Death to Bonderman First Innings


photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

I didn’t want to have reason to break out this graphic again, but, rather horribly, it fits perfectly, AGAIN, as Bondo was swatted square across the nose by the DREAD FIRST INNING for the squillionth time this season (very scientific counting, you see).

In the first inning, Bondo has a 12.00 ERA, as opposed to his 4.50 ERA overall. Of the 68 earned runs he’s given up so far this season, 28 have been in the first inning. That’s 41% of all the runs he’s given up this year. FORTY-ONE PERCENT.

If you think about the fact that a game is 9 innings, and that a starter could reasonably be expected to go 6-7 innings, you SHOULD have your starters averaging between 15-20% of their total runs given up per inning*. To compare, of the 52 earned runs Verlander has given up this season, 8 were in the first inning (15%). Of the 60 earned runs that Nate has given up, 15 were in the first inning (25%). Kenny had given up 4 first-inning earned runs out of 19 overall (21%).

Fifteen percent. Twenty-five percent. Twenty-one percent. Forty-one percent. One of these things is nnnoooottt like the others…

Approximately 80-85% of a pitcher’s earned runs should come after the first inning. Bondo is giving up 59% of his runs after the first inning.

Basically, Jeremy Bonderman’s first innings make him a statistical freak, a veritable monster, and not in an impressive eating-the-enemy kind of way. THIS IS NOT OK. Jeremy Bonderman is a GOOD PITCHER, catdammit, we KNOW this, and I AM NOT OK WITH THIS STATISTICAL FREAKERY.

“I don’t know,” [Pudge] Rodriguez said when asked what could be a reason. “Sometimes great pitchers in the game, they always have a tough first inning and then they recover and start to pitch their game. He’s a great pitcher and sometimes he gets tough balls, a couple bloops, a couple singles in the hole and things like that.”
MLB.com article

I don’t know. I remember that Pedro seemed to have first inning struggles a lot, obviously settling down afterwards, but that’s one of those anecdotal “feelings” you get from watching baseball. A look at his numbers (from ’04-’06) indicates that he was giving up around 20-25% of his runs in the first inning; that is, perfectly within the statistical norm. When Pudge says something like that, it seems to me he’s probably speaking like I was at first.. anecdotally, touchy-feel-ily… and not based on statistical fact.

Which just reinforces the vile freak nature of Bondo’s pitching.

We’ve talked about this before. We JUST went over it. We thought about how odd it is that Bondo throws so many fastballs in the first inning, despite the overwhelming evidence that THIS DOES NOT WORK (and I’m sorry, but I don’t at this point buy the “he throws all those fastball because for whatever reason his offspeed stuff is even worse in the first”. There is not really any worse result than a large number of runs. If his fastball causes there to be a large number of runs, there is no harm in moving away from it, because the absolute worst outcome has ALREADY been realized).

So, new suggestion for Bondo: throw an inning before the game. I’m serious. Get some Tigers batters in there and simulate a freakin’ first inning as closely to The Real Thing as they can. Make him throw it, for dead serious real, not just as a series of warmup tosses. I’m aware that this would cut his ability to work in the actual game down by an inning, but I would rather have 6 innings of Bondo throwing 2-run ball and three innings of bullpen than 7 innings of Bondo throwing 6-run ball and two innings of bullpen.

I understand that, the way they’ve pitched recently, nobody wants to have to see the Tigers thrown on the not-very-tender mercies of the bullpen, but I think the possible removal of the 4-run first inning would outweigh that.

Try it. What’s the worst that could happen? It doesn’t work and Bondo gives up a bunch of runs?** THAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED ANYWAYS. The first inning would have resulted in a ton of runs regardless. THROW CAUTION TO THE WINDS.

Yeah, yeah, I know that this is ~*~wacky and crazed~*~, but Bondo’s first inning struggles have reached a point of whackdom and crazedness where they absolutely deserve wacked-out and crazalicious responses. I’m sure (read: I fervently hope) that the Tigers have been taking steps to try to correct this first inning mental/mechanical block of Bondo’s. Obviously, nothing they’ve done has worked (consistently) yet. So what the heck, I’m proposing the pregame inning in addition to the usual warmups.

When sanity fails us, we must dabble in insanity in order to survive.

Oh, and two quick notes: Andrew Miller’s strained hamstring has landed him on the 15-day DL, and Fernando is back. Color me unexcited about both these pieces of news.

*I’m aware that a lot of things go into runs-per-inning breakdown, including pitcher fatigue and how many times the lineup has seen them, for starters, but I am talking in VERY rough and averaged terms here. Of course if someone has more detailed statistical analysis at their disposal, I would be dorkily delighted to see it.

**Oversimplified lies. The absolute worst outcome would be injury, either to Bondo or to one of the relievers (who would be getting more work). But you know what I mean.

6 responses to “Death to Bonderman First Innings

  1. makin’ babies!!!!!
    i haven’t even read any of the rest of the post yet. i just needed to comment on THAT.

  2. Samara,
    The Tigers definitely are in trouble! Losing Kenny, Miller (Thank God not an arm injury), The struggles of Robertson and Bonderman of late, not to mention the pens struggles, and there is no doubt why the Tigers are sinking at the moment. Thank God the Indians are not doing anything great either! Look out for them Twinkies!!!
    Keep up the great writing!
    Chris Ziza

  3. I was at the game today (8/5) and F-Rod made his comeback to the Tigers. I also saw someone sitting near me with a Neifi Perez jersey (or as you say, “Neifi!!”). I also saw your boy Inge doing his thing.

  4. Beth, he’s made one so far, so you know it exists as a spot in his mind for sure.
    Chris, yeah, thank cats for the Twinks right now. They’re keeping us barely afloat.
    Lauren, no way you saw a Neifi!! shirt. I hope you got a photo!

  5. No one else sees it??? This is what Neifi!!! was born for… Stand in against Bonderman in the bullpen in a pre-game “first inning”. Besides, when Bondo “retires” him on 2 weak grounders and a strikeout, it’ll just inspire that much more confidence in Young Jeremy.

  6. I wonder if we can still use him in that capacity now that he’s been suspended. Hire him as a kind of specialized groundskeeper…hmm!

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