Bonderman's claim to fame, early in his career, was the famous "chair-throwing" of Billy Beane. Open your textbooks (Moneyball) to page 8 or so (I actually do not own a copy of that book; I own Liar's Poker and I have read Moneyball a few times, but I do not have a copy of Moneyball). But Bonderman has also been carving his own niche as the Tigers' ace, and he's still only 22 and will be for the rest of the year.
Bonderman has ended up being the gem of the three-way deal between the Tigers, Yankees, and A's, as discussed by Marc earlier in the week.
There are a lot of very good young pitchers out there, and Bonderman might be at the head of the class. Look at Rich Harden, Jake Peavy, Zach Greinke, Josh Beckett, Ben Sheets, Brett Myers, and the youngsters are really coming through (King Felix is next, of course).
Bonderman was a high school kid, and in the stathead world, the high school pitcher remains the lowest probability pick. Most of the time, the probabilities play out. I can't fault Beane for parting with Bonderman; Lilly was an essential piece in their 2002 run, and Jason Arnold and John-Ford Griffin were both very highly-rated prospects (and were used to bring in Erubiel Durazo), Beane's "white whale," as described by Baseball Prospectus.
Bonderman's career path is an extremely rare one these days:
- He started pitching in A-Modesto, for the A's. He pitched 144.7 innings.
- He was the PTBNL in the 3-way deal. He pitched 12 innings in A-Lakeland for the Tigers.
- He pitched for the big league club in 2003.
- He has not seen the minors since.
The 2003 Tigers were not your everyday ballclub, though. They were convinced in Bonderman's abilities and named him the #2 starter. I'm sure that this had something to do with the fact that they won only 43 games, but Bonderman was in.
Bonderman's debut was against the Twinkies, and he was hit hard. He threw 4 innings, giving up 9 hits, 6 runs, a longball, a walk, and did manage to get 5 Ks. The growing pains continued into his next start against the Royals, and the Twins hit him hard the next game. The 20 year old was getting a trial by fire.
His fourth start against the A's was a masterful performance, showcasing his talent. He threw 8 innings, giving up 3 hits and a run, with no walks and 5 strikeouts.
That was Bonderman's best start for the rest of the season. He put up a very inconsistent year, reflected by his 5.56 ERA.
Positives abound, though, especially from a 20-year old:
- He walked only 3.2 per 9. Excellent control from the youngster, which showed an unexpected level of maturity.
- The FIP was 4.79, so his defense might have hurt him a bit.
- BABIP of .310. It wasn't like he was getting too lucky, and he held his own, considering his age.
- The Tigers were careful with his pitch counts. He averaged 86 pitches per start, and he only topped 100 pitches 6 times out of 28 starts. His highest total was 118.
A: 94 IP, 97 H, 63 R, 14 HR, 45 BB, 83 K, 6.03 ERA
B: 90 IP, 71 H, 38 R, 10 HR, 28 BB, 85 K, 3.70 ERA
Bonderman improved from start to start. That's the first half/second half split, and his September was even more promising:
42.2 IP, 31 H, 12 R, 2 HR, 14 BB, 42 K, 2.53 ERA
It looked like (and still does) that Bonderman's development was altered by his rise to the majors, but Bonderman was just coming into his own right when he'd have been expected to have arrived, on a normal trek through the minors.
The early results from Bonderman, in 2005, have been outstanding. While his K/9 is down, that's largely of product of his more effective pitching; his K/PA has actually risen a bit, to .220, going into tonight's contest against the Angels (he's pitched exceptionally well, as of now). His control has also been impeccable. Through 7 innings tonight, Bonderman has his BB/9 down to 2.19.
We'll never know what would have happened if Bonderman hung around in the minors for another year. But the 22-year old ace has already notched 21 major league wins and is only getting better.
I'm sold on Jeremy Bonderman.
So I wrote this as a prelude to another poll question I've pondered. The next generation of 200 game winners. Is that figure still attainable? There are a LOT of good young pitchers in baseball. I've selected as many as can fit in a poll here (click "Entry Link" to access the poll). The question is: which pitcher do you think is most likely to win 200 games in his career? If you select other, please comment. I've made the choices guys who haven't won that many yet, so I'm not talking about older guys. Post them, too, though, if you think they can.