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.