JR Bunda Named Reliever of the Year
League Leader in Saves, Wins Becomes Second Pacifics Pitcher to Earn Honor
San Rafael, CA -
After struggling through the first week of the 2016 season, converting only one save in his first four chances, Pacifics closer JR Bunda persevered and turned his season into one of the most dominant campaigns by a reliever in league history. Accordingly, the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs announced today that Bunda has been named the 2016 Pacific Association Reliever of the Year.
Bunda, who was in his second season with the Pacifics in 2016, was traded to the Lincoln Saltdogs (Independent, American Association) at the beginning of August, becoming the fifth Pacifics player to earn a promotion this year. Despite missing nearly a third of the season following his promotion, he finished the year as the leader in saves (11) and was tied for the league lead in victories (8).
“I’m incredibly blessed to have received this award from the league,” said Bunda. “This season was a great opportunity for me in so many ways. It was a pleasure to come to the field every day to work for the Pacifics. Thank you to all the staff members, coaches, and teammates for making this season and my whole experience in the Pacific Association a fun, learning, and memorable one."
Bunda’s professional career has been anything but a linear progression. After suffering a from a sudden cardiac arrest while in college at the University of Portland, Bunda fell into a coma for two days before he could be fully resuscitated. Upon awakening, some doctors told him that he might never play baseball again. But through hard work and dedication, Bunda continued to fight for his dream of playing pro baseball and signed with the Pacifics as a late-season call-up in 2015 to bolster the starting rotation.
During the coming winter, he started game one of the World Baseball Classic qualifying round for the Philippines. Bunda followed that up by going 8-2 with 11 saves, a 2.18 ERA, and 38 strikeouts in 33 innings with the Pacifics in 2016. All while holding opposing batters to a paltry .214 batting average and a .289 slugging percentage. From June 14 to July 22, Bunda did not allow an earned run (a span of 14 games and 18 innings), and he did not allow a run over his final eight outings.
“The Pacifics have been very fortunate with closers over the history of our franchise, and JR was no exception,” said Pacifics President and General Manager Mike Shapiro. “When he was called on for a save down the stretch, you would get the feeling that the game was, in effect, over. We’re very proud of what he was able to accomplish at this level and in the American Association, and fully believe in his ability to continue to progress through the professional ranks.”
Bunda becomes the second Pacifics player to win the Reliever of the Year award, joining former closer Colin Allen, who won in 2014. This is Bunda’s second award for the 2016 season: he was named the Defensive Player of the Year among pitchers last Monday.
The Pacific Association voting was comprised of league front office personnel, managers, coaches, and broadcasters. The league will announce additional awards, including the prestigious Most Valuable Player and Pitcher of the Year awards over the coming weeks according to the following schedule:
Manager of the Year: Wednesday, November 2
Pitcher of the Year: Monday, November 7
Most Valuable Player: Wednesday, November 9