Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Bonderman and big innings

It's been well documented here and other places that Jeremy Bonderman's ERA does not match his peripherals. That is, he consistently has high strikeout rates and ground ball rates along with low walk and home run rates but usually allows more runs than league average. Table 1 below shows that his FIP ERA (what his ERA should be based on walks, strikeouts, homers and assuming average defensive support) is consistently lower than his actual ERA.

What if we also consider hits? Component ERA (CERA), a Bill James statistic, estimates what a pitcher's ERA should be based on the FIP stats and also hits. The table shows that his CERA is also consistently lower than his actual ERA.

Table 1: Bonderman’s ERA versus FIP and CERA


Year

IP

ERA

FIP

FIP-ERA

CERA

CERA-ERA

2003

162

5.56

6.20

-0.64

5.39

-0.17

2004

184

4.89

4.29

-0.60

3.93

-0.96

2005

189

4.57

3.92

-0.51

4.20

-0.37

2006

214

4.08

3.31

-0.77

3.58

-0.50

2007

174.1

5.01

4.22

-0.79

4.44

-0.57



There have been various possible reasons given for Bonderman's high ERAs - below average defense, doesn't pitch well with men on base, etc. - but one of the most popular theories is that he bunches all his hits, walks and homers together into big innings. Some say he loses his cool and has a "melt down" when things are not going well and gets killed by one bad inning. The other related theory is that he can't get untracked and frequently gives up multiple runs in the first inning.

I examined the retrosheet play by play databases to see whether he really does have a propensity for big innings exceeding that of other pitchers. Table 2 compares Bonderman to the MLB average for pitchers with 150 innings in a year (roughly 100 pitchers each year). Here is how to read the table:

% 0 runs = Percent of innings with zero runs allowed
% 1 run = Percent of innings with one run allowed
% 2 runs = Percent of innings with 2 or more runs allowed (the big innings)
Total runs = just what it says
big inning % = Percent of total runs scored in big innings

In 2003 and 2007 he gave up significantly more multiple run innings (% inns 2+ runs) than the MLB average, but it is not a consistent pattern across his five years. In 2006, he had fewer multiple run innings than league average and in 2004 and 2005, he was right around league average. Similarly Bonderman's percent of total runs allowed which came in big innings (big inning %) was more than league average in 2003 and 2007 but less than league average in 2005 and 2006. What does happen every year is he has more single run innings (% inns 1 run) than average.

Table 2: Runs scored in big innings: Bonderman versus MLB average



% inns

0 runs

% inns

1 run

% inns

2+ runs

Runs

Big Inn %

2003






Bonderman

63.0

18.5

18.5

118

72.9

MLB Avg

72.4

15.5

12.0

96

64.8

2004






Bonderman

69.8

17.2

13.0

101

67.3

MLB Avg

71.9

15.4

12.8

96

66.4

2005






Bonderman

69.0

18.3

12.7

101

64.1

MLB Avg.

72.6

14.9

12.5

96

68.5

2006






Bonderman

73.0

16.2

10.8

104

65.4

MLB Avg.

71.1

15.8

13.0

101

69.4

2007






Bonderman

68.7

15.9

15.4

105

72.8

MLB Avg.

72.0

15.5

12.5

95

64.5



What about the first inning problem? Table 3 displays the number of multiple run innings he allowed by inning each year and compares him to the average pitcher. The first column shows that pitcher's in general have more bad first innings than other innings but also that Bonderman was quite extreme in both 2005 (9 multiple run first innings) and 2007 (13 multiple run innings). In other years, he was right around league average.

Table 3: Multiple run innings: Bonderman versus MLB average



1st

2nd

3rd

4th

5th

6th

7th

8th

9th

2003










Bonderman

5

6

6

6

5

2

1

1

0

MLB Avg

4.4

3.2

3.5

3.9

3.3

3.0

1.6

0.7

0.2

2004










Bonderman

5

3

5

5

3

2

1

1

0

MLB Avg

4.1

3.3

3.8

3.8

3.4

3.4

2.2

0.6

0.2

2005










Bonderman

9

1

3

5

2

2

3

0

0

MLB Avg.

4.4

3.4

3.5

3.8

3.7

3.1

1.8

0.7

0.2

2006










Bonderman

4

1

4

6

3

5

0

1

0

MLB Avg.

