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Can Boof Bonser Bounce Back In 2009?

Brobably.  I mean probably.

Intensive studies have shown that Boof Bonser fans fall into one of two, and only two, categories.  Either you're the fan who...

A)  believes that Bonser has talent but hasn't lived up to his billing (and, admit it, at times is more than happy to entertain thoughts of him not being on the roster),

or you're the fan who...

B)  believes Bonser has under-performed, but has the stuff/peripherals/cajones to turn himself into a respectable pitcher.

I can't blame you for belonging to either group.  Just between you and me, I can tell you that depending on the day, I've spent time in both camps.  But no matter which band of Boof brothers we belong to, we all want to know one thing:  will we be able to count on him this summer?

We know what he's capable of.  He has that decent fastball that mixes well with what can be a very tight breaking ball, but that doesn't seem to keep him from getting hit or allowing runs.  The numbers seem to support this, as it's easy to separate the "not as bad as they seem" numbers from the "oh, that's why he made me tear my clothes off in frustration" numbers.

ERA:  5.93  *  FIP:  4.26  *  xFIP:  4.31

It will always be hard to defend a pitcher who struggled to force his ERA under six until the waning days of the season, but what these numbers tell us is that Bonser's defense sort of screwed him.  Not just in the it-happens-in-the-course-of-the-game screwing, but a significant it's-almost-like-we-want-to-do-this screwing.  Both his FIP and xFIP are the lowest of Bonser's three-year career, and while neither of them is impressive, they support the theory that Boof was quite a bit better than what the defense told us he was.

LOB%:  57.9

This is hideous.  League average is usually right around 70%, and if you can strand more than 80% of your base runners, you're doing something right.  But how much of this was Bonser's fault?  We already know the defense wasn't exactly doing him any favors.  2007 wasn't pretty either, but he was still stranding nearly 70% of his base runners.  Glance at this article by Dave Studeman (from over three years ago, but it's a pretty timeless idea) for more on this stat, and note that for an xFIP of 4.31, Bonser's LOB% still should have been over 70%.

K/9:  7.38  *  BB/9:  2.74  *  HR/9:  1.22

All three of these are improvements from 2007, and the home runs per nine is the lowest of Bonser's career.  Boof can strike guys out, doesn't walk an unacceptable number of hitters, and while that home run rate isn't the best, we have to remember that Bonser isn't exactly a ground-ball pitcher.  Fly balls turn into homers, at an alarmingly higher rate than ground balls.  Reassuringly, his HR/FB ratio (12.1% according to THT, 10.9% according to Fangraphs) stands right around league average.  Strikeouts, walks and home runs are "The Three True Outcomes" for a pitcher, and none of these numbers indict Boof Bonser as a pitcher who sucks.

LD%:  20.4  *  GB%:  40.7  *  FB%:  38.9

This is the one area where there was noticable change that wasn't a move in the right direction for Bonser.  His line drive percentage jumped more than three percent from 2007, which meant that hitters were making better contact and hitting the ball harder off of him more often.  League average is usually somewhere between 18% and 20%, meaning he wasn't necessarily awfully predictable, but it might mean that in certain situations his pitches were easier to see.  Of course, if balls are being hit harder, it's usually more difficult for your defense to convert those batted balls into outs.

Boof's baseball future is far from set in stone.  He's a durable arm whose traditional numbers aren't doing him any favors, but the talent is still there.  While he doesn't look like he could turn into a star in this league, 2008 will only be his age-27 campaign, and if the peripherals we've discussed can hold up he should be well suited to find a job in the majors well into his 30's.  Bonser profiles as one of those guys who has a couple of good years, a couple of bad years and a lot of average ones in between over the course of his career, and after what we've seen these last two seasons, maybe 2009 can be one of those seasons where he steps it up.  There's always room for change, and baseball can be entirely unpredictable sometimes.