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)
|C. J. Wilson||23.9%|
|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
|Pitch||Pct. Thrown||Chase Pct.||MLB Avg.|
Bard often locates his changeup high-and-away to lefty batters...
...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:
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