Sunday, September 18, 2005

A Tale of Two Halves: The Jeremy Bonderman Story
By Ben Valentine

If I could pick one player to represent my fantasy baseball team this year, Jeremy Bonderman would be the man.

The 22 year old Tigers righty started out great, nearly making the All-Star team. He was the prize pick of my pitching staff on a fantasy team that sat in first place for the first two months of the season. Then for some reason, it all went to hell faster than you could blink after the All Star break. My team is now languishing somewhere between mediocrity and trash, while Bonderman has been stuck battling himself and elbow problems. Naturally the latter warrants concern and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him end up needing dreaded Tommy John surgery. (Seriously, doesn’t it seem like every pitcher needs this at some point?) But we’ll hold up on that for now, since the Tigers expect him back next week. Instead let’s focus on what happened to him in the second half of the season:

Pre All-Star: 11-5, 3.99 ERA, 121.2 IP, 117 H, 34 BB, 93 Ks, 14 Hrs, 1.24 WHIP, .252 Opp BA, 6.88 K/9, 2.74 K/BB, 1.04 Hrs/9, 2.51 BB/9

Post All-Star: 3-7, 5.03 ERA, 62.2 IP, 71 H, 23 BB, 49 Ks, 6 Hrs, 1.50 WHIP, .289 Opp BA, 7.07 K/9, 2.13 K/BB, .86 Hrs/9, 3.30 BB/9

What is peculiar is that it appears Bonderman has suddenly his control. He is walking batters more. We saw what that can do to a pitcher when we looked at Zack Greinke. Granted he’s got better stuff than Greinke, but he’s also walking more hitters. He’s given up more hits, which suggest he’s been a bit unlucky, especially since his strikeout numbers indicate batters are putting the ball in play against him a little less than they were before. But why the sudden increase in walks? Could it be the elbow injury? One would figure if his elbow were bothering him, his K totals would be affected too. Secondly, he's been up and down, rather than consistently bad. So let’s probe a little deeper and take a look at last year compared with this year in its entirety.

Bonderman 2004: 11-13, 4.89 ERA, 184 IP, 168 H, 73 BB, 168 Ks, 24 Hrs, 1.31 WHIP, .242 Opp BA, 8.22 K/9, 2.30 K/BB, 1.17 Hr/9, 1.44 G/F, 3.57 BB/9

Bonderman 2005: 14-12, 4.35 ERA, 184.1 IP, 188 H, 57 BB, 142 Ks, 20 Hrs, 1.33 WHIP, .263 Opp BA, 6.93 K/9, 2.49 K/BB, .98 Hrs/9, 1.54 G/F, 2.78 BB/9

Well a couple of things jumped out at me. First off, his 2005 is actually shaping up a lot like his 2004, just in reverse. (Bonderman had a great second half last season) Second, his strikeout numbers are down substantially from last year. That could be explained in the first half by a drop in his walks, since many pitchers trade strikeouts for better control. Interestingly his walk rate last year was 3.57 BB/9. That’s close to what he’s done in the second half of this season. Unfortunately, his strikeout numbers haven’t followed that increase. It’s possible that’s because he’s tired; he’s already thrown more innings this year than ever has. Or he’s just a young pitcher who’s taken a small step back.

My best guess is that this is just Bonderman being an inconsistent young pitcher. The elbow injury warrants concern, as all elbow problems do, but I don’t think that’s what affecting him. Because his second half walk rate so closely resembles last year’s, I’d just say he’s going through a period where he’s struggling with control, coupled with some hard luck. Now they could be somewhat related in that if he’s falling behind hitters more, they’re probably getting better swings against him. Unfortunately for Bonderman, all of that is going to translate into some ugly stats. However, as long as that elbow isn’t a problem, there’s no reason Bonderman can’t turn it back around next year, especially if he can get those strikeout numbers up into the mid 7.00’s again. He is, after all, just 22 and his stuff is electric. (I still have visions of a pitch he threw earlier this year against Jorge Posada. All I could say was, “wow”.)

Well originally I had just planned to do Greinke and Bonderman. But two people asked me about yet another young pitcher and their wishes shall be granted. Tomorrow, we move on to the NL Central to look at the guy who is quite possibly baseball’s biggest disappointment this year.


Blogger RotoAuthority said...

I felt the same way about Bonderman for this year and I thought he was going to break out. I didn't end up getting him, but I wanted him on my team. You're probably right, he's wearing out and going through growing pains.

Maybe every pitcher should just automatically get TJ surgery after high school? Haha, that would be crazy.

10:11 PM  

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