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Daniel Bard and the Case of the mysterious disappearing strikeouts


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#1 alwyn96

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Posted 18 May 2012 - 12:45 PM

2, 1, 1. No, those aren't marks on Josh Beckett's golf scorecard, those are the numbers of strikeouts Daniel Bard's had in his last 3 games. For a pitcher who dominated hitters in relief with a blazing fastball, unhittable slider, and Bug Bunny-like changeup (see below), Bard has posted a below-average strikeout rate for a pitcher with his stuff. He's had a very good K/9 throughout his career and in his first few starts, but recently the K-train seems to have left the station leaving Bard holding a bag of walks. So what gives? He's maintained his fastball velocity (around 94MPH, one of the league's fastest), and he still gets swings and misses on his slider, but he's had trouble putting batters away. Not only that, but he's been all over the place, often getting behind hitters early, leading to an unacceptably high number of walks (4.78 BB/9, the highest of his career) and fastballs left in the heart of the strikezone.

Not only that, his command has been lousy. Take a look at these fun charts from Bard's last start.

Posted Image

First, look at all those 0-0 pitches (marked by "1"s) out of the zone. Ugly. This is something to watch for. Bard's got good stuff, but he's missing a lot with his first pitch, and immediately getting behind hitters. Not only that, but what you'd like to see here is a pretty donut around the edges of the strikezone but instead it's an undifferentiated mass. The ability to keep pitches out of the heart of the strikezone but still throw strikes around the edges is often referred to as command (although there are a lot of definitions floating around out there). Bard didn't have much of it last Sunday, giving up a bunch of walks on pitches out of the zone, and the pitches he left in the heart of the zone got hit. Fortunately, Bard doesn't give up many HR - otherwise, well, lots of runs will happen.

So I'd say look for 1st pitch strikes and the ability to hit the corners with the fastball tonight. Bard's got nasty stuff, but hasn't had much control of it recently. Let's hope that can change.

Posted Image

Edited by alwyn96, 18 May 2012 - 02:48 PM.


#2 Trotsky

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Posted 18 May 2012 - 06:05 PM

Still think he's going to be our best starting pitcher within 2 years, but I'm wondering what sort of contact opponents are making when they put the ball in play. If his pitchers are still doing what they did when he was throwing out of the pen, I'd assume we'd see lots of weak fly balls and soft grounders.
I'm wondering if there's some strategy to this or if he's just got that poor control and is insanely lucky at this point (wuz his BABIP?).
There's also some questions raised about Salty's "framing" ability...

#3 alwyn96

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Posted 18 May 2012 - 06:24 PM

There's also some questions raised about Salty's "framing" ability...


Red Sox catchers are certainly no Jose Molina, but Bard used to strike batters out at a higher rate last year (and even this year) while still pitching to Salty/Shoppach. This is kind of a new thing.

#4 Sampo Gida

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Posted 18 May 2012 - 09:48 PM

2, 1, 1. No, those aren't marks on Josh Beckett's golf scorecard, those are the numbers of strikeouts Daniel Bard's had in his last 3 games. For a pitcher who dominated hitters in relief with a blazing fastball, unhittable slider, and Bug Bunny-like changeup (see below), Bard has posted a below-average strikeout rate for a pitcher with his stuff. He's had a very good K/9 throughout his career and in his first few starts, but recently the K-train seems to have left the station leaving Bard holding a bag of walks. So what gives? He's maintained his fastball velocity (around 94MPH, one of the league's fastest), and he still gets swings and misses on his slider, but he's had trouble putting batters away. Not only that, but he's been all over the place, often getting behind hitters early, leading to an unacceptably high number of walks (4.78 BB/9, the highest of his career) and fastballs left in the heart of the strikezone.

Not only that, his command has been lousy. Take a look at these fun charts from Bard's last start.

First, look at all those 0-0 pitches (marked by "1"s) out of the zone. Ugly. This is something to watch for. Bard's got good stuff, but he's missing a lot with his first pitch, and immediately getting behind hitters. Not only that, but what you'd like to see here is a pretty donut around the edges of the strikezone but instead it's an undifferentiated mass. The ability to keep pitches out of the heart of the strikezone but still throw strikes around the edges is often referred to as command (although there are a lot of definitions floating around out there). Bard didn't have much of it last Sunday, giving up a bunch of walks on pitches out of the zone, and the pitches he left in the heart of the zone got hit. Fortunately, Bard doesn't give up many HR - otherwise, well, lots of runs will happen.

So I'd say look for 1st pitch strikes and the ability to hit the corners with the fastball tonight. Bard's got nasty stuff, but hasn't had much control of it recently. Let's hope that can change.


Nice post.

Not a good performance tonight against a week hitting team. Awful command, especially in the first, and his FB velocity was down. Arm slot looked like it did last September.

#5 alwyn96

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 03:30 PM

Nice post. Not a good performance tonight against a week hitting team. Awful command, especially in the first, and his FB velocity was down. Arm slot looked like it did last September.


I only caught a few innings of Bard, but they were...disappointments.

Here's a graph of Bard's release point last night, compared to one from last summer when he was around 100MPH.

Posted Image
Posted Image

I'd guess the separation in the release point yesterday is maybe two different pitches. He might be tipping his pitches a bit, although you do see a little separation last year too.

Edited by alwyn96, 19 May 2012 - 03:34 PM.


#6 Sprowl


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Posted 19 May 2012 - 04:28 PM

I'd guess the separation in the release point yesterday is maybe two different pitches. He might be tipping his pitches a bit, although you do see a little separation last year too.


By my reading, the two different clusters are composed of:

lower cluster: all the two-seamers and most of the changeups
upper cluster: all the sliders and most of the four-seamers

caveat lector: PitchFx can't believe that Bard throws a sub-90 fastball, so it mislabels many of the 2- and 4-seamers as changeups. Also, these data are gathered not exactly at the point of release, but a few feet away from the hand. It follows that a slow breaking pitch like Bard's slider has to be thrown higher if it is to break into the strike zone, rather than into the dirt.

Even so, it's pretty clear that Bard's release is consistently inconsistent.

