cavalry” go back and forth from Norfolk to Baltimore more times than the conductors of the Underground Railroad.  We’ve been burned before by top pitching prospects who are filled with promise, but run on empty in the results category.  Being skeptical of Bundy’s early promotion is valid and well-founded by years of tumult within our farm system, but fear not and BUCKle up.

The Orioles starting rotation looks like it was put together by Macgvyer with all of the random parts that make it up.  However, this rag tag group of castoffs and late-blooming prospects has held up their end of the bargain and handled their business.  However, due to the lack of star power in the rotation there are those who expect Dylan Bundy to join the rotation and start throwing no-hitters left and right.  That’s not going to happen this year, but he will probably have like 9 no hitters by this time next year.  Sorry, sorry, I promised I would be rational, but for those of you who have read my Birdland Bulletins before you know I have a harder time being rationale about my Birds, than Lindsey Lohan does staying off the police scanner.

Both sides of the argument are well founded, and have major validity. There are those who feel that Bundy is being rushed and is nowhere ready, and those who feel that he will throw no-hitters and cure cancer during his off days.  Fear not Birdland, there is a happy medium between these two extremes and it’s right in front of us and all you have to do is just continue to believe in what the Orioles are building.

For starters, this is Bundy’s first professional season therefore he will not be thrust right into the rotation and counted on to hurl quality starts down the stretch run. Even though he made Minor Leaguers look like children, there is a major jump between hitters in AA and the big leaguers who never miss mistake pitches.  Bundy compiled an impressive 9-3 record with a 2.08 ERA over three levels of the Minor Leagues, but he is not ready to join a big league rotation. The Orioles set a much less media-raped innings limit for Bundy at the start of the season at 130.  He's has already thrown 103 2/3 which means starting in the big leagues down the stretch is not inconceivable, just highly unlikely. 

He is 19, he’s just a pup, and even though his fastball could start more fires than Bear Grylls’s trusty flint, he still has a lot to work on.  Over his stops through the farm system Bundy has shown an inability to consistently stay down in the zone, which he can get away with in Low-A and High-A ball because the hitters are not as advanced.  We saw him get a touched up a little more in Double-A, and if he were to pitch up in the zone in the Majors, his pitches would need drop-down oxygen bags and a flight attendant.  His curveball is an absolute yacker, but he still needs to develop his command of it; remember he’s only 19 years old.  To be a major league starting pitcher you need to have atleast three quality pitches, and ideally a fourth pitch.  Bundy is still developing a feel for his work-in-progress changeup and his cutter.  When ready, his cutter will break explode bats. 

Buck Showalter is the main reason why I believe in this promotion and trust that Bundy will be treated properly. Buck has a knack for knowing his players and putting them in the best position to succeed. He has done it all year with a variety of players (50 to be exact) and there is no reason to believe it will be any different with Dylan Bundy. 

Since Bundy already has two major league pitches, he is better suited to be a reliever in 2012.  Obviously, his career path projects to the top of the rotation, but as of right now there is no question he can sneak up on some big leaguers and get a couple of quick outs for an amazingly effective yet overly-taxed bullpen.  Essentially, he is an extra arm in a bullpen who could use a breather.  A long-relief role suits his stamina, but don’t be surprised if we start to see his power arm featured to help get some of the final 9 outs in a baseball game.  His stuff is raw, but he could get a guy out here or there in a pinch.

Based on the way this Orioles season has gone, it is very hard to look at Dylan Bundy’s promotion in a rational manner.  The Orioles have not finished with a winning record since 1997, their ace Jason Hammel, has a knee less sturdy than Tiger Woods’ wedding vows, their leadoff man and franchise building block Nick Markakis, is out until the ALCS (see what I did there?), their run differential is -10(which is dropping faster than Mitt Romney's approval rating), and they have contributors who they scooped out of Independent ball (Lewwwwww), the Mexican League (Gonzo), and other castoffs who just needed some love (O'Day, McClouth).  My point being irrationality is what our beloved Birds are thriving on right now, and baseball fans can’t jump on our bandwagon fast enough.  It’s been a fun surprising team all summer and now into the fall, and all we can do is continue to believe in the process. BUCKle Up!

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