Bard as a Starter?

During some light Red Sox reading this past week, I stumbled upon a piece by WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford that brought up the idea of moving Daniel Bard. Suffice it to say, it was quite the interesting read. A little background. Prospect mavens out there may remember that, at the time Bard was drafted into the Sox organization in 2006, Bard was once a highly touted starting pitcher. After a stellar career at UNC, he looked like one of the steals of the draft after falling to the Sox at the 28th pick. A disastrous 2007 campaign ended any thought of Bard as a starter. With 78 walks and just 47 strikeouts in 75.0 A-ball innings, Bard was dropped from the rotation -- after being dropped from nearly every prospect list. After a remarkable recovery in 2008 that saw Bard post 107 Ks in 77.2 IP with just 30 BBs, Bard reestablished himself as a premier pitching prospect and a valuable piece of the Red Sox’ future. His touch rediscovered, the prevailing notion recommended leaving Bard in the ‘pen so as not to reawaken his command issues. Since then, Bard hasn’t started a game -- and hasn’t had a case of the yips. But the notion of moving Bard back into the rotation is certainly an intriguing one – one that could pay big time benefits for the club. Though Bard is an excellent bullpen arm, and is very valuable in that role, starters can contribute far more value to a team. But two things stand in his way. One the one hand, there is always the question that Bard’s command issues would crop up if he returned to starting. While it seems a bit unlikely that they would, the causes of his poor 2007 have yet to be determined. Whether they were mechanical or psychological is still debated, making nearly impossible any projection of their future affect. Secondly -- and perhaps more importantly -- there is no room in the Sox rotation for the hurler for the foreseeable future. As Bradford points out, all four of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, and Clay Buchholz are under contract through 2014. Though Daisuke Matsuzaka’s deal expires following the 2012 season, it’s not a likely proposition that the team would groom their prized reliever for that role. Still, there’s no saying that the move can’t or won’t happen -- and, given his talent and track record, such a decision would make a lot of sense. As unsurprising as it may be, Bard’s numbers translate very well to starting. Accounting for a slight dip in velocity and rise in contact percentages, the righty’s rates suggest a 3.758 ERA with 8.28 Ks per nine and 2.91 BBs per nine. But that’s not the end of the story. Of course, there would have to be a bit of a change in Bard’s repertoire for him to make a successful transition to the rotation. As it currently stands, Bard is largely a two-pitch pitcher, relying on a hard fastball and slider, while mixing in a changeup. While that pitch mix is an excellent combination for a power reliever, the fastball-slider combo isn’t necessarily ideal for a rotation member. In particular, Bard would have to improve upon his changeup to face lefties. Fastball-slider starters who lack changeups often run into trouble against opposite-handed hitters and a good change is often the dividing line between a successful starter and a career reliever. Justin Masterson is a prime example. Nonetheless, this is all speculation until a move is actually made. But, it would be interesting.

During some light Red Sox reading this past week, I stumbled upon a piece by WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford that brought up the idea of moving Daniel Bard. Suffice it to say, it was quite the interesting read.

A little background.

Prospect mavens out there may remember that, at the time Bard was drafted into the Sox organization in 2006, Bard was once a highly touted starting pitcher. After a stellar career at UNC, he looked like one of the steals of the draft after falling to the Sox at the 28th pick.

A disastrous 2007 campaign ended any thought of Bard as a starter. With 78 walks and just 47 strikeouts in 75.0 A-ball innings, Bard was dropped from the rotation — after being dropped from nearly every prospect list.

After a remarkable recovery in 2008 that saw Bard post 107 Ks in 77.2 IP with just 30 BBs, Bard reestablished himself as a premier pitching prospect and a valuable piece of the Red Sox’ future. His touch rediscovered, the prevailing notion recommended leaving Bard in the ‘pen so as not to reawaken his command issues.

Since then, Bard hasn’t started a game — and hasn’t had a case of the yips.

But the notion of moving Bard back into the rotation is certainly an intriguing one – one that could pay big time benefits for the club. Though Bard is an excellent bullpen arm, and is very valuable in that role, starters can contribute far more value to a team.

But two things stand in his way.

One the one hand, there is always the question that Bard’s command issues would crop up if he returned to starting. While it seems a bit unlikely that they would, the causes of his poor 2007 have yet to be determined. Whether they were mechanical or psychological is still debated, making nearly impossible any projection of their future affect.

Secondly — and perhaps more importantly — there is no room in the Sox rotation for the hurler for the foreseeable future. As Bradford points out, all four of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, and Clay Buchholz are under contract through 2014. Though Daisuke Matsuzaka’s deal expires following the 2012 season, it’s not a likely proposition that the team would groom their prized reliever for that role.

Still, there’s no saying that the move can’t or won’t happen — and, given his talent and track record, such a decision would make a lot of sense.

As unsurprising as it may be, Bard’s numbers translate very well to starting. Accounting for a slight dip in velocity and rise in contact percentages, the righty’s rates suggest a 3.758 ERA with 8.28 Ks per nine and 2.91 BBs per nine.