Posted Image

#7 wine111

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 09:56 PM

Still think he's going to be our best starting pitcher within 2 years, but I'm wondering what sort of contact opponents are making when they put the ball in play. If his pitchers are still doing what they did when he was throwing out of the pen, I'd assume we'd see lots of weak fly balls and soft grounders.
I'm wondering if there's some strategy to this or if he's just got that poor control and is insanely lucky at this point (wuz his BABIP?).
There's also some questions raised about Salty's "framing" ability...


I think Bard has zero chance of being as good as Jon Lester. His control is too erratic as he tires. It was even more concerning to see him struggle early with walks when he was starting the Phillies game. His ceiling to me is A.J. Burnett in his prime with a chance he doesn't make it as a starter. Strikeouts down and walks up is a real cause for concern. 25 walks and 26 strikeouts in 42 innings is really bad. He could even end up being a right handed Matt Young or Rick Ankiel. Only good things are 41 hits in those 42 innings and showing a little tenacity when he struggles early in games. I hope he makes it to #2 on the staff, but I think Matt Barnes may have something to say about that by 2014 or so, even if Bard makes it to the best of A. J. Burnett.

Edited by wine111, 19 May 2012 - 10:18 PM.


#8 alwyn96

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Posted 20 May 2012 - 04:22 PM

As you said, Bard's control isn't good at the beginnings of games, either. I was a big believer in the Bard-as-starter project, and I think taking a chance on Bard as a starter was worth a shot, but unless Bard can do better than these high-walk, low-K starts, I think the Red Sox probably need to think about whether it's best to find a role that Bard can better succeed in. You want to give him enough time to try to figure it out - he's a smart guy with a lot of talent, but the loss of control is a real concern.

#9 Trotsky

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 09:43 AM

I'm pretty certain his problems are mechanical or injury (something mild?), but I still think he's going to figure it out and put together a stretch of dominance as a starter. With Lester and Beckett pitching much better, Dobront pitching solidly and (hopefully) Clay coming around, I think we have the space to stick with the Bard-as-Starter experiment and just a gut feeling, I think it will pay off in a big way within a year or two. This season I think he'll stay inconsistent but still be better than league "no. 5" average.

#10 koufax37

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 02:41 PM

i think, as I stress often in game threads, that his major problem is one of approach, and his second problem is one of repeatable mechanics.

He has no electric stuff role model to look at, and whether it is listening to Beckett (an aging power pitcher who has lost some stuff, and tends to be successful when throwing his curve in the zone) or Lackey (comments withheld), something is amiss. He is approaching games like he would like to be Beckett and not Verlander/Strasburg. I don't think he should try to be any of them, but he is discounting the role that electric stuff has played in his past success and needs to play in his future success. I think he approaches games pacing himself, trying to get his breaking ball over etc, and much too dramatically differently from how he used to approach the 8th inning.

My personal hope is that his 97-99 would turn into 95-97. Giving up a couple miles an hour is acceptable, but more than that has completely changes how hitters commit to his slider, and it no longer buckles knees when in the zone, and (more importantly) gets chases out of the zone.

Observationally, I agree with alwyn's point about first pitches. The frequency of him throwing a great low fastball strike one seems to be pretty significantly less than him throwing a useless not-close ball one. This changes the complexities of his at-bats, and since both his down-to-earth fastball and his slower slider are more hittable normal pitches, hitters can recognize better and err on the side of laying off bad pitches.

I also think he struggles with reduced-effort repeatable mechanics. I don't know if it is a reflection that he just suffers mechanically from being a starter, and throwing a higher volume of pitches then not appearing in a game for 4-5 days, but I think it is more likely that after years of going at 100%, throwing with lower effort is mechanically more difficult for him. If the latter, I don't think that is a problem, because the number one thing I want to fix with him is increasing his effort and fastball velocity, along with the frequency of his fastball.

What I would like to see him do in game is throw a ton more high effort fastballs, and regain some of that electric velocity, but also the repeatable mechanical precision. I know he struggled at times out of the pen, especially down the stretch last year, but I think the expectation of him being able to throw a fastball strike were much higher than they are now. I would like to see him save his breaking ball to throw out of the zone ahead in the count.

Without regained fastball velocity and command, I don't think the rest will matter much. I would really like to see a start where he errs on the side of overthrowing, and errs on the side of too many fastballs, because even if he gives up some runs and doesn't go as deep in that game, I think he would start to find himself and the talented pitcher that made him so promising as a potential starter.

#11 wine111

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 04:50 PM

I think Bard may be one of those pitchers that if he really dials up his effort, he cannot sustain the velocity and/or accuracy for very long. I have always suspected this given how quickly he became successful in the bullpen. This may not be correctable. We have to hope he finds a consistent release point at high effort, but there may be a stamina issue with that much exertion or an issue with balance or a combination of both. Either issue would affect repeatable mechanics that would impact his ability to become a successful major league starter.

Edited by wine111, 21 May 2012 - 04:55 PM.


#12 koufax37

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 08:57 PM

I think Bard may be one of those pitchers that if he really dials up his effort, he cannot sustain the velocity and/or accuracy for very long. I have always suspected this given how quickly he became successful in the bullpen. This may not be correctable. We have to hope he finds a consistent release point at high effort, but there may be a stamina issue with that much exertion or an issue with balance or a combination of both. Either issue would affect repeatable mechanics that would impact his ability to become a successful major league starter.


Well let's dial it up and find out, because this 1 strikeout 92 stuff isn't really doing it for me.

#13 alwyn96

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 06:00 PM

Well let's dial it up and find out, because this 1 strikeout 92 stuff isn't really doing it for me.


Results weren't terrible today, but man, Bard just doesn't look good. He gets behind every hitter, and when he does get ahead can't strike them out. I have no idea if Cook or Dice-K are anything like close to returning, but I can't imagine this can last much longer.

#14 koufax37

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 12:00 AM

Results weren't terrible today, but man, Bard just doesn't look good. He gets behind every hitter, and when he does get ahead can't strike them out. I have no idea if Cook or Dice-K are anything like close to returning, but I can't imagine this can last much longer.


Yep, hard to watch, but impressive that he keeps getting the team in a position to win after 5 or 6 despite pitching poorly in terms of stuff and command. When Dice-K or Lackey pitches poorly, every time you looked up 6 runs were on the board. Same with Clay this year. Not the case with Bard, and many of the runs charged to him involved his very last batters after not being pulled too soon.

