It's been evident to anyone and everyone that Daniel Bard has pitched like a pile of crap. Not like an actual pile of crap, but like the baseball player equivalent of a pile of crap. The Boston Red Sox recognized Bard's pile-of-crapness and demoted him to triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday after a miserable stretch of failed starts.
Statistically, the most obvious problem with Bard is that he's put too many batters on first base on his own. His walks are way up, as are his hit batters, which get less attention but count just the same. However, over at FanGraphs, Dave Cameron suggests the walk problems aren't a primary problem, but a symptom:
Last year, only three pitchers in baseball - Henry Rodriguez, Aroldis Chapman, and Jordan Walden - threw harder than Bard. This year, Bard is throwing about as hard as Vin Mazzaro, Jeff Gray, and Jeremy Guthrie.
Now, with any conversion from relief to the rotation, you expect some loss of velocity, but it's generally more in the 1-2 MPH range than the 4+ MPH range. Jeff Samardzija (-0.2 MPH), Lance Lynn (-0.6 MPH), and Neftali Feliz (-1.6 MPH) are all throwing with a little less oomph than they did in the bullpen, while only Chris Sale also experiencing a major decline in fastball speed. Of course, Sale is dominating the American League right now, showing that there's not a perfect relationship between loss of velocity and decline in performance, but even his large decline in velocity doesn't begin to approach the massive change that Bard has undergone.
Daniel Bard has never had very good command, and this year, it’s gotten worse. But, velocity and strike throwing are not independent, and Bard would probably feel a lot more confident pounding the zone if his fastball was 97 instead of 93. There were some legitimate reasons to try Bard as a starter, and as Samardzija, Lynn, and Sale have shown, these conversions can produce very positive results. For whatever reason, though, Bard’s velocity didn’t make the translation to the rotation, and right now, he doesn’t have the stuff to make up for his control issues.
Daniel Bard's control has been poor. His average fastball is also down from 97 to 93. The wise assumption would be that there must be some kind of relationship. With the same control and lower velocity, Bard might be able to survive. With the same velocity and worse control, Bard might be able to survive. With worse control and lower velocity, Bard is a mess, statistically and visually.
So we'll see where Bard goes from here. There exists the distinct possibility that he's injured, as injuries can cause all sorts of wacky things. But maybe he's in need of mechanical adjustments, or maybe he simply isn't cut out to ever be a starting pitcher in the major leagues. It was worth it to see.