At first glance, it appears that the Toronto Blue Jays roughed up Daniel Bard in his first career MLB start last night. Bard gave up eight hits and five runs, needing 96 pitches to get through five innings. That performance, plus Andrew Bailey's thumb injury and early hiccups for Alfredo Aceves and Mark Melancon, might add to the clamor to move Bard back to the bullpen.
Look closer, though, and you'll see a quality start marred by some seeing-eye ground balls. Bard struck out six Jays and walked just one, pounding the strike zone with his fastball and slider and inducing a bunch of swinging strikes:
Bard vs. Toronto, 4/10/12
|Pitch||Pct. Thrown||Zone Pct.||Miss Pct.|
|Average AL SP, 2011||49||19|
Bard got nine swinging strikes apiece with his fastball (averaging nearly 95 mph) and his slider. His 18 total swinging strikes tie him with Colby Lewis (April 6 vs. the White Sox) and Matt Garza (April 7 vs. the Nationals) for the highest total in a single start so far in 2012. Bard got Toronto to whiff on high fastballs and sliders that broke sharply away from righties:
When the Jays weren't whiffing, they chopped the ball into the turf. Bard got 10 ground balls, but six of them got through the infield.
Getting strikeouts, limiting walks and inducing grounders -- these are pitcher skills that produce positive results in the long run. While Bard's results were lousy yesterday, the process was much more promising.