The words flounder and founder are often misused in the English language (including by me), as they sound similar and actually have meanings that aren’t that different. Floundering means “to struggle to move or stay upright, especially in water”, while foundering means “to sink below the surface of the water”. Essentially, floundering is the struggle to succeed while foundering is just failing to succeed. What does any of this have to do with baseball?
Well, Jeremy Bonderman is currently floundering, and it’s raising questions whether his career is on the fast track to foundering. He’s had a very interesting career path, reaching the majors at age 20 as a highly regarded prospect, but then proceeding to lose 19 games as a rookie that year. From 2003 to 2006, he steadily improved, taking his FIP from 4.69 to 3.29, and after using his power stuff to post one of the better seasons in the American League at the age of 24, he looked like a guy who had turned into a young all-star hurler.
However, the last two years have seen a regression in both stuff and performance. His average fastball velocity now sits at just 90.7 MPH, down from the 93.3 MPH mark he notched in 2006. He now throws about as hard as Kevin Millwood and Braden Looper, when he used to throw as hard as Matt Cain and Kelvim Escobar. The loss of velocity is clearly manifest in his strikeout rate.
His strikeouts are way down (5.0 K/9) and his walks are way up (5.8 BB/9), and when you combine that information with the velocity drop, you have to wonder if he’s healthy. Of course, we’ve seen similar problems with Justin Verlander this year, so perhaps the Detroit coaching staff might want to see if there’s something going on with their young starters and see if it’s fixable. If it’s not, Bonderman’s floundering could easily become foundering, and a once promising young pitcher could be seeing the decline of his career set in a little earlier than hoped.
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