The Case for Eddie Bonine of the Detroit Tigers

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The Case for Eddie Bonine of the Detroit Tigers
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Bo·da·cious, adjective: remarkable, outstanding.

That sounds like Eddie Bonine of the Detroit Tigers this year, does it not? That is what I have taken to calling him lately: Bodacious Bonine.

I'll go one further: Steady Eddie.

I will note, one really has to impress me in order to get labeled with the "S" word.

I have been continually making a case for Eddie Bonine to a sports savvy friend of mine, insisting that Bonine deserved a crack at a few starts. I will now make my pitch to Tiger nation. But I'm not going to bring the heat, my friends, oh lordy no; I'm going to fire a knuckleball.

I will call my first witness, the Texas Rangers. On April 24, Dontrelle Willis was scratched from his scheduled start due to flu-like symptoms. For some unknown reason, lefty Brad Thomas got the spot start.

It took him 66 pitches to get through three innings, surrendering eight hits and four runs. Steady Eddie was called upon to relieve.

I will submit Peoples' Exhibit 1, the box score from that night. Bonine relieved to the tune of three scoreless innings of one-hit ball. It only took him 35 pitches to do so. With pitching that efficient, had he started, he could have been good for five or six innings.

The Texas Rangers can step down.

I will call my next witness, the New York Yankees. On May 10, Willis was again scratched from his scheduled start, due to a fever of 102. Yikes.

After such a great body of work against the Rangers, one would think Bonine would have received the spot start. Wrong. I will remind you that we are under oath here. Thomas once again was given the ball to start the game.

Peoples' Exhibit 2, the box score from this game: Thomas threw 68 pitches in three innings, walking three and allowing two runs. Steady Eddie again relieved, throwing 2.1 scoreless innings in only 35 pitches, silencing the Bronx Bombers.

These two games together are a significant body of work, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. In two spot start scenarios for the bullpen, Bodacious Bonine has easily outpitched Thomas. Spot start situations are crucial for a bullpen, for if disaster strikes, the bullpen can be crippled for a week afterward.

This usually happens when a spot starter does not eat enough innings and a heavy workload befalls the rest of the relievers. Crippling the bullpen can, of course, be disastrous, leading to multiple losses.

Good thing Steady Eddie was there to bail them out.

For the season Bonine has only allowed four runs in 22.2 IP. His peripherals are not great—nine walks to eight strikeouts.

The walks are not that bad, and the lack of Ks actually underscores how well he has been pitching. Opponents are putting the ball in play, but the defense is gobbling them up (I will play devil's advocate on myself by noting that he has a vastly unsustainable .177 BABIP).

The Tigers have been searching for reliable and steady starting pitching. Max Scherzer was sent to Toledo, and understandably Armando Galarraga was recalled to start in his place. Gally has posted decent numbers for the Mud Hens, but I will still make my point clearly: Steady Eddie still deserves a chance to make some starts for the Detroit Tigers. 

Yes, he has been great in the bullpen, but he does not pitch in a crucial role. "Papa Grande" is the closer, with Joel Zumaya, Ryan Perry, and Phil Coke regularly tying down the late inning work. Very rarely does Bonine pitch in a crucial game situation, and that is doing him a disservice. 

(Insert glittering testimonial here to sway an unsuspecting jury.) Plus, this guy throws a knuckleball! How can you not love a guy that throws a knuckleball?!

OK, so Bonine is not a conventional knuckleballer in the same sense as, say, Tim Wakefield. Bonine still sports a good fastball that he throws 51 percent of the time, and only 26 percent of his pitches are high-velocity knuckleballs. 

Still, the game of baseball is so much more enjoyable watching knuckleballers fire junk at opposing hitters.

Remember the heyday of Wakefield in Boston? How about Steve Sparks, the former Tiger who tried to make wearing eyeglasses on the field "cool?"

Anyone remember R.A. Dickey? He pitched against the Tigers a couple times last season. He's the guy who doesn't have an ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. He just resurfaced in the bigs Wednesday, making a start for the Mets and tossing six innings.

Finally, there is Charlie Haeger of the Dodgers, the pride of Detroit Catholic Central High School. 

The game of baseball is so much more fun when a knuckleballer is on the mound, ladies and gentlemen. The People rest their case.

 

Bodacious, as defined on dictionary.com. Advanced metrics on Eddie Bonine were gathered from fangraphs.com

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