"He may yet be considered untouchable by the Tigers. But he will become a free agent at the end of 2008. He has also shown some fourth-year inconsistency that might be troubling to the Tigers, typified by last week’s loss at New York in less-than-inspiring fashion. Bonderman would, theoretically, be the kind of pitcher who could draw a heavy return. Conceivably, the Tigers could land a power first baseman, as well as an infield position prospect or two — the kind of players they need in a minor league system where pitchers outnumber by a good margin the hitters being developed."
Bonderman, if he stays on course, is due for a massive payday after the above-mentioned 2008 season. At that point, he’ll have just turned 26. It’s a rarity to enter free agency at such a young age, but the Tigers brought this upon themselves. Dave Dombrowski chose to promote Bonderman in 2003 with no experience above A ball. I guess they really needed him to take part in the 119 loss season. Bonderman came over the previous year with Carlos Pena as part of the Ted Lilly deal.
Despite concerns about his "inconsistency," it’s hard to view 2006 as anything but progress for Bonderman. He’s on pace to set career bests in innings, strikeout rate, walk rate, and home runs allowed. He’s thrown quality starts 57% of the time, on par with teammates Kenny Rogers and Nate Robertson.
On the surface, though, Bonderman’s more mainstream stats haven’t been good enough to win over the media. His 4.01 ERA is nothing special. Then again, his component ERA comes out to 3.43. Component ERA is a Bill James invention that estimates what an ERA should be based on peripheral stats like hits, walks, and home runs allowed. It predicts next year’s ERA better than the actual. Other unappreciated unlucky hurlers based on this stat include Jake Peavy, Matt Cain, and Dave Bush.
I imagine Bonderman’s eleven wins are the other reason he’s flown under the radar. Based on Expected Wins, he should have twelve. Teammates Kenny Rogers, currently with 15 wins, also should have twelve based on the way he’s pitched. If Bonderman had a 3.43 ERA and 15 wins, he’d be looked at a bit differently right now.
It’ll be interesting to see if the perception of Bonderman results in a deal this winter. He’ll be 24 entering next season, and keeps getting better. He’d be a coveted commodity on the level of Josh Beckett, and perhaps even more highly regarded. The bounty could be huge…Miguel Cabrera huge if the Marlins want to go that way.