Since I've been obsessed with all things MONEYBALL this week, I'd like to share with you a section of the book that deals with ex-Tigers' pitcher Jeremy Bonderman.
One of the premises of Michael Lewis' book, MONEYBALL, is Billy Beane's disgust with baseball's old school scouting methods. A young ballplayer had to LOOK the part in order to get drafted! The ugly, fat, gimpy need not apply...no matter how successful they performed on the diamond.
Billy Beane decided it was time to get rid of the old school scouts and start utilizing statistics and sabermetrics to judge and, subsequently, draft young baseball prospects.
Back in 2001, Grady Fuson - at that time the head of scouting for the Oakland A's, used the A's 1st pick in the draft to select Jeremy Bonderman - a pitcher who also happened to be a HIGH SCHOOL JUNIOR!
Here's an excerpt from MONEYBALL:
The scouts adored high school players, and they especially adored high school pitchers. High school pitchers were so far away from being who they would be when they grew up that you could imagine them becoming almost anything. High school pitchers also had brand-new arms, and brand-new arms were able to generate the one asset scouts could measure: a fastball's velocity. The most important quality in a pitcher was not his brute strength but his ability to deceive, and deception took many forms.
In any case, you had only to study the history of the draft to see that high school pitchers were twice less likely than college pitchers, and four times less likely than college position players, to make it to the big leagues. Taking a high school pitcher in the first round - and spending 1.2 million bucks to sign him - was exactly the sort of thing that happened when you let scouts have their way. It defied the odds; it defied reason. Reason, even science was what Billy Beane was intent on bringing to baseball.
The book goes on to describe how, after A's scout Grady Fuson chose Bonderman, Billy Beane grabbed a chair and threw it through a wall!!!
The tale of Jeremy Bonderman, the wunderkind high school draft pick, only gets better.
Billy Beane unloaded Bonderman as soon as possible! In July 2002, Bonderman was involved in a three team deal. The Athletics sent Carlos Peña, a player to be named later (Bonderman), and Franklyn Germán to the Detroit Tigers. The New York Yankees sent Ted Lilly, John-Ford Griffin, and Jason Arnold to the Athletics. The Tigers sent Jeff Weaver to the Yankees and cash to the Athletics.
There were 5 pitchers involved in that deal:
The Yankees gave-up Jason Arnold - who never pitched higher than the minor leagues - and Ted Lily who is currently signed to a 3-year, $33 million, contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Lily has a 123-110 record and 4.19 ERA over 13 major league seasons.
The Tigers paid cash to the Athletics and sent Jeff Weaver to the Yankees. Jeff Weaver is currently a free agent and not pitching in the majors. Weaver has a 104-119 record and a 4.71 ERA over 11 seasons.
The A's gave-up Franklyn Germán who no longer pitches in the bigs. Germán has a 9-7 record and a 4.25 ERA over 6 seasons as a reliever.
The A's also unloaded Bonderman. Jeremy Bonderman is retired, though not officially. He has a 67-77 record and a 4.89 ERA over 8 seasons - all with the Detroit Tigers.
I observed Jeremy Bonderman's career up-close-and-personal over his 8 seasons with the Tigers. It seemed like everytime I went to Comerica Park to see a Bonderman start - he fell behind early and didn't settle down until the 5th inning!
Of the 8 seasons Bonderman pitched for Detroit, in only 3 of them did he have more wins than losses.
Towards the end of his career I had grown accustomed to accepting a Bonderman start as a Tigers' loss.
The 2008 and 2009 seasons were mostly a write-off because of a blood clot in his pitching arm and pain in his pitching shoulder.
This is a guy that had a freakin' 94-mph heater as a junior in high school!
By drafting him at the tender age of 17...and putting him on a major league mound at 20...the powers-that-be in major league baseball pretty-much destroyed Bonderman's arm.