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Entries in Daniel Bard (5)


Hitters Not Taking Bard's Bait

While reliever-to-starter conversions are proving successful on both sides of Chicago (Jeff Samardzija for the Cubs and Chris Sale for the White Sox), the same can't be said for Boston's Daniel Bard. The erstwhile set-up man, whose most recent starting experience as a pro prior to this season was a walk-a-thon in A-Ball back in 2007, has tallied more free passes (29) than strikeouts (28) for the Red Sox while posting a 90 ERA+.

A major reason why Bard is handing out so many base on balls is that batters aren't taking his bait on pitches thrown outside of the strike zone. In fact, Cleveland's Ubaldo Jimenez is the only starting pitcher with a lower opponent chase rate this year:

Lowest Chase Rates among SPs (min. 150 batters faced)

PitcherChase Pct.
Ubaldo Jimenez 20.0%
Daniel Bard 20.3%
Jeanmar Gomez 21.0%
Philip Humber 22.1%
Ervin Santana 23.1%
Brandon Beachy 23.9%
Brandon Morrow 23.9%
C. J. Wilson 23.9%
Yovani Gallardo 24.0%
Erik Bedard 24.0%
MLB Avg. for SP 28.4%


Bard has a below-average chase rate with his low-90s fastball and low-80s slider, but it's his hard, upper 80s changeup that hitters are really laying off:

Bard's Chase Rate By Pitch Type

PitchPct. ThrownChase Pct.MLB Avg.
Fastball 55 22.2 25.7
Slider 26 25 35.5
Changeup 19 11 35.8


Bard often locates his changeup high-and-away to lefty batters...

Bard's changeup location, 2012...But they're not biting. Take a look at hitters' swing rate by pitch location vs. Bard's changeup, and then the league average for lefty batters against righty pitchers: 

Hitters' swing rate by pitch location vs. Bard's changeup, 2012

Average swing rate by lefty hitters vs. right-handed changeups, 2012

Perhaps Bard's chase rate will get a boost when he takes on the Tigers tonight (7 PM EST, ESPN). Collectively, Detroit's disappointing offensive attack (ninth in the AL in runs scored) has a 30 percent chase rate. Here are the Tigers taking few pitches thrown off the plate in 2012:

Highest Chase Rates among Tigers Hitters

BatterChase Pct.
Delmon Young 39.9%
Brennan Boesch 37.3%
Andy Dirks 35.3%
Danny Worth 33.3%
Ramon Santiago 32.4%
Miguel Cabrera 31.9%
Prince Fielder 30.7%
Don Kelly 30.4%

Bard's First Start Better Than it Looks

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

PitchPct. ThrownZone Pct.Miss Pct.
Fastball 51 65 27
Slider 37 54 64
Changeup 13 25  
Bard Overall   56 36
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:

Location of Bard's swinging strikes vs. Toronto, 4/10/12

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.


Bard of the Rotation?

At the present moment, Boston's 2012 rotation consists of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz (back injury cooperating) and...uh...your guess is as good as mine. With Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey out following Tommy John surgery, Nuke LaLoosh doppelganger Andrew Miller and Kyle Weiland (who combined for a 6.44 ERA in 2011) may be the fourth and fifth options. The Red Sox will no doubt scour the free agent and trade market for an arm or two, but one idea being bandied about is moving Daniel Bard from the bullpen to the rotation.

Peter Gammons said the move, while considered by Boston, is unlikely. Jonathan Papelbon hits free agency this winter, and the Sox may well move Bard to the closer spot and let someone else give Papelbon upwards of $13-15 million per year. But if Papelbon returns, or the Sox sign another reliever to handle the ninth, or they don't find many palatable starting options outside of the organization, the former starter at North Carolina would have to tighten up his approach against left-handed hitters to succeed going through the lineup multiple times.

Since he made his MLB debut in 2009, Bard has a 3.85 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 2.34 Fielding Independent ERA (FIP) against right-handed hitters. He hasn't been bad against lefties, but he has shown a decent-sized platoon split (a 2 K/BB ratio, and a 4.09 FIP). Righties swing through his stuff often, missing 31.1 percent of the time that they offer, but lefties have a milder 21.1 percent miss rate.

Most of that difference stems from his upper-90s fastball. Righties can't seem to handle the pitch (24 percent miss rate), especially the high heat:

Right-handed hitters' contact rate vs. Bard's fastball, 2009-2011

Lefties, however, connect much more often (16 percent miss rate):

Left-handed hitters' contact rate vs. Bard's fastball, 2009-2011

Happily for the Red Sox, it seems like Bard might be adapting against lefties and becoming a little less predictable. He cut his fastball usage against southpaws from 77 percent in 2009-2010 to slightly less than 70 percent, mixing in more hard, high-80s-to-low-90s changeups and mid-80s sliders. It's dangerous to make much of a one-year change in a platoon split for a reliever, but he did increase his ground ball rate against lefties from 49 percent the previous two years to 64 percent, and his K/BB climbed to 2.6.

Bard hasn't started a professional game since 2007, when he walked over a batter per inning and posted a 6.25 FIP between two levels of A-Ball. But he has made gigantic strides since that lost season, and he profiles as a more ground ball-slanted version of Alexi Ogando, a high-octane reliever-turned starter who managed a 3.6 Wins Above Replacement season for Texas. If the Red Sox think he could handle 150+ innings and fend off lefties, moving Bard to the rotation and signing someone else to handle the ninth wouldn't be such a bad idea.