No, not the Red Sox's bullpen -- yet. But probably soon. The Red Sox tried Daniel Bard as a starter this year, and Bard was terrible, just terrible. He wound up getting demoted to triple-A, and it was unclear whether he'd continue to work as a starter, or if he'd shift back to relief. A decision has been made:
Bard said he's no longer a starter. He believes he's back where he belongs as a reliever. He called Cherington to tell him. Both agree.
It was a worthwhile experiment, I think, starting Bard. It's good to find out whether a dominant reliever can be an effective starter. The evidence suggests that Bard can't. With the Red Sox this year, Bard posted 37 walks, eight hits batters, and 34 strikeouts. As a starter in 2007 in the minors, Bard posted 78 walks, eight hit batters, and 47 strikeouts. Read those numbers again. Now, 2007 was a long time ago, and those stats might not mean a thing, but it's hard to dismiss them as irrelevant given what Bard did with Boston earlier this year.
Bard will look for a groove in triple-A. Once he finds it, he'll return to the Red Sox, in the role that made him so successful. I don't know if Bard was genuinely mismanaged, but it's June 22 and the Red Sox have gotten answers to some big questions.
It's been evident to anyone and everyone that Daniel Bard has pitched like a pile of crap. Not like an actual pile of crap, but like the baseball player equivalent of a pile of crap. The Boston Red Sox recognized Bard's pile-of-crapness and demoted him to triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday after a miserable stretch of failed starts.
Statistically, the most obvious problem with Bard is that he's put too many batters on first base on his own. His walks are way up, as are his hit batters, which get less attention but count just the same. However, over at FanGraphs, Dave Cameron suggests the walk problems aren't a primary problem, but a symptom:
Now, with any conversion from relief to the rotation, you expect some loss of velocity, but it's generally more in the 1-2 MPH range than the 4+ MPH range. Jeff Samardzija (-0.2 MPH), Lance Lynn (-0.6 MPH), and Neftali Feliz (-1.6 MPH) are all throwing with a little less oomph than they did in the bullpen, while only Chris Sale also experiencing a major decline in fastball speed. Of course, Sale is dominating the American League right now, showing that there's not a perfect relationship between loss of velocity and decline in performance, but even his large decline in velocity doesn't begin to approach the massive change that Bard has undergone.
Daniel Bard has never had very good command, and this year, it’s gotten worse. But, velocity and strike throwing are not independent, and Bard would probably feel a lot more confident pounding the zone if his fastball was 97 instead of 93. There were some legitimate reasons to try Bard as a starter, and as Samardzija, Lynn, and Sale have shown, these conversions can produce very positive results. For whatever reason, though, Bard’s velocity didn’t make the translation to the rotation, and right now, he doesn’t have the stuff to make up for his control issues.
Daniel Bard's control has been poor. His average fastball is also down from 97 to 93. The wise assumption would be that there must be some kind of relationship. With the same control and lower velocity, Bard might be able to survive. With the same velocity and worse control, Bard might be able to survive. With worse control and lower velocity, Bard is a mess, statistically and visually.
So we'll see where Bard goes from here. There exists the distinct possibility that he's injured, as injuries can cause all sorts of wacky things. But maybe he's in need of mechanical adjustments, or maybe he simply isn't cut out to ever be a starting pitcher in the major leagues. It was worth it to see.
Last time he took the mound, Daniel Bard walked six Blue Jays and hit two Blue Jays. He faced 13 Blue Jays. This was out of the ordinary for Bard, but only by a little; over 55 innings, he's hit eight batters and walked 37 batters while striking out 34 batters. The ratios are all terrible, so perhaps this news is unsurprising:
Bard was one of three high-profile bullpen-to-rotation conversions this season. For the White Sox, Chris Sale has been outstanding. For the Rangers, Neftali Feliz has gotten hurt. For the Red Sox, Bard has been miserable, throwing less than 60 percent of his pitches for strikes. He's been wild, his velocity has been way down, and his results have been poor.
So Bard's off to a lower-pressure environment. We can't say for sure that he'll never cut it as a starter, but right now he's not big-league starter material, and it's worth noting that he was also ugly in his rotation work in the minors. He's been highly successful as a reliever, and that may very well be his long-term role. That's a lot more likely than it was a couple months ago.
It was worth it for the Red Sox to try Bard as a starter. This is also the right move to make. The Red Sox would very much like to make the playoffs, and out of the rotation, Daniel Bard wasn't helping them get there.