So even if he can't take a step forward, he is a perfectly acceptable, albeit unconventional fifth starter, and with our bullpen going strong, Clay struggling, and no clearcut starter ready, I don't see anybody pulling the plug on the Bard experiment any time soon.

Add in that Bailey and Melancon and Tazawa are all righty bullpen help lined up, and the fact that he is no guarantee to rever to 99mph his first day in the pen (he would have lost the Minnesota relief appearance if that smoked ball wasn't right at Youk.

I hope that the early hook today and the extra day rest coming with the off day, that the next start is the one where McClure and Salty get on the same page and work to establish a higher effort fastball and not pace his crappy 91 over six innings. I'm not asking for Verlander/Strasburg or Reliever Bard 97-99, just to start to see some max effort pitches and some 95s and 96s, the confidence to throw six fastballs in a row with the bases empty, and start to see some of his fastball command come back.

#15 alwyn96

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 08:37 PM

And of course, like clockwork, the weei blog has an interesting piece on Bard's struggles. I have to say the weei site is becoming one of my favorite Red Sox media outlets. Rod Bradford and Alex Speier do some good stuff over there.

Article summary: arm slot, mechanics issues

#16 Sampo Gida

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 10:22 PM

For all the complaints and concerns about Bard, some of which are justified, he is the only starter to have gone at least 5 IP in every start AND not given up more than 5 runs in any start.

Beckett- 2 starts less than 5 IP and 7 runs allowed

Lester-2 starts less than 5 IP and 7 runs allowed

Buchholz, 2 starts less than 5 IP, one of which he allowed 7 runs

Doubront 1 start less than 5 IP
.
Cook 1 start less than 5 IP and 7 runs allowed

#17 Trotsky

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 09:16 AM

We've got to keep in mind that he's our freaking "number 5" starter... he's in a position to work things out and he's still being relatively successful (despite the alarming peripherals, which I rack up to his working things out) as a bottom of a rotation starter. At this point, I don't see what he's going to add to the bullpen if they just yank him from the rotation... the best way to proceed is to keep him in the stinkin' rotation until Matsuzaka is healthy and ready to return and then go with the staggered-tagteam tandem with Felix and him.... that way you're keeping him working on his Starting Pitcher technique and mechanics while also winding his innings down and potentially slowly shifting him into a bullpen role for a playoffs run (PLAYOFFS?!?!?!... playoffs?????).

#18 alwyn96

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 01:57 PM

We've got to keep in mind that he's our freaking "number 5" starter... he's in a position to work things out and he's still being relatively successful (despite the alarming peripherals, which I rack up to his working things out) as a bottom of a rotation starter. At this point, I don't see what he's going to add to the bullpen if they just yank him from the rotation... the best way to proceed is to keep him in the stinkin' rotation until Matsuzaka is healthy and ready to return and then go with the staggered-tagteam tandem with Felix and him.... that way you're keeping him working on his Starting Pitcher technique and mechanics while also winding his innings down and potentially slowly shifting him into a bullpen role for a playoffs run (PLAYOFFS?!?!?!... playoffs?????).


Certainly in the absence of any better options, there's really no choice but to keep Bard in the rotation....where he should be. He deserves a little more time before any decision would be made, even there were a remotely acceptable replacement option. For all my bellyaching about him, he could have saved the Red Sox season with some merely slightly below-average starts last September (although he could have also saved them by not pitching like crap in relief too). We're pretty much stuck watching him try to figure it out and crossing our fingers. He got tons of talent and enough brains (although brains don't always necessarily help you as a baseball player) to figure it out, but he's kind of lost in the wilderness right now. I'd love to see him work out whatever mechanical issue he's got and start mowing guys down like we've seen him do in the past, but he hasn't really shown signs of being that pitcher lately.

#19 Sampo Gida

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Posted 28 May 2012 - 05:04 AM

Watching Bard pitch lately has been like watching Daisuke pitch when healthy. Lots of walks which drive up his pitch count, but not allowing solid contact, especially with ROB, and keeping the ball in the park.

It blows my mind folks look at Daisuke as some kind of savior. I guess being on the DL does wonder for your perceived value in this town.

Anyways, as long as Bard can keep the team in the game over 5-6 IP, and avoid the disastrous starts the all other starters have had on occasion, that's all you can ask of your number 5 starter.

The biggest concern to me is his drop off in velocity. Maybe it's just mechanics and a benign dead arm, but if that's the case, there is no guarantee.he fixes it immediately if moved to the bullpen. Might be better off pitching 5 innings of low lev innings every 5 games and see if he can work it out than having him in the bullpen.

#20 alwyn96

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Posted 29 May 2012 - 09:47 PM

Bardwatch!

So tonight's game showed a little more velocity from Bard, as he found, and then lost, and then re-found, and then re-lost his good mechanics. He touched 95 a few times and managed to strike a few guys out (which was encouraging) while keeping the walks from getting out of hand (which was also encouraging).

So generally signs of improvement!

#21 koufax37

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Posted 29 May 2012 - 10:52 PM

Some good things tonight. Some good sequences of sticking with his fastball and letting it go. Once again with his ups and downs he got us past the fifth inning with a chance to win the ballgame, but more importantly some positive signs with his fastball. Hopefully something he can build on for his next start.

#22 trs

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 08:25 AM

Some good things tonight. Some good sequences of sticking with his fastball and letting it go. Once again with his ups and downs he got us past the fifth inning with a chance to win the ballgame, but more importantly some positive signs with his fastball. Hopefully something he can build on for his next start.


On top of this it also seems that he recognizes his struggles as the game goes on, saying, 'I get where he's coming from, typically I have struggled as I get deeper in the game, But I just told him [Valentine], I made it clear as respectfully as I could, I told him that I'm ready to start finishing those innings. I don't need to be treated like a kid anymore.' (boston.com) As well as saying the right thing in that he wants to stay in the game. If I remember correctly, Bard is one of those guys who does look at metrics beyond W/L and E.R.A. While it may not be a great idea for a pitcher to over-think, it is encouraging to see him address and understand part of what has led to his struggles this year.

