After all the trade fallout this weekend the Red Sox find themselves with a new member to the rotation in Erik Bedard. This is very good news with rumors circulating that Clay Buchholz has a stress fracture in his back and will miss the remainder of the regular season for sure. The experiment with Andrew Miller has gone well in regards to wins and losses as his record stands at 4-1, but with a 5.36 ERA that won’t last long.
Bedard was a big addition by the Mariners before the 2008 season, but has been a huge bust based on injuries. He has yet to top 100 IP in any season since joining the Mariners. He also did not even pitch in the majors in 2010 after a torn labrum in 2009. His injury history includes Tommy John surgery, the torn labrum, a bone spur and several smaller injuries.
When healthy though Bedard has been a fairly consistent pitcher. His 2007 season in Baltimore showed promise of an elite pitcher as he had a K/9 of 10.93 and only walked 2.82 every nine innings. That is elite stuff with a FIP of 3.19 and an xFIP of 2.90. It’s unclear if he was just getting better and the injuries slowed him or if that year was just an outlier, but every season before and after 2007 was at a level just below that with a K/9 of 8 to 8.5 and a walk rate around 3.
Even at those levels he has been able to maintain a FIP of 3.66 over his career. His xFIP is probably a truer judge though at 3.83 as pitching much of his 2008-2011 innings in Safeco has been a boost by limiting his home runs against.
Also something to look at is Bedard has improved his strikeout rate since moving to Seattle and that may have something to do with the park he is now pitching in. According to Statcorner.com Baltimore decreased strikeouts by 4 to 5 percent, but Seattle increased strikeouts by 7 to 10 percent based on batter handedness. Fenway Park looks to decrease strikeouts by 3 to 8 percent. The good news is it also decreases walks, which should help him adjust overall.
The way Bedard has been able to maintain his skill with so many injuries is quite amazing. His velocity through it all has maintained within a 1 to 2 mph range and he sits around 91 mph right now. He relies heavily on his curveball and throws it often, about 40 percent of his pitches. After what happened to Rich Hill this year I would be curious if the Red Sox try to make Bedard more selective with his curve as an increased curve ball usage did not help Hill’s arm.
There has been a lot of talk within the media and former managers that Bedard does not want to pitch in the big spotlight. He would prefer a Seattle or smaller market where there is less media and less attention. This theory will surely be put to the test as Bedard is joining the playoff hunt in one of the largest baseball markets. the pressure will be big and could get bigger if John Lackey has any struggles down the stretch.
I expect Bedard to pitch well and battle Lackey for the third spot in the rotation going into the playoffs. Based on ability to get strikeouts I would lean toward Bedard right now, but Lackey has been strong so far this second half. Of course if the team goes to the ALCS then we would likely need both anyway.
I did like the Rich Harden deal, but this deal was much better for the Red Sox. Bedard might strikeout a few less batters, but can avoid the 50 pitch inning that Harden has a tendency to get into. The only question in my mind is health, but Bedard should be worth that risk.