Crouching Tiger, Hidden Hurler
In case you hadn’t heard enough about the Tigers lately due to some play involving their star first baseman wanting a piece of some history-making action and intercepting a routine grounder to second which set off a series of events that evolved into one of the more compelling controversies in years …I decided I’d give them some more attention.
It seems as though almost every member of the Tigers roster has made waves in the fantasy world this year for one reason or another, as the team has been written about ad nauseum. Well despite all this, one notable name from the past has managed to fly under the radar in Detroit while reemerging as a fantasy force over the last month. His name is Jeremy Bonderman and you can find him at your local waiver wire in 88 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Bonderman struggled through just 81 2/3 innings from 2008-2009 due to Thoracic outlet syndrome, which as you obviously already know consists of
“A group of distinct disorders involving compression at the superior thoracic outlet that affect the brachial plexus (nerves that pass into the arms from the neck) which may be caused by movement of the clavicle and shoulder girdle on arm movement or by abnormalities or enlargement of the various muscles surrounding the arteries, veins, and brachial plexus.”
Indeed, Wikipedia. Indeed..
No matter what you can make of that, it sounds like a pretty awful thing for someone who uses his arm to throw a really hard spherical object for a living to deal with. Rangers catcher Jason Saltalamachia currently suffers from the same condition and couldn’t even throw the ball back to the pitcher this season. But somewhat miraculously, Bonderman has recovered and is looking good as new.
In 35 innings since May 1, the right-hander has pitched to a stellar 1.80 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP and 27/9 K/BB ratio. His last start, a solid eight-inning performance against the Indians on June 1, was his longest outing since July of 2007. After struggling with his velocity over the last couple years, Bonderman’s sinking fastball has been popping around 92-93 mph consistently, getting stronger as the season has progressed. As a result, the number of groundballs he induces have been increasing, culminating in a 1.24 groundball-to-fly-ball ratio over his last two starts. This is what you want to see from a starter whose most successful season in the bigs undoubtedly came in 2006, the only year his GB/FB ratio eclipsed one.
You may be amazed to learn that Bonderman is still only 27-years-old, probably because he pitched his first full season at the tender age of 20 over 1,000 innings ago way back in 2003. This may also explain why he’s experienced a myriad of arm injuries, including elbow issues in 2007. (Side note: after observing Bonderman’s plight, wouldn’t you think the Tigers would be treating 21-year-old Rick Porcello and his current 5.25 ERA a little differently?)
Anyway, the unquestionably talented and formerly productive Bonderman finally appears back to full strength and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be able to achieve his potential. In that banner year of 2006, he won 14 games and struck out 202 batters, which gives you an idea of what he’s capable of. His ERA probably won’t get much better than the high threes, but should be lower than that when pitches against the Royals on Sunday who’ve scratched out just 14 runs over their last six games.
So grab him before then, because thanks to Jim Joyce, Miguel Cabrera, Austin Jackson and a bunch of other Tigers hoopla, it’s likely no one else will.