None of this of course speaks to his drop in velocity or inconsistent release points. I hope and expect though that these issues are being discussed outside of sosh and inside a clubhouse.

Edited by trs, 30 May 2012 - 08:26 AM.


#23 Trotsky

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 08:41 AM

While that's great that Bard wants to stay in the game, I'd also assume that just about every starting pitcher wants to, and thinks they can, finish an inning when they start struggling, it's also the job of a manager to keep an eye on pitch counts, batters coming up that they have struggled with and lefty/right matchups, along with who they have available in the bullpen to get through those late innings. I'm a big supporter of Bard as a starter and think he's going to end up within 2 years as a top no.1-ish starter, I also hope if he looks beyond W/L and ERA, that he also is aware of those other elements that need to be considered during those late innings too.
Glad he's got the drive and competitiveness, but I'd rather Bobby V pull him too early rather than too late.

#24 Eck'sSneakyCheese


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Posted 30 May 2012 - 09:20 AM

Some good things tonight. Some good sequences of sticking with his fastball and letting it go. Once again with his ups and downs he got us past the fifth inning with a chance to win the ballgame, but more importantly some positive signs with his fastball. Hopefully something he can build on for his next start.


Definitely a step forward last night. Hitting 95 in the 5th inning was nice to see, as was throwing the change up a little more (12 by my count, Brooks says 17 but 5 look to be mis-labeled when looking at the movement groupings). He's still losing rhythm and consistency with his mechanics and release points but overall it was less than his recent starting performances.

Glad he's got the drive and competitiveness, but I'd rather Bobby V pull him too early rather than too late.


A thousand times this. I agree that every pitcher believes that they can get themselves out of trouble and rightfully should feel that way, that's part of being a competitor. I'm glad Bard feels enough confidence in himself to get upset at being pulled, but it's Bobby's job to know when it's time for the hook (something he's been doing a good job of lately) and last night it was time.

#25 wine111

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 11:48 AM

Some good things tonight. Some good sequences of sticking with his fastball and letting it go. Once again with his ups and downs he got us past the fifth inning with a chance to win the ballgame, but more importantly some positive signs with his fastball. Hopefully something he can build on for his next start.


The best thing was him just going out there and pitch and not let the fact that he was facing Verlander mess him up. This was a big start for him from a mental toughness standpoint. Some pitchers worry about having to be perfect to beat the reigning Cy Young award winner and don't keep their focus. If Bard stays in the stretch and avoids the windup, he may successfully address his repeatable mechanics problems (balance and coordination issues?).

Edited by wine111, 31 May 2012 - 10:23 AM.


#26 Trotsky

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 04:44 PM

The best thing was him just going out there and pitch and not let the fact that he was facing Verlander mess him up. This was a big start for him from a mental toughness standpoint. Some pitchers worry about having to be perfect to beat the reigning Cy Young award winner and don't keep their focus. If Bard stays in the stretch and avoids the windup, he may successfully address his repeatable mechanics issues (balance and coordination issues?).

I think there are some concerns about shoulder and elbow damage for pitchers that don't pitch from the full windup for more than short stretches. This, more than anything else, has me concerned about Bard as a starter. I think he needs to slowly work in pitching from the full windup where his strength comes from his legs and torso rather than all arm. If he can't do it, then he does need to move back to the bullpen unfortunately.
Of course this sort of stuff isn't one-size-fits-all sort of biology either. For all anyone knows, Bard might be perfectly built to be able to sustain pitching always from the stretch....

#27 Rovin Romine

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 04:37 PM

I was all for the Bard-as-Starter idea. But now, I'm finding myself more and more on the fence.

While Sprowl and others have great micro analysis, I think the macro level suggests a story, especially given Bards WEEI interviews where he's brainstorming new and interesting ways to pitch to hitters. Which frightened me. The guy's profession has been pitching for how many years - and he's just now trying to figure out what batters expect and/or what might confuse a batter? Maybe someone should be calling the games *for* him. Anyway:

<span class="Apple-style-span" style="-webkit-border-horizontal-spacing: 2px; -webkit-border-vertical-spacing: 2px;"]
DATE OPPONENT RESULT IP H R HR BB SO Pit
Early High K, low BB starts (except 1)
10-Apr @ TOR L 7-3 5 8 5 0 1 6 96
16-Apr vs TB L 1-0 6.2 4 1 0 7 7 111
27-Apr @ CHW W 10-3 7 6 3 1 1 6 96
Middle "High" IP, low K, more BB starts.
2-May vs OAK L 4-2 5.1 8 4 0 2 1 101
8-May @ KC L 6-4 7 6 5 0 4 1 96
13-May vs CLE W 12-1 6 6 1 0 4 2 97
Recent higher K, higher BB starts.
18-May @ PHI L 6-4 5 3 5 1 5 3 94
23-May @ BAL W 6-5 5.1 5 2 1 4 2 90
29-May vs DET W 6-3 5.1 5 2 2 2 4 94
3-Jun @ TOR L 5-1 1.2 1 5 1 6 2 55
</span]

I think that opposing managers, if "spotted" Bard's numbers against their number 5 starter, would gladly take 4 of his 10 starts, maybe 5. I realize this is not "all Bard" and that for a #5 it's not horrible, but I had higher hopes for him (and his effective use) than the results we've gotten so far.

More worrying though is that the big picture suggests he's trying a few different approaches, none of which are successful for more than a game, if that. I don't know if Sprowl or the micro analysis guys would agree or disagree with that, but the overall results suggest moving to a different approaches across time, not just inconsistent "stuff" start to start. Did somebody suggest "pitching to contact" in early May to try to drive up his IP?

