Bonser Looks to Go Under the Knife

The Minnesota Twins used all of seven starters during the 2008 season, the fewest number in the Major Leagues along with the Phillies and Angels. It looks like two of those seven are now gone as Livan Hernandez is signed with the Mets and news today comes out that Boof Bonser is still experiencing pain and is now set to undergo exploratory surgery on his throwing shoulder.

That type of surgery is rarely good news and it seems likely to expect Bonser to miss most of, if not all of, the 2009 season. On the surface, that would not seem to be that big of a deal, as Bonser was not favored to be in the Twins rotation breaking camp. Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn and Glen Perkins are the oft-reported rotation.

The top four is fine, but supporters of Perkins and detractors of Bonser are ignoring the effects of BABIP and batted ball profiles; Bonser’s FIP (4.19) being almost a full point lower than Perkins’ (5.14). Bonser was better than Perkins in 2008 and projected better than him in 2009, no matter the Twins reluctance to acknowledge that fact.

The loss of Bonser not only spells a loss of opportunity to upgrade from Perkins at the back end of the rotation, but also the loss of depth in the rotation. It is rare, as you may have noted above, for teams to avoid using a number of starters beyond their original five. No matter which of the two ended up outside of the rotation, the presence of both helped to assure the Twins of some insurance in case parts of their young rotation falters.

In what looks like a possibly tight AL Central, these young starting pitchers are the Twins biggest competitive advantage, and a blow to that, is a blow to their overall playoff chances. Hopefully, for them, Bonser’s surgery does not reveal any structural damage.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.