Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Bonser the Stopper

The last time Boof Bonser had pitched, he'd gone six innings against the Athletics and allowed just two runs. Yet, as has routinely been the case for Bonser this year, he'd gotten pathetic run support (in this case, the Twins were shut out) and lost.

Since that start last Wednesday, the Twins' rotation had spun out of control. In those four games between Bonser's outings, Twins' starters had posted a 15.53 ERA, and only one (Nick Blackburn on Friday) had lasted more than 4 1/3 innings in a start. Obviously, this had been very taxing on the bullpen and very humiliating for the team. Needless to say, last night's start was a big one for Bonser. The Twins needed him to be their stopper. And Boof came through.

In classic fashion, the Twins didn't provide him with much run support. Jason Kubel hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning which Mike Lamb followed with a sacrifice fly, but that was the extent of scoring for the Twins. That makes six starts for Bonser this season, and six games where the Twins have failed to score more than three runs.

That doesn't leave much room for error for Bonser, but fortunately he was up to the task last night. He held the White Sox offense scoreless through six frames before allowing a solo homer to Joe Crede with two outs in the seventh, and finished with the following line: 7 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K. A great outing.

For whatever reason, Bonser seems to get a lot of grief from Twins fans. I have heard numerous people tell me this year that he doesn't seem like a major-league pitcher, or that he should be the odd man out when Kevin Slowey returns from injury (this was before Francisco Liriano tanked), but I can't really understand why. Bonser has logged Quality Starts in five of his six outings this season, and now holds a 3.75 ERA to go along with a .250 BAA and 1.22 WHIP. Those aren't overwhelming numbers, but they certainly aren't bad. His 2-4 record quite clearly does not reflect the way he's pitched this year, and in fact I've got more confidence in him than probably any other pitcher in the rotation right now.

7 comments:

jesse said...

I'm not sure why people wanted him to be that odd man out, either. It was more confusing that when, in the off-season, people were asking if he should be sent to the bullpen.

Bonser's not an ace, but he's got pretty good stuff and, as long as he's efficient with his pitches, can eat up some innings. He's had a great start, I hope it keeps up.

ubelmann said...

Bonser's been fine, but there's no reason to put him ahead of Baker unless you're really worried about Baker's health. Baker's xFIP of 3.05 so far this season is head and shoulders above Bonser's 4.54 (which is worse than every non-Liriano starter we've had so far) and Baker had a better track record going into the season. Bonser's been lucky to give up just 3 HR so far, and when his fly ball start becoming home runs again (and they will) his ERA is going to go up.

Obviously Bonser is a fine pitcher and should stay in the rotation given the options that the Twins have, but he's hardly the best pitcher on the staff.

Since that start last Wednesday, the Twins' rotation had spun out of control. In those four games between Bonser's outings, Twins' starters had posted a 15.53 ERA, and only one (Nick Blackburn on Friday) had lasted more than 4 1/3 innings in a start.

We had a pitcher with no control matched up against Oakland, and then three games in Texas. That's not four run-of-the-mill starts.

Nick N. said...

Bonser's been fine, but there's no reason to put him ahead of Baker unless you're really worried about Baker's health. Baker's xFIP of 3.05 so far this season is head and shoulders above Bonser's 4.54 (which is worse than every non-Liriano starter we've had so far) and Baker had a better track record going into the season. Bonser's been lucky to give up just 3 HR so far, and when his fly ball start becoming home runs again (and they will) his ERA is going to go up.

If Baker is healthy, I think he's the most reliable pitcher on the staff. But he's had a few different minor injuries pop up this year, so I'm not going to say I'm fully confident in him until I see him settle in and make several consecutive starts.

Say what you will about Bonser, but he's been getting results consistently. His unimpressive xFIP is negatively affected by his uncharacteristically low strikeout rate (he was getting something like 4.5 K/9 prior to yesterday's start) which I believe will come up. His GB% is also down considerably from where it was last year.

We had a pitcher with no control matched up against Oakland, and then three games in Texas. That's not four run-of-the-mill starts.

And a 15+ ERA over four games is not just a run-of-the-mill bad turn through the rotation.

I realize that Texas has generally been a good offensive team over the years and they play in a hitter-friendly park, but they rank 10th in the AL in runs scored this year. They haven't been all that great.

ubelmann said...

Say what you will about Bonser, but he's been getting results consistently.

If we're going to use the "results" argument for Bonser--like he is a pitcher who is more than his peripherals--we have to look at his 5.10 ERA season last year...which wasn't so consistent. And so far this season, he's pitched six games, which isn't a long enough period to have done anything consistently.

His unimpressive xFIP is negatively affected by his uncharacteristically low strikeout rate (he was getting something like 4.5 K/9 prior to yesterday's start) which I believe will come up. His GB% is also down considerably from where it was last year.

And if history is a guide, his walk rate will go up at the same time. His xFIP is practically the same this year as it was last year.

And a 15+ ERA over four games is not just a run-of-the-mill bad turn through the rotation.

It's a long season. Things happen. That's just baseball. That doesn't make it humiliating.

I mean--that game on Saturday? Baker was pitching great. The Rangers had some flare shots that found holes against Baker, but he was pitching just fine. Blackburn's start was no masterpiece, but it was also nothing to be embarrassed or humiliated about.

This wasn't anything even remotely close to the disaster that the Twins had in Detroit in April 2006 The Twins had two winnable games out of the last four, and two blowout losses thrown by the two worst starters on the team. That's inevitably going to happen at some points in the season.

ubelmann said...

I realize that Texas has generally been a good offensive team over the years and they play in a hitter-friendly park, but they rank 10th in the AL in runs scored this year. They haven't been all that great.

About this...

The Rangers have the second-best OPS in the AL. Their run total has been hurt by poor hitting with runners in scoring position...but that's not a team ability. That's a good offense, especially when they are in their home ballpark.

Nick N. said...

To be clear, I wasn't saying the Twins' starters suck because they had a bad turn through the rotation. But that's what it was, a bad turn. I don't care who they were playing against, those are bad numbers.

Bonser pitched a good game and stopped a short trend of bad pitching. Blackburn pitched another good game tonight. Don't take this to mean that I'm saying Bonser is suddenly the team's ace this season. My only point was that I think Bonser should get more credit than I've seen him get at times.

As for the Rangers: fine, they've been victimized by poor situational hitting this year. That doesn't change the fact that they've scored less runs than nine other AL teams, so they haven't exactly been a dominating offense this year. But alas, I see your point. They are clearly a team that can hit.

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