***

The thing that bothered me most about Bard was my subjective impression that he had a tendency to single-handedly lose games. As a reliever or starter, he seems to go through periods where he can't do the job for one reason or another. So I was kind of surprised when I looked at his 2011 season. In 70 appearances, he had 12 stinkers, clustered early and late in the season (which is less worrisome to me). The rest of the time he was pretty much golden:

<span class="Apple-style-span" style="-webkit-border-horizontal-spacing: 2px; -webkit-border-vertical-spacing: 2px;"]</span]
Gtm Date Opp Rslt Dec IP H ER ▾ BB SO
142 7-Sep TOR L,10-11 BL(2-6) 1 1 5 3 2
1 1-Apr TEX L,5-9 L(0-1) 0.2 4 4 1 1
107 1-Aug CLE L,6-9 L(1-5) 0.1 2 3 1 0
43 19-May DET W,4-3 BS(1) 1 2 2 0 1
148 14-Sep TOR L,4-5 BL(2-8) 1 1 2 2 0
155 20-Sep BAL L,5-7 HL(2-9) 1.1 2 2 0 2
161 27-Sep BAL W,8-7 1 3 2 0 1
6 7-Apr CLE L,0-1 L(0-2) 1 0 1 1 0
36 10-May TOR L,6-7 1 1 1 0 1
47 23-May CLE L,2-3 BL(1-4) 0.1 2 1 0 0
136 1-Sep NYY L,2-4 BS(3) 0.2 2 1 0 1
145 10-Sep TBR L,5-6 L(2-7) 0.1 2 1 0 0


I was also surprised by the (relative) lack of walks in these outings, given his troubles this year.

***
As a total aside, I don't know if there's a stat for this, but I think it would be interesting to know if there's a way to measure the frequency of pitchers imploding. You know, like 12 out of 70 times pitcherX implodes, whereas the average pitcher implodes and single-handedly loses the game 5% or 7% or whatever. I realize it's not a "real" stat, due to manager choices in matchups and the different opportunities pitchers have. I am curious how a "tendency to melt down and singlehandedly lose one of the 162" factor might change how we value a pitcher. Does WAR capture this or not?

I don't think 2011 actually shows Bard to be one of our theoretically imploding pitchers. It's far more likely just a rough start and a tired arm at the end of the season - and on average Bard was fantastic in 2011.

I'm one of the minority (I suppose) who thinks that while Francona had limited resources, had he been smarter about it, we'd at least have had a chance to play someone in the 2011 post season. Looking at the cluster of late bad Bard games reminds me of this.

Edited by Rovin Romine, 03 June 2012 - 04:58 PM.


#28 threecy

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 07:28 PM

If I were making decisions for the team, I'd be planning for a transition back to his 2010-2011 role, in conjunction with Daisuke's return.

It'd be one thing if he had been smacked around in this most recent start. However, the control issues (hopefully this isn't a repeat of his initial pro-ball struggles), diminished velocity, and lack of progress are very concerning. I think the risk of him doing serious damage to himself is too great at this point to balance out a potential solid starting pitcher if things were to start clicking at some point.

From Bard's perspective, being a successful starting pitcher means a more lucrative career. However, if he truly is the most valuable pitcher in the bullpen, as suggested by some last year, then the Red Sox should consider paying him as such, should he be able to regain form.

#29 koufax37

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 07:44 PM

I'm going to say it because few will: Today was the low point for Bard, and if he can stay intact mentally, he is primed to improve from here and get back on track. If this was too much psychologically for him to handle, he might not and need a change as a crutch.

I thought his comments after the start were telling (although I think of him as more racehorse and less jockey, and care more what he does and is told to do than what he thinks at this point):

“It’s that maybe we tried to turn me into a starter rather than just taking the same pitcher I was out of the ‘pen and moving that guy into the rotation. That’s probably what should have been done. It’s partially my fault. It’s all my fault. It’s a matter of what I had success doing in the past.”

I have said since spring that all the talk of pacing himself, throwing more changeups, etc was premature and too large an adjustment to make at once, and he needed to establish his fastball, let it fly like when he was a reliever, use his slider to put away, and gradually learn to stretch out and pace, and his role model had to be Verlander and not Lackey :).

Even in his opening start in Toronto as opposed to this one, when he pitched really well overall with bad BABIP on grounders and bad relief/inherited results, he still threw too many breaking balls and too many breaking ball strikes, and didn't establish the fastball effectively.

But what I have seen, is that for all his struggles in the zone, inability to strike people out, diminishing velocity, he was able to do what Clay was not able to do: allow few enough runs to give his team an eyes closed reasonable chance to win.

@Tor: 3 runs in 5 innings, left in too long and Thomas got to pitch to a righty, etc.
TB: 1 run in 6.2, but should have been 0 runs in 6.2 and pulled two walks earlier, we can all agree
@CWS: 3 runs (2 earned) in 7.0
OAK: 1 run in 5 innings, then left in too long to give up three doubles and a hit by pitch in a span of four batters
@KC: 3 runs in 7 innings (the left in too long as obvious as the TB game walking a couple before Albers allowed the homer)
CLE: 1 run in 6 innings
PHI: 5 runs in 5 IP, his first stinker, but only three hits and settled down after the big first inning to give his team a chance.
@BAL: 2 runs in 5.1 IP
DET: 2 runs in 5.1 IP
@TOR: COMPLETE MELTDOWN!!!!

So with a quicker hook in some of his other starts (not monday morning quarterback, but situations where the game threads were calling for pitchforks and torches), he has in 10 starts:

Gone 5 IP nine out of ten times
8 of 10: Given up 3 or fewer runs through five or more innings
1 of 10: Had a winnable bad start (Lackey/Clay victory)
1 of 10: Stinker, Didn't have it from the first pitch and had a stinker

Compared with a more casual glance through others:
Lester: 2 stinkers where he gave up 7ER and failed to go 5, one winnable bad start where he gave up 5 in through five
Beckett: 2 stinkers where he gave up 7ER and failed to go 5
Buchholz: Only one stinker where he failed to go 5, but tons of winnable bad starts (including a streak of 5 straight with 5 ER), including three times where he gave up 5 before finishing his fifth inning
Doubront: 1 stinker where he gave up 5ER and failed to go 5, the rest inefficient awesomeness giving us a chance every time

Dice-K: in 2011 2 stinkers in 7 starts, 2010 3 stinkers in 25 starts, 2009 2 stinkers in 12 starts.
Lackey: 4 stinkers in 2011 plus lots more pretty close where he just managed to be left in longer
Cook: 4 stinkers in 2011, 6 in 2010 including 3 in a row at one point

So, all this put together along with the fact that Doubront CANNOT make every start this year without having an insane innings jump for a promising 24 year old and will need to be skipped/DLed/shutdown rather than just given the ball, and I just flat out don't see how we can pull the plug on the Bard experiment.

