What is going on in Jeremy Bonderman's mind?


photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Seriously. The need for some kind of intervention grows daily.

We won today, because the offense was on (or, more precisely, because the offense was facing Horacio Ramirez), and because we got some ridiculously good catches from Craig and Magglio in the last inning. And Bondo was good, damn good… except for the first inning. AGAIN.

At this point it’s got to be some deranged sort of self-fulfilling prophesy, right? Bondo always does poorly in the first inning, so Bondo expects to do poorly in the first inning, so Bondo DOES do poorly in the first inning, so Bondo more strongly expects to do poorly, so on and so forth until the whole thing reaches an event horizon of first inning awfulness, and Bondo throws a pitch that opens up a rift in the spacetime continuum and the universe is obliterated.

Now, I know that one of the things separating a professional athlete from the rest of us rabble is the ability to NOT get stuck in that kind of self-fulfilling prophecy on a regular basis, but this is becoming so predictable that you HAVE to assume it’s in Bondo’s head. You just have to.

One of the previous times I addressed this, I recommended some sort of hypnosis, to make Bondo think he’s throwing the first inning when he’s really still warming up in the bullpen. I still think something along these lines must be done. It’s almost always only the first inning, and Bondo usually displays such dominance after that… well, you have to wonder what amazing sort of pitching creature he could be if those first innings could be stricken from the records.

(Someone can run the numbers… someone who doesn’t have to be conscious and moving at 5 am…)

(OK no, I lie, I am not quite so lazy that I can’t look up simple splits.)

Check this. In the first 3 innings of games so far this year, opponents are batting .329/.353/.451 against Bondo. In the 4th-6th innings, they’re batting .180/.219/.311. In the 7th-9th innings, they’re batting .200/.200/.267.

In the first inning alone, they bat .424/.441/.697.

What!!!

Is Bondo allergic to first innings? Is he first-inning-phobic? Did a first inning bully him when he was a small child? What is going on here?

Most pitchers do well the first time through the lineup, and find that their pitching drops off as the opposing batters see them again and again. With Bondo, he gets STRONGER after the first inning and if he didn’t waste so many pitches in that evil first inning that his arm’s shot, he almost always seems like he’s gunning to finish the game, completely ignoring how many times a batter gets to look at his stuff. (And if he’s not hurt… he had some kind of blister-related shenanigans goin’ on today that ultimately took him off the mound.)

Surely he’s getting sufficient warmup work. I mean, I should REALLY HOPE that by now someone has tried having him come to the ballpark to work out or run or long-toss or whatever an hour or two earlier than he normally would before one of his starts. That sounds very simple and very obvious and if the Tigers haven’t already tried this I will eat my own spleen, and then vomit it back up in anger.

Deep breaths. We won. It was a good game in many ways. I need to stop being so bloody pessimistic.

Oh, and Zoom’s out 12 weeks. Ruptured tendon requiring surgery. Pretty much exactly what I feared the most, and feared was the most likely. I hate when my vague predictions of Doom end up coming true.

5 responses to “What is going on in Jeremy Bonderman's mind?

  1. Little old me, some sortable stats and a spreadsheet are always a dangerous thing… I had some dim memory of an article from a mid-80’s Bill James Baseball Abstract regarding first innings, and how they tend to have higher ERA’s than all the others… Then I thought, why go from memory? Found where mlb.com has a split for “First Inning”, in which one can retrieve team-level stats… Fired up the spreadsheet, entered team-by-team ERA components (ER & IP, that is) of 1st innings, then also entered ER & IP overall for each team, then had the computer do the subtracting, not to mention figuring the ERAs. So, the results are:
    MLB-wide, 1st inning ERA’s are 4.81. Post-1st inning ERA’s are 4.04. That’s almost a 20% drop-off, league-wide. Bondo’s 15.43 (1st inning) vs. 2.13 (post-1st) is certainly extreme, but at the same time, he’s not alone.
    By the way, just for fun, the biggest offenders as a team are the White Sox (7.76 1st, 3.97 post-1st, difference of 4.26)… Biggest reverse belongs to the Blue Jays (1.97 1st, 5.13 post-1st, difference of 3.16), and the title of most consistent goes to the Twins (3.66 1st, 3.64 post-1st). Also, only 9 of the 30 teams have better ERA’s after the 1st inning than in the 1st. The other 21 have less extreme versions of “the Bondo problem”.

  2. One more item… The Tigers as a whole are at a 5.23 ERA in the 1st inning, 3.99 thereafter. Among Tigers not named Bonderman? 2.25 in the 1st, 4.11 thereafter. That 1st inning ERA (without Bonderman) would be the 4th-best behind Oakland, Toronto, and the LAA (or “the OC”, whichever you prefer).

  3. Jeff, you’re intense. I was hoping someone would poke around (someone not me, heh). I find it curious that hitters overall have an advantage in the first inning; I would have assumed the opposite… but it’s also comforting in a twisted way to see that our assessment of Bondo as a flaming pile of first inning FAIL is accurate. Sigh.

  4. […] pug mark 2 You know how I’ve been puzzling and sobbing uselessly over Bondo’s first inning struggles? Of course you do. We’ve all noticed it, and we’ve all been helplessly horrified by it. […]

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