4.4

3.5

3.9

3.8

3.8

3.7

1.8

0.7

0.2

2007










Bonderman

13

3

3

1

2

3

3

0

0

MLB Avg.

4.3

2.8

3.8

3.5

4.0

3.3

1.9

0.5

0.2



In conclusion, there is no consistent pattern of Bonderman allowing more big innings than league average. The only real trend I see is that he gives up more one run innings than league average every year. This is not say that he doesn't need to reduce his number of big innings. It just isn't inordinately large and it doesn't explain why his peripherals do not match his ERA.
The information used here was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by
Retrosheet. Interested parties may contact Retrosheet at "www.retrosheet.org".

11 comments:

  1. Very interesting stats, my thoughts were it was the big inning problem too and that really isn't the case.

    ReplyDelete
  2. would it be fair to qualify your conclusion by saying that it is compared against other starters good enough to hold their jobs long enough to throw 150 or more innings. there are a lot of SP's whose inability to stay away from big innings leads to them not being given 150+ innings in a year. and since the follow up to the premise of Bondo's big innings skewing his results vs. his perepherals is that as a result, he is not as good a pitcher as we think-maybe someone who should not pitch for us...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Mark, I think I would conclude the opposite of what you are saying. He is being compared to the best pitchers and he does not give up more big innings than those guys. If you include the guys who are not good enough to pitch 150 innings, it will just make him look better.

    As for whether he should be pitching for the Tigers, his progress has been frustrating but he's still 25 and I'm not ready to give up on him. He had a good first half last year and then hurt his elbow. If healthy, he should do fine this year.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Lee,

    Interesting research. Though I am inclined to take issue with 2 runs being a "big inning". A pitcher can give up two and remain in the game. Given the Tiger's offense over the last two years (not to mention their O this year) a pitcher giving up two runs has a shot to stay in the game if he can battle it out. I think a more representative definition of "big inning" would be to expand to 3 and 4 runs an inning. Granted, this isn't going to happen often, but I think you will see Bondo well over league average there.

    ReplyDelete
  6. My definition of big inning does include 3 and 4 run innings. It is 2 runs or more in an inning. I will try changing the definition to 3+ runs in an inning and see how it comes out. Since the last column says that he gave up a smaller proportion of runs in big innings than league average, I'm skeptical that the new definition will change the conclusion though.

    Lee

    ReplyDelete
  7. ez, I checked it. It makes somewhat of a difference in 2003 and 2007 if I use 3+ runs rather than 2+ runs. Your definition makes him worse in those years. However, he is still around league average or better in 2004-2006. It was a good question though.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Lee, this is great content. I wonder if the fans' conception of Bondo's big/1st inning problems are compounded by hits/walks etc. Maybe his pitch count is higher in the big/1st inning?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Joe, the first inning problem was very real in 2005 and 2007. Other years it wasn't. I wouldn't say that Bonderman doesn't have any problem with big innings. It just isn't a problem that is unique to him.

    I agree looking how hits and walks are bunched together would be a good next step in the analysis.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I agree they're interesting stats, but as I read them, you've absolutely confirmed that in 2007, Bonderman was plagued by giving up too many runs in the first inning, often in bunches. Well there it is, right in your numbers.

    I don't remember this being much of an issue before 2007 -- people weren't talking about it. It was sort of a mysterious development for a veteran pitcher.

    I've also seen his inning-by-inning ERA somewhere, and the 1st inning ERA for '07 sticks out like a hooker in a convent. Basically, confirming the same thing.

    The good news is, it's not mechanical or injury problems, it's mental, and could be a simple as poor preparation or nervousness. I think Bonderman is a fine pitcher, and if he gets past this issue in '08, I think we'll have twin aces on this staff.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Scot, yes the data do show that Bonderman had a big problem in the first inning last year. The big inning theory goes way back though. Bonderman's ERA has not matched his peripherals for 5 years. One reason I've heard literally hundreds of times over the past few years on blog comments and messageboards is that he has melt downs and gives up a lot of big innings. The data do not show that this is true.

    I do think his problems last year were injury related. He was doing fine in the first half even with all the big first innings. He blew up in the second half when he tried to pitch through an elbow injury.

    ReplyDelete

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