As Pete Abraham (via the Boston Globe) points out, relief pitchers these days tend to have prescribed roles: closer, setup man, LOOGY, long man, etc. Not all of them, though ...
Afterward, Francona told the writers, "You guys have heard me talk about it time and time again that the game can be won in the sixth or seventh. For me, that was it. He came in and stopped it.''
I don't doubt Francona's sincerity. I would just like to see him use Bard more often in the sixth inning. Yesterday marked his eighth appearance this season. In the first six, he entered in the eighth inning. In his seventh outing, he pitched the seventh inning in a game the Red Sox were winning 6-1 (granted, there were a couple of runners on base when he entered).
Last season, Bard pitched in the sixth inning exactly once. He did enter in the seventh inning 17 times, and every time the game was close.
There are a couple of reasons why relievers tend to fall into set roles. One, it's easier on the managers. And two, most relievers prefer to have specific roles. But Francona's maybe a little more creative than most managers, and Bard doesn't seem to care which inning he's pitching, so long as the game's on the line.
"My job is ‘intense middle relief,’ ’’ he said. "But that’s too much to say. Maybe you can call me ‘the stopper.’ ’’
Bard, an intellectually curious person, found a statistic on FanGraphs.com called Shutdowns and Meltdowns. It measures how a relief pitcher affects the ability of his team to win based on how much the statistical probability of victory changed when he was in the game.
Bard was fourth in baseball with 38 Shutdowns last season.
"People should Google it, it's interesting,'' he said. "It's just another way to look at things.''
People should Google it. Or just read this.