Every weekday between now and mid-November, we'll be looking closer at a Tigers player. For more information on the series, including a schedule, please check this post out.
Jeremy Bonderman has not had an easy time of it the past few years. During 2006, there were questions whether the Tigers would even want to hang on to him after the season. A few well-pitched games in the postseason put an end to any of those ideas, and he signed an extension a few months after the World Series. In 2007, he tried to pitch through pain in the second half of the season, which damaged his team's chances to make the postseason and did his arm no favors. In 2008, he suffered through what he thought was a dead arm, until he found out he actually had a blood clot forming that required season-ending surgery. Soon after, a rib was removed, too. That left 2009 more-or-less a lost year as he tried to work his way up to the major leagues.
And then we have 2010.
Bonderman was clearly not the pitcher fans remember him being before the arm troubles arose. His fastball lacked for velocity and went from being one of his plus-pitches to a negative one. His slider didn't make up for it. Poor results followed, as he put up the worst strikeout rate of his career--ignoring for a moment the 10.1 innings he pitched in 2009.
In every way, Bonderman was a letdown. The Tigers will not seek to sign him to another deal, unless it's of the minor league variety. During a frustrating point in the season he even spoke of retirement. What a sad ending to his Tigers career.
As I mentioned in the introduction, Bonderman's fastball was awful.
His slider--once valued as one of the top pitches in baseball--remained above average but not greatly so. The result was a swinging strike rate that fell to just 7.7 percent from a career-high of 11.7 in 2006.
What 2010 tells us about 2011:
Looking at the indicators, Bonderman actually did get unlucky in 2010. While his batting average on balls in play was about normal, his Fielding Independent stats showed that you would have expected his ERA to be at least half a run per game better, possibly better. His FIP was 4.90, and his home-run adjusted xFIP was 4.74.
Sure, those aren't great numbers, but they paint a better picture.
Whether Bonderman is able show improvements in both stats next season is questionable. He is after all just 28 years old. Another offseason between him and the surgery could help get more of the strength back in the arm.
However, expecting Bonderman to ever resemble the pitcher he was before the surgery seems unreasonable.
I used Baseball Reference and Fangraphs.