The Daniel Bard Dilemma… Sort of.
- Updated: April 25, 2012
Lets forget about the disastrous start by the Boston Red Sox for a moment, shall we? .. Well, never mind, but lets try for the sake of making a sound baseball decision for just this article. Lets face it, Sweet Caroline isn’t going to get the Red Sox out of this slide to start the 2012 season, and neither is Mark Melancon who I wrote about in my last piece where I predicted that his epic disaster of an introduction to the American League East isn’t a fluke. What I would like to discuss today was an interesting, and often talked about dilemma in Boston regarding their young right handed pitcher, Daniel Bard. Should he be a starter? Should he be in their bullpen? Should Alfredo Aceves be their closer? Should Aceves be in the rotation? Not sure yourself? Well, I think Bard should be in the rotation over Aceves and I don’t think it’s really all that close.
Often times reading local columnists and listening to local sports talk radio media people makes my eyes and/or ears want to bleed. Bottom line is that most people just simply do not understand the game from a front office perspective. Why? Because they look at players as people, playing on a team, trying to win a championship as hard as they can. Unfortunately, that’s your first mistake. To a GM (in my opinion), you’re successful if you run your organization as closely to your stock portfolio on Wall Street. “What do you mean, Bill? These are real people!” Agreed, but looking at individual instances in a small world perspective will deplete your teams resources and not allow the franchise and more importantly, ownership to profit over a long-term. If you’re a GM your only job isn’t to just field a team, you do have to answer to ownership and work with them on a business model. I know, shockingly so, people actually profit from this game other than the players on the field. Look no further than Boston if you want the true sense of “head in the sand” defined for you.
With that said, the players also have an obligation to maximize their potential earnings over their career. They will meet with their agent and discuss a strategy. They will work with the team to express their desire to follow this plan. Sometimes it doesn’t work out and the player will leave for free agency at the first opportunity. Look no further than Jonathan Papelbon. What I’m trying to elude at is that both the front office and the player are trying to maximize value just as any business partnership would. What does this have to do with Daniel Bard? We’re just tipping the iceberg!
I remember scouting Bard at UNC when he was part of the two-headed monster alongside Andrew Miller. You had two absolutely dominant pitchers flashing plus stuff and velocity deep into games. Of course, Miller received most of the attention because he was left-handed and was taken in the first round, 6th overall by Detroit. However even back in 2006 there were a lot of scouts saying that Bard had the better MLB future due to his cleaner mechanics and bigger frame. Miller had the put away slider already in college, where as Bard was more of a ‘project’. Although Miller was certainly impressive at UNC, if it were me picking back then I would have taken Bard if I had to choose between the two, regardless of current results. The amazing thing to consider is that Miller was taken ahead of guys like Clayton Kershaw, Drew Stubbs, Tim Lincecum, Kyle Drabek and Ian Kennedy. All things considered, if you had tossed up all the first round picks in 2006 in a hat and played a modified version of credit card roulette you would have been more likely to nab an ace than Detroit was with Miller.
Then there are the powerhouse Red Sox lying in wait with their compensatory pick they received by letting Johnny Damon sign with the Yankees. Of course this is while the MLB draft was essentially rigged still, and players and their agents could essentially bully small to mid-market teams into not taking them for fear they wouldn’t sign. So here comes Daniel Bard falling into the Red Sox lap at pick #28, an absolute steal for a guy who I saw tossing 98-MPH almost 140 pitches deep in the 9th inning at UNC.
Back then Bard’s slider wasn’t what it is now. Now his slider is a true put-away pitch that has separation in velocity from his fastball and enough tilt to get both right and left hand batters out. His change is a work in progress, as it is for most starters who throw in the mid 90’s. However he’s been working on creating more separation between it and his fastball, which has let him develop the pitch into an average or slightly below average offering. He’ll need to develop the pitch a bit further in order to balance out his splits vs. lefty’s, but he’s showing the ability to do so on the fly. Bard’s mechanics have always been smooth and he’s a sure bet to stay healthy. The only question I have is not his control, but his command within the strike zone. Unfortunately for Bard he pitches in the AL East, where there are no room for mistakes. He is working on this, and as we saw with his start in Toronto last week, he has the ability to put away opposing hitters by blowing it by guys when he’s behind in the count, something Aceves, and a lot of less talented pitchers are unable to do.
Point being, Bard is best off personally in the rotation for his future career, but more importantly for the Red Sox both now and in the future. Alfredo Aceves has a career xFIP of 5.58 as a starter, 4.32 as a reliever. That’s a massive difference for a guy who’s done developing. Aceves is what he is and he can be effective if used properly where he’s not exposed to a lineup more than one run through. In Bard, the Red Sox have a potential ace. He has all the parts that both scouts and GM’s look for in a dominant starter and he should be treated as such. If you want a very comparable situation look south to Tampa and how the Rays treated Matt Moore. Moore wasn’t always the prospect he is now, but they saw just what I do in Bard and stuck with him through his struggles even though they already have a ton of pitching because it was the smart baseball decision. Just as any executive on Wall Street would do, you look to maximize your potential earnings on an investment, and having Bard in the rotation does exactly that. You want guys like him with his stuff and attributes pitching as much as possible because that creates more value and ROI. The Red Sox and their fans should realize this and enjoy watching Bard pitch for them as long as they can.
I can’t believe I am saying this, but have patience Red Sox fans! Let Bard develop into a top flight starter. Your bullpen won’t be as good, but your team will be in the present and future. You won’t regret it.