But that’s not the end of the story. Of course, there would have to be a bit of a change in Bard’s repertoire for him to make a successful transition to the rotation. As it currently stands, Bard is largely a two-pitch pitcher, relying on a hard fastball and slider, while mixing in a changeup.

While that pitch mix is an excellent combination for a power reliever, the fastball-slider combo isn’t necessarily ideal for a rotation member. In particular, Bard would have to improve upon his changeup to face lefties. Fastball-slider starters who lack changeups often run into trouble against opposite-handed hitters and a good change is often the dividing line between a successful starter and a career reliever.
Justin Masterson is a prime example.

Nonetheless, this is all speculation until a move is actually made. But, it would be interesting.

Categories: Boston Red Sox Daniel Bard

8 Responses to “Bard as a Starter?” Subscribe

  1. went9 February 14, 2011 at 9:34 AM #

    Do you think Bard's agent planted this starting pitcher seed in his brain because of the $$ involved in starters going to arbitration vs relievers going to arbitration?

    Buchholz and Bard both hit their first year of arb eligibility in '12.

    Bard produced 1.5 fWAR in 74.2 IN of relief in '11, Buchholz produced 3.7 fWAR in 173.2 starter innings.

    Both have great value to the Sox. Is Buchholz more than twice as valuable as Bard?

    How would an arbitrator look at these two pitchers and if the Sox were going to lock both Bard and Buchholz up like they have with Lester and Pedroia, would they get contracts of similar $$?

  2. Robert February 14, 2011 at 11:42 AM #

    It is a tempting thought. A team really need three top flight starters to go all the way. On the other hand, Bard is so effective in what he does,you better leave him alone,unless you are willing to sign a top notch setup guy next year for decent bucks. Even then, you take on the risk of hurting his arm,or of he not being effective as a starter.

  3. Chip February 14, 2011 at 1:51 PM #

    Good article Mike. I'll be honest, I hadn't given the idea anything more than a passing thought. His strikeout and ground ball rates seem healthy enough to theoretically transition to the rotation, but I am still concerned that his walk rate will rise higher than you calculated. Obviously, that's speculation, so I'm willing to defer to you on that until I see a more convincing argument.

    Also, I thought I remembered Bard using the change as more than a "show" pitch in the minors. If I remember correctly, his change flashed "plus" at times. Am I remembering that correctly, or am I just crazy?

  4. Tim Daloisio February 14, 2011 at 1:53 PM #

    Gammons mentioned something directly to Bard on the NESN show last night. Something to the effect, "Not to put you on the spot, but I think you'll be starting in a few years and Andrew Miller will be this team's closer. What do you think of that?". Bard smiled and offered, I'll go on record and say I would start if they asked me.

  5. Robert February 15, 2011 at 6:25 AM #

    Why would Gammons say that Andrew Millar will be their eventual closer? Andrew Miller has never done anything at any level,other then being a first round draft pick. Sometimes, Gammons gets hooked on a player for no good reason.

    • Darryl Johnston February 15, 2011 at 6:31 AM #

      He's notorious for that. I love Gammons but he is a daydreamer.

  6. Fisk June 3, 2011 at 11:12 PM #

    The events of 2011 mean that this needs revisiting with a look towards 2012

    #1 Matsusaka is now gone, probably forever. The Red Sox are in need of a starter.

    #2 Pimetel and Britton have been horrible and look to be a long way from helping the Red Sox if they ever do.

    #3 The free agent class for starting pitchers begins and ends with Mark Burerle and C.J. Wilson. Buerle is in his 30s and doesn't strike anyone out. Wilson has command issues will have a track record of exactly two years. It's not as if you can go out and sign Cliff Lee or even John Lackey. Both guys are going to want expensive multi-year deals and will cost you a draft pick.

    #4 Alfredo Aceves has shown good health and I think he could be a valuable member of the bullpen. Is there a reason he can't close?

    #5 Felix Doubront has been hurt and out of shape and I'm not so sure that he's a great option for the starting rotation anyways.

    #6 There are however several decent middle relievers on the market, and the Red Sox will have Jenks next year as well.

    #7 The Red Sox are also developing several decent bullpen options for 2012. By late next year, Alex Wilson, Kyle Weiland, and Andrew Miller could be in the Red Sox pen.

    All of this points to putting Bard in the rotation. In my opinion he's clearly better than any of the other possible options other than Buerle or Willson and Bard doesn't require an expensive long-term deal or compensation.

    All this adds up to putting Bard in the rotation next year. I think he's better than any of the free agent options, or any of the internal options.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tweets that mention Bard as a Starter? | Fire Brand of the American League -- Topsy.com - February 14, 2011

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Boston Red Sox Buzz, Fire Brand of the AL. Fire Brand of the AL said: Bard as a Starter? http://bit.ly/eMnkTK [...]