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Scouting Pitchers: Jeremy Bonderman

James Benkard

James Benkard writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Statistics as of 4/15/08

As we continue to scout the pitching world, we turn now to a 25-year-old veteran. Bonderman has been in the Tigers' rotation since he was a 20-year-old rookie in 2003. He progressed steadily after a shaky rookie season and Detroit inked him to a four-year, $38 million extension after a good 2006 season (14-8, 4.08, 202 strikeouts). Elbow pain limited him in 2007, but he did not require surgery.

I scout these pitchers personally, recording their velocity, pitch selection and motions by watching their games. Please feel free to post your comments below on these columns. I use the standard 20-80 scouting scale to rate pitchers. These velocities are suggestive and not determinant of a pitch's rating. For example, a 75 MPH curveball might rank as a 60 because of its movement and/or deception.

80 Outstanding (96+ MPH fastball, 88+ MPH slider, 82 MPH curveball)
70 Well above average (94-95 FB, 86-87 MPH SL, 80-81 MPH CB)
60 Above average (92-93 MPH FB, 84-85 MPH SL, 78-79 MPH CB)
50 Average (89-91 MPH FB, 82-84 MPH SL, 75-77 MPH CB)
40 Below average (86-88 MPH FB, 79-81 MPH SL, 73-75 MPH CB)
30 Well below average (83-85 MPH FB, 76-78 MPH SL, 71-72 MPH CB)
20 Poor (80-82 MPH FB, 71-75 MPH SL, 69-70 MPH CB)

Oakland took Bonderman with a first-round pick of the 2001 draft and then traded him a year later with Carlos Pena to Detroit in the Ted Lilly deal. Bonderman then became that rare pitcher drafted out of high school who stuck in the majors after just one year as a pro. In recent memory, only Dwight Gooden, who stuck at age 19, made it sooner. Kerry Wood was also 20 years old during his rookie season in 1998.

The Tigers stuck with Bonderman through his rough rookie year in 2003 (6-19, 5.56) and first half in 2004 (6-6, 6.03). He posted a 3.70 ERA in the second half of 2004 and then won 11 games in the first half of 2005. Bonderman also pitched well in the first half of 2006 (8-4, 3.46) and 2007 (9-1, 3.48). These poor second-half numbers suggest his shoulder may have been bothering him before 2007, when the Tigers shut him down after he gave up six runs in 1 1/3 innings on September 9th.

Jeremy Bonderman: (G/F 1.93)
		Rating:  %Thrown:
Fastball	60		60
Curveball	N/A
Slider		55		35
Changeup	50		5
Control	50
Delivery	50
Composure	60

Bonderman may need to remake himself from a power pitcher to a sinker/slider type. In his first few years, he had a 93-95 MPH fastball and an 85-86 MPH slider. Bonderman now throws a two-seam fastball at 88-91 MPH and will touch 92, and his slider is 82-85 MPH. It's possible but not likely he'll recover that velocity. Bonderman has good sink on his fastball and still pitches inside effectively to right-handed hitters, but with his reduced velocity he has less margin for error. Left-handers have hit .281 off him in his career, with right-handers at .253.

Bonderman lacks an effective third pitch. He doesn't appear to trust his 83-85 MPH changeup, throwing just 5-8 per game and coming over the plate. This wasn't that big a problem when Bonderman threw harder, but if he doesn't recover his velocity, more changeups would keep left-handed hitters guessing. Bonderman has improved his control of his slider, which some call a slurve. He can break it down and away from a righthander or give it the top-to-bottom action of a curveball. Bonderman can strike hitters out by varying the placement of his slider, as he has no problems throwing it for strikes. He gets a lot of swings-and-misses by burying his two-seamer low in the zone.

Bonderman's delivery is quick but requires some maintenance, and he goes through periods when he battles his control. He appears to pay too much attention to baserunners. Throwing over to first constantly seems to take him out of his rhythm. Bonderman appears focused and intense on the mound, but sometimes lets fielding mistakes fluster him.

Bonderman has raised his G/F ratio this year, and will need to keep that up to stay a 200-inning workhorse. Assuming he won't throw 95 MPH any more, he has the moxie to succeed as a groundball pitcher. Obviously the Tigers offense will help him win in the short term as long as he pitches decently. Working his changeup into his game more would help Bonderman be an elite pitcher again.


Radar Love:

More early-season fastball readings:

98: Joba Chamberlain on April 10 before going on the bereavement list.
91-95: Edwin Jackson against the Yankees on April 15.
89-92: Randy Johnson during his first start on April 14.
87-90: Brett Myers during his first win of the year on April 11.
82-83: Joe Borowski on April 14 before going on the DL.

Next week: NL Central: Aaron Harang


Article first appeared 4/17/08