If now is the time to skip Bard, let Dice-K start, let him be DL'd or work out of the pen for a game or two while he works on something mechanically, before being put back in the rotation, fine. But saying "nah, it isn't working" when 8 of 10 starts it has worked acceptably, and he clearly has had some approach issues with his transition which he seemed to finally acknowledge today, along with the normal mechanical/repetition learning curve we would expect, just seems very very silly.

Today he didn't have it, and that happens to almost every pitcher ever at some point. For some it is flat hittable 9-10ER meltdowns, for some it is can't throw a strike meltdowns, but this happens and one game very very rarely is an indication of a pitcher's ability (Ankiel excepted :( ). I would love to see him back at it and see how he steps up mentally and physically and deals with the adversity, and I would love to see the team and coaching staff rally around him and show confidence in him, but if it needs to be 15 days because "something wasn't quite right...we want to let him work on some things in the pen and build up his velocity again", that's fine.

To instead pull the plug at this point and insert him in a role (RHRP) where he hadn't performed well the last month he was in it, and where we have a glut of people including two good ones in Pawtucket, and another very good one getting closer to coming off the DL just seems pretty silly. Coming into today he was on a string of 8 of 9 time pitching effectively for at least five innings. That alone give him more leash for me and it would require a string of failure a lot longer than half an hour for me to change my mind.

I understand the issues with peripherals and velocity, but he has been able to be effective pitching about as badly as we possibly could imagine. Unless you think he is doomed to get worse and incapable of getting better, I ride that out and don't Joba him.

#30 Sampo Gida

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 07:49 PM

I was all for the Bard-as-Starter idea. But now, I'm finding myself more and more on the fence.

While Sprowl and others have great micro analysis, I think the macro level suggests a story, especially given Bards WEEI interviews where he's brainstorming new and interesting ways to pitch to hitters. Which frightened me. The guy's profession has been pitching for how many years - and he's just now trying to figure out what batters expect and/or what might confuse a batter? Maybe someone should be calling the games *for* him.


Big difference overpowering guys you may face 3 times a year while throwing 99 mph and facing the same guy 3-4 times in a game throwing 93-95. As a starter you have to pitch more.

I think that opposing managers, if "spotted" Bard's numbers against their number 5 starter, would gladly take 4 of his 10 starts, maybe 5. I realize this is not "all Bard" and that for a #5 it's not horrible, but I had higher hopes for him (and his effective use) than the results we've gotten so far.


Surely you jest. Most teams don't even have a 5th starter, just a revolving door of suck. As 5th starters go, Bards probably one of the better ones. This is the first game he has failed to throw 5 IP.

The thing that bothered me most about Bard was my subjective impression that he had a tendency to single-handedly lose games. As a reliever or starter, he seems to go through periods where he can't do the job for one reason or another. So I was kind of surprised when I looked at his 2011 season. In 70 appearances, he had 12 stinkers, clustered early and late in the season (which is less worrisome to me). The rest of the time he was pretty much golden:
I was also surprised by the (relative) lack of walks in these outings, given his troubles this year.


In the games you listed he had 8 walks in 9 1/3 IP

As a total aside, I don't know if there's a stat for this, but I think it would be interesting to know if there's a way to measure the frequency of pitchers imploding. You know, like 12 out of 70 times pitcherX implodes, whereas the average pitcher implodes and single-handedly loses the game 5% or 7% or whatever. I realize it's not a "real" stat, due to manager choices in matchups and the different opportunities pitchers have. I am curious how a "tendency to melt down and singlehandedly lose one of the 162" factor might change how we value a pitcher. Does WAR capture this or not?


In 54 games, Red Sox starters have had 9 starts where a starter has went less than 5 IP and/or given up more than 5 runs. That a 16% rate in a small sample.
Bards has had 1 stinker in 10 this year. In 1584 starts this year, 229 pitchers failed to last 5 IP (about a 14% rate), and 114 of them gave up more than 5 runs (7%)

Bard is the only Red Sox starter besides Doubront who has yet to give up more than 5 runs.


I'm one of the minority (I suppose) who thinks that while Francona had limited resources, had he been smarter about it, we'd at least have had a chance to play someone in the 2011 post season. Looking at the cluster of late bad Bard games reminds me of this.


What should Tito have done differently? He had 2 healthy starters (Lackey was pitching with a bad elbow that required TJ surgery and Buchholz and Daisuke were on the DL), and one of them (Beckett) sprained his ankle and missed a week, and he had a collection of Weiland, Miller, Wake, Bedard making the rest of the starts. Albers and Bard both stunk out of the bullpen and Tito had Aceves pitch more innings than any starter in September with the exception of Lester.

Crawford was playing poorly with a bad wrist that required surgery and A-Gons shoulder issues took away his power, Youk and JD were out, and Reddick who replaced JD was suffering from a bad wrist that required surgery (he had his done in November, unlike Crawford). Salty fell off a cliff having caught a career high number of games.

Edited by Sampo Gida, 03 June 2012 - 07:51 PM.


#31 Rovin Romine

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 08:46 PM

Hey Sampo,

1) Do you think my general point remains? That over time the stats suggest Bard's trying different "approaches" to pitching?
(I'm assuming there's no injury.) If Bard is healthy, how do you explain the statistical drift in his starts? Just bad luck?

I agree with Koufax37. He should pitch like Daniel Bard. If he only lasts 4 or 5 innings, *then* you tinker with success to try and get more innings out of him.

2) Yes, I am still disturbed that Bard has apparently never sat down and made an effort to study hitter psychology, but now, as a starter, he's doing it (and implicitly letting his "new knowledge" *change* what he attempts to do on the mound.) Are you truly comfortable with all the implications of this?

3) I'm not going to deal with the Tito thing in depth. What's done is done. I don't think anyone can really claim that Tito managed the last month brilliantly, daringly, and through his cleverness snatched one extra victory in the last 30 games. Cause, well, he didn't. Yeah, the roster was in shambles, I get it. But if so, where's the innovative managing to *try* to get that extra win? Blame Tito, Blame Theo et al, but it just wasn't there. Perhaps it wasn't winnable at all. Maybe I'm missing something. But I just never got the feeling that rational assessments were made and all options were exhausted. For example, what the hell was going on with Oki? For that matter, was there no ML pitcher available to help in Sept. while not exhausting your playoff bullpen?

