I’ve received a few comments regarding my “Plan for the 2017 Orioles” over at Eutaw Street Report. The move that fans have questioned the most is my plan to put Dylan Bundy in the bullpen, where he started 2016, instead of in the rotation where he finished the season.
After all the hype Bundy has received over his career, I can see why fans would be quite surprised to see him listed in the bullpen. After all, when he was drafted in 2011, the expectation was that he would be a dominant top-of-the-rotation starter and likely the Orioles’ ace. After years of injuries and making the Orioles’ roster in the bullpen simply because he was out of options, Bundy was finally able to crack the rotation after the All-Star break in July.
So why move him back into the bullpen?
The answer is pretty simple – his health.
The reason Bundy had to have Tommy John surgery in 2013 in the first place is because of his mechanics and as Chris O’Leary has pointed out, if he’s placed in the rotation, he will likely suffer another serious injury.
O’Leary, currently a MLB, minor league and college swing coach, and the hitting and pitching coordinator for Harris-Stowe State University, has devoted part of his career to analyzing and identifying the root causes of pitching injuries that are becoming more rampant at all levels of baseball.
He makes this following disclaimer on his website:
I am not a doctor or healthcare professional and have no formal medical training. However, I have spent the past four years immersing myself in the physiology and kinesiology of pitching. In that time I have read literally every medical journal article that I can get my hands on (amounting to hundreds of articles). I have also done extensive research into the physiology of other overhead throwing sports like cricket, water polo, javelin, and handball.
Even though he’s not a doctor or a healthcare professional, he’s been pretty accurate when it comes to predictions of pitching injuries in MLB.
You can take a look at his correct predictions titled “The List.”
O’Leary has pointed out mechanical flaws in numerous pitchers looking at still images of their deliveries, so it’s safe to say with his track record, if a guy is on his radar it’s not good news.
Read what he had to say about Dylan Bundy below:
In the picture above of Dylan Bundy, notice how his front foot is down, and his shoulders are starting to turn, but his pitching arm isn’t UP.
Instead, it’s FLAT.
That is overloading his arm, which likely gave him a velocity boost. However, it’s the equivalent of running a car engine past the red line for an extended period of time.
For a while.
Flat Arm Syndrome is what got Dylan Bundy’s elbow and it will get his shoulder next.
Bundy is essentially a ticking time bomb with Flat Arm Syndrome. To ask and expect Bundy to completely re-work his delivery and keep the same effectiveness however is unrealistic. Therefore the Orioles need to minimize the chances for an injury to occur by not having him pitch as much and for as long and the bullpen is where he can do just that.
Every time he throws 5 to 6 innings instead of 1 to 2, his risk of injury rises. Intensity, frequency and duration – those are the factors in any repetitive stress injury.
While we would all like Dylan Bundy to be the Orioles’ future ace, I think we would rather see him have a long, effective career in an Orioles’ uniform. That’s simply less likely to happen if the Orioles put him in the rotation.
Bundy isn’t the only Orioles’ pitching prospect to be concerned about. Hunter Harvey, who also recently had Tommy John surgery also has a mechanical defect pointed by O’Leary:
Hunter Harvey's pitching mechanics. Quite a timing problem. pic.twitter.com/a2TuBIjwLx
— Chris O'Leary (@thepainguy) May 13, 2015
Harvey’s problem of premature pronation is discussed by O’Leary here.
Like Bundy, Harvey’s best bet is probably the bullpen in order to stay healthy.
I also asked O’Leary on Twitter what he thought of the Orioles’ 2016 1st round draft pick Cody Sedlock:
— Chris O'Leary (@thepainguy) December 23, 2016
TOS stands for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome which was Matt Harvey’s injury.
That’s not good, so there’s another likely bullpen arm.
So why do the Orioles keep drafting these pitchers with flawed and dangerous mechanics? Well the question to ask is – why do these pitchers keep getting drafted by any MLB team? And better yet, why are these pitchers continuing to use these unhealthy mechanics in spite of their success with them if they continue to cause injuries?
The answer is that this is how players are coached starting when they are young because respected institutes like the Mayo Clinic are advocating for the very same mechanics that are causing the problems.
In the meantime, all we can do is hope baseball and the Orioles especially wise up to the root cause of all the pitching injuries that Chris O’Leary has pointed out, and minimize the chances for them to occur. That means new mechanics for some pitchers, and reducing innings for others.
For the Orioles, that starts by putting Dylan Bundy in the bullpen in 2017.
Top image: CC Image courtesy of Keith Allison on Flickr