#32 wine111

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 12:05 AM

I'm concerned that with every arm slot change, Bard could be playing with fire with his arm. He needs to find one arm slot he can work with
and stick to, and that is the arm slot that allows him to throw the hardest. He will never be able to establish his fastball command if he keeps
playing with different arm slots and combining that with changing speeds too often. He could possibly end up injured or just plain ineffective. If even
just pitching from the stretch doesn't help him with his control, he may have to return to the bullpen, where less pitches mean a better chance
of keeping his mechanics at least somewhat under control. Maybe he could adopt the old Jim Palmer high leg kick.

#33 AimingForYoko


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Posted 04 June 2012 - 12:10 AM

I go back to my point of Bard sounding just as fucking confused as the rest of us. He is lost as fuck and needs to be DL'd. And then maybe we can sneak a phone call to Farrell.

#34 Towney007

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 01:13 AM

There was an interesting post over at Tango's site a few months ago about Bard's arm slot dropping off the closer he gets to 80 iP and it really beginning to be an issue around 50IP. He ticks up to a .310 wOBA in August and then it balloons to .339 mark in September. I don't think it's an endurance thing as much as I'm beginning to wonder whether his arm can really take that kind of a pounding. What's got me more worried isn't even the control as much as the general ineffectiveness of the strikes he's throwing. Over on the main board they had an interesting bit about 2011 Bard pre-Sept and 2012 Bard pre-June 3rd. His whiff rate is down over half. He's drawing a good 8% fewer swings. I'm thinking mechanics all the way with him throwing lighter to maintain control. But then again I dunno. I'm worried about him in general. I think it's time to pull the plug on this - at the very least for the time being. They've effectively gotten to Dice-K and while I'm sure they may have thought Doubront would be the bridge piece, it appears Bard's going to be that guy instead.

#35 keyalyn

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 08:55 AM

You cannot compare 50IP as a starter to 50IP as a reliever, so even if his arm slot did start to change at around that time last year I don't think that it is relevant to what he is doing this season. And as shitty as this last start was, he had a 3.38ERA over his previous 2 starts against two very good offenses. It may not have looked good, but this was the first start where he was really awful. If his control continues to be horribly bad then it might be time to re-evaluate what do do with him, but i don't think it should be done just yet.

He was great in his first 3 starts of the season, getting swinging strikes on 16.7%, 11.7% and 10.4% of his pitches, so he has shown that his stuff can be great even as a starter. He allowed 7BB in one of those games, but that was when he was inexplicably left in to throw despite being clearly gassed, and in turn walked 3 of the last 4 batters he faced. Save for that .2IP he looked very good in those first 3 starts.

#36 koufax37

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 11:09 AM

His arm slot, his release point and his mechanics are the real problem here, and I think they are a product of his changed approach which we have been talking about for two months, but he finally just admitted yesterday. Hopefully yesterday can serve him as the kick in the pants failure needed to change his approach at last.

The complete loss of mechanics and inability to throw a fastball strike is not something unique to starters or relievers, but sitting around for five days before another game makes it more of a mental challenge. On the flip side, with his low pitch count, he can and should throw more on the side, and hopefully do multiple bullpens. With the off day he gets six days between starts, which should allow for multiple bullpen days, where if McClure has any brain at all, he will only allow him to throw fastballs. Saturday will be our big day to see which Bard we get. I think he will be successful at getting right back on the horse, throwing strikes, and having a passable outing and a step forward and washing away as a bad day yesterday's struggles. If he repeats the struggles, that makes it a major problem instead of a blip on the radar, so everybody might want to light a prayer candle just to be safe.

#37 paulb0t

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 02:40 PM

Where does Bard go from here? With today's demotion to AAA to make room for McDonald, does the Bard as a starter experiment continue in Pawtucket? Or, with Matsuzaka's looming return, do they try to get him back to the mindset/mechanics/whatever that made him one of the best relievers in baseball from 2010 - August 2011?

I think the case is for the bullpen - which would put 2 of our 3 pre-season closer options (Bard and Melancon) in AAA. Bullpen arms are a funny commodity.

#38 AimingForYoko


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Posted 05 June 2012 - 02:48 PM

They couldn't phantom!DL him? Really?

I sincerely hope he's not a complete headcase.

I hope he's not going to start in AAA.

Edited by AimingForYoko, 05 June 2012 - 02:53 PM.


#39 Rovin Romine

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 03:36 PM

I'm surprised all around.

1) I'm surprised they have the guts to send Bard down (presumably to figure things out as a starter).
2) They called up D.McDonald - .551 OPS in his rehab assignments.
3) They didn't instead call up Mortensen, Melancon, or a starter (MorM would let them rest Padilla or whomever to take Bard's next start.)

Did they do this just to bring up McDonald?
Why didn't they do this right after Bard's start?

#40 paulb0t

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 04:06 PM

I think if this was the plan, it should've happened immediately after the start - if only to start his "recall clock" sooner. I really want to see if they continue the SP experiment, or start getting him back to reliving. Can't take credit for this thought, but if it's partially a confidence issue, why not sent him to Single A?

On the McDonald front - I'd have to think that either he or Byrd is DFA'd Friday night, with someone coming up to start on Saturday (Matsuzaka? Tazawa? Mortenson? Cook?)

Edit: Days off by one, I only wish it was already Wednesday.

Edited by paulb0t, 05 June 2012 - 04:07 PM.


#41 alwyn96

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 04:22 PM

I think if this was the plan, it should've happened immediately after the start - if only to start his "recall clock" sooner. I really want to see if they continue the SP experiment, or start getting him back to reliving. Can't take credit for this thought, but if it's partially a confidence issue, why not sent him to Single A?


You think being demoted from the majors to Single A is going to help a guy's confidence? Getting sent to AAA is probably tough enough, and you'd like to have him facing at least semi-credible hitters so he can figure out what might work at the major league level. Plus A ball is way down South, and I'd imagine they'd like Bard nearby so they can more easily evaluated him.

On the McDonald front - I'd have to think that either he or Byrd is DFA'd Friday night, with someone coming up to start on Saturday (Matsuzaka? Tazawa? Mortenson? Cook?)


I can't imagine Byrd would be DFA'd. He and Sweeney are the only CF on the team, and Sweeney isn't even really a CF.

EDIT: Forgot about Podsednik! I can't keep track of all the Red Sox OFs. So yeah, dump Byrd. I like his weird awkward hustle, but he stinks.

Why didn't they do this right after Bard's start?



I don't know, they waited what, one whole off-day? I imagine they wanted to think about it and discuss the day after the game. I don't think it makes much difference.

Edited by alwyn96, 05 June 2012 - 04:57 PM.


#42 koufax37

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 04:23 PM

I don't think they would send him down if he was going to go back to the pen. I would have preferred phantom DL instead, but this gives him a pressure free situation to throw plenty fastballs on purpose to find his velocity and mechanics on that pitch, which his put away slider is based on, and not use his get me over slider instead as a crutch. It also allows him to throw exactly as many pitches and on as many days rest as fits his program without consideration of winning the game. Disappointing, but probably a good move, otherwise his next start would ahve been such a make or break.

For McDonald, I agree with paulb0t that he or Byrd won't last, and likely it is Dice-K for Bard's spot in the rotation that is the next move, and they figured better to get the extra OF bat for the rest of the week first, and not use up an option on Melancon/Mortensen/Tazawa for such a short period, when thanks to Morales and the off day, the bullpen is in pretty good shape.

I think that not doing this immediately after his start gives some distance and time to evaluate and not have it feel like a rush panic punishment, which could be a bigger blow.

Maybe there is Roy Halladay hope in the demotion, and he won't react badly and will emerge being the pitcher we know he can be, and not the reduced version of that we saw through the first 9 starts (ignoring the last start).

#43 alwyn96

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 04:48 PM

Why do people prefer the DL here? Just to save an option?

#44 paulb0t

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 04:53 PM

Looks like he'll stick in the rotation, per Rotoworld:

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said Tuesday that Daniel Bard will remain a starting pitcher in the minor leagues.
In other words, the Red Sox haven't abandoned their plan to use him as a starter, but just want him to work through his kinks at the minor league level as opposed to the big leagues. The experiment has been a failure until this point, as he has a 5.24 ERA and 34/37 K/BB ratio, but Valentine thinks he'll have a "quick turnaround." Those in mixed leagues shouldn't wait around.


On the Single-A demotion, I'd imagine that either way it's an ego shock - though if it's partially mental, a couple of starts making hitters look absolutely silly wouldn't hurt. I know it's an outlier, but It worked for Halladay and Lee.

Edited by paulb0t, 05 June 2012 - 04:53 PM.


#45 alwyn96

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 05:06 PM

On the Single-A demotion, I'd imagine that either way it's an ego shock - though if it's partially mental, a couple of starts making hitters look absolutely silly wouldn't hurt. I know it's an outlier, but It worked for Halladay and Lee.


I get the sense it's "mental" in that he can't make his body do the right the mechanics to pitch effectively, rather than him being too scared to throw a strike, but hopefully whatever it is he can figure it out.

#46 Eck'sSneakyCheese


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Posted 05 June 2012 - 05:57 PM

I don't think they would send him down if he was going to go back to the pen. I would have preferred phantom DL instead, but this gives him a pressure free situation to throw plenty fastballs on purpose to find his velocity and mechanics on that pitch, which his put away slider is based on, and not use his get me over slider instead as a crutch. It also allows him to throw exactly as many pitches and on as many days rest as fits his program without consideration of winning the game. Disappointing, but probably a good move, otherwise his next start would ahve been such a make or break.

For McDonald, I agree with paulb0t that he or Byrd won't last, and likely it is Dice-K for Bard's spot in the rotation that is the next move, and they figured better to get the extra OF bat for the rest of the week first, and not use up an option on Melancon/Mortensen/Tazawa for such a short period, when thanks to Morales and the off day, the bullpen is in pretty good shape.

I think that not doing this immediately after his start gives some distance and time to evaluate and not have it feel like a rush panic punishment, which could be a bigger blow.

Maybe there is Roy Halladay hope in the demotion, and he won't react badly and will emerge being the pitcher we know he can be, and not the reduced version of that we saw through the first 9 starts (ignoring the last start).


This is basically how I feel as well. I'm hoping that in AAA they have him let it fly and just throw, I would love to see some increased velocity in his first start there. It would seem as if he needs a "reset" to just pitch without constantly thinking about his mechanics. It was going to be either Felix or Bard when Dice came back and Felix has been pitching very well. At this point this is definitely what's best for him and the team. Let's hope he gets something figured out.

#47 threecy

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 10:35 AM

Apparently the "reason" for the velocity/command issues is Bard's leg not being straight. If this is indeed the case, why did it take until now for the coaching staff to figure this out?

#48 alwyn96

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 12:46 PM

Apparently the "reason" for the velocity/command issues is Bard's leg not being straight. If this is indeed the case, why did it take until now for the coaching staff to figure this out?


Because that might not really be the "reason," and because this stuff is complicated. Even if you figured out the perfect mechanics, Bard still has to actually do them and get good results.

Edited by alwyn96, 12 June 2012 - 12:47 PM.


#49 threecy

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 02:21 PM

Because that might not really be the "reason," and because this stuff is complicated. Even if you figured out the perfect mechanics, Bard still has to actually do them and get good results.

In the Pawtucket interview, he implied they didn't pick up on it because it was only visible in a side angle, rather than the custom behind the back television angle. One would think that a baseball team that pays out $1.5 billion per decade in payroll would have 3D imaging by now, to compare pitch by pitch, start by start, year by year, to look at mechanics.

#50 alwyn96

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 04:24 PM

In the Pawtucket interview, he implied they didn't pick up on it because it was only visible in a side angle, rather than the custom behind the back television angle. One would think that a baseball team that pays out $1.5 billion per decade in payroll would have 3D imaging by now, to compare pitch by pitch, start by start, year by year, to look at mechanics.


Do you have a link for whatever that interview is, by any chance?




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