Erik Bedard Walks the Plank

Erik Bedard is exactly the sort of pitcher a team signs to a one-year contract, and last December, the Pirates signed Bedard to a one-year contract worth $4.5 million. At the time, I’m guessing the Pirates figured they probably wouldn’t still have Bedard come September. He’d be an interesting wild card for a Pirates team with an outside shot, but more likely he’d either get hurt or traded to a contender. You don’t sign Erik Bedard because you’re making big plans around Erik Bedard.

The calendar is just about to turn, and, sure enough, the Pirates no longer have Erik Bedard. Viewed that way, this has played out about as expected. But Bedard isn’t known to be hurt, nor has he been traded away to a contender. Rather, the Pirates simply released Bedard outright, citing inconsistency and under-performance. The thinking with Bedard has long been that he’ll be effective as long as he’s healthy. He’s been healthy, and lately, he’s been ineffective.

Here’s what Clint Hurdle had to say on the matter:

At the end of the day, the inconsistency wasn’t getting us where we wanted to go.

A very simple summation of the problems, but then, “at the end of the day” implies that a very simple summation is going to follow. What the Pirates say publicly isn’t necessarily how the Pirates feel in private, so this Bedard decision could have more layers to it than phyllo dough, but we’re here to tackle only what’s known, and what’s known is that Bedard has generated poor results and just got dropped by a team in contention.

Anything written about Bedard will mention his hot start and subsequent slump. Bedard’s started 24 games this season, and we can very conveniently split them into two groups of 12. Through Bedard’s first dozen starts, he posted a 3.59 ERA with a 4-6 record. A pitcher’s won/loss record just got cited on FanGraphs. Over Bedard’s last dozen starts, he posted a 6.43 ERA with a 3-8 record. Bedard leads the major leagues in losses, which has been partly his fault, and that surely hasn’t helped his perception at all.

So, all right, what we’re interested in now are two things. First, there’s the matter of what Erik Bedard is, and whether he’s really been pitching poorly. Secondly, there’s the matter of who’s going to take his place in the Pirates’ rotation, since the Pirates are still thinking about the playoffs. The Pirates must feel confidently about what they’ve done, since this move could have significant consequences.

Let’s look at those two groups of a dozen starts, shall we?

BEDARD Strike% Contact% FIP GB% K% BB% HR/FB%
First 12 63% 81% 3.52 42% 23% 10% 8%
Next 12 64% 81% 4.61 44% 20% 11% 14%

Without question, Bedard has been pitching worse. But it probably doesn’t surprise you that he hasn’t been pitching as poorly as his elevated ERA would suggest, and just about all of this can be explained by that last column on the far right. Bedard’s shown no drop-off in strikes, contact, or grounders. But where he allowed five dingers the first dozen times out, he’s allowed nine dingers over the last dozen times out. Dingers are runs, and runs are bad, for pitchers.

Is there anything there? Maybe Bedard’s getting tired? If Bedard’s feeling fatigued, it’s not readily evident in the PITCHf/x. His pitch velocities have remained more or less unchanged, and while Bedard’s lost some mustard from a year ago, that was missing in the early part of this season, when he was having more success, so it doesn’t seem like the thing to blame.

Working against Bedard is that he isn’t a pitcher who can just be evaluated by rates. Rates deliberately ignore counting stats like plate appearances and innings, and Bedard isn’t a guy who works deep. Just five times has he reached 100 pitches, and just once has he exceeded 110. Each plate appearance of Bedard’s is a chore. When Erik Bedard is starting, you know that someone else is going to finish, and you know that other guys are probably going to pitch before the finisher.

So Bedard’s gotten worse from last season, and in-game stamina isn’t one of his strengths. Of late, he’s been allowing too many runs. But there’s compelling reason to believe that Bedard wouldn’t keep on allowing so many runs, and it’s not like he’s lost the ability to dominate. Four outings ago, he was outstanding. Two outings before that, he was outstanding. Overall, Bedard’s got a lower FIP than Mark Buehrle and a lower xFIP than Tim Hudson, and the overall numbers are meaningful.

Now we have to think about how the Pirates intend to replace Bedard going forward. After all, these moves don’t happen in isolation. Might the Pirates have a real talent up their sleeve? That depends on your talent evaluation of Kevin Correia. In truth, the Pirates are still working out how this is going to go behind their front four, but the obvious choices seem to be Correia and Jeff Locke. The in-contention Pirates have given up on Erik Bedard in favor of Kevin Correia or Jeff Locke.

Correia is as known as anybody. If it’s consistency that Clint Hurdle and the Pirates are worried about, then Kevin Correia can very consistently be himself. He’s a low-strikeout, low-walk, decent-groundball starting pitcher with a career ERA, FIP, and xFIP in the mid-4s. It’s not out of the question that Correia could generate Bedard-like results while generating other, very un-Bedard-like results. You might end up with the same innings and runs, but the feeling might be different watching Correia than it would be with Bedard.

And Locke’s a lefty who’s been perfectly serviceable with triple-A Indianapolis. He’s got three pitches, none of which are explosive or unhittable, but he’s building a minor-league track record of encouraging ratios and he has the sort of polish that could allow for a pretty smooth transition. There are worse starting pitchers than Jeff Locke in the major leagues right now, for as much or as little as that means.

You hear that the Pirates released Erik Bedard and you raise your eyebrows. You associate Bedard with a lot of talent in your head, and a lot of that talent’s still in there, even after all the injuries. Bedard’s 2012 season numbers are just fine for a back-of-the-rotation starting pitcher, even with the limited stamina. Where this starts to make a little more sense is in considering what Bedard has done lately, and in considering that he hasn’t reached 130 innings since 2007. The Pirates strongly believe that the struggling Erik Bedard they saw lately was more like the real Erik Bedard than the effective Erik Bedard they saw early on. If that’s true, then Correia or Locke should do just fine as replacements, as Bedard wasn’t going to be much help. But if that isn’t true, and if this is simpler than it seems, then the Pirates just cut ties with a high-strikeout starter because he fell into a slump of results.

The Pirates have no choice but to move forward and hope they made the right call. And Bedard has no choice but to move forward and hope that they didn’t. Now Erik Bedard is out there, available and ready for another roll of the dice.

Print This Post

Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

32 Responses to “Erik Bedard Walks the Plank”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. PiratesHurdles says:

    I think they are betting that the early Bedard (really his 1st 7 starts) is more the anomally than the recent stretch due to the big drop off in velocity this year. He’s awfully hittable and he’s soooo painful to watch. I’m not sure there is a slower working pitcher around.

    That said, a swap for Correia is a downgrade in my book. If its Locke or McPherson then they are on to something.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Slats says:

    Welcome back to Seattle Erik.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. What I’m most wondering is why release him? Rosters are expanding in three days. Why not just skip a start (Pirates have an off-day coming up) and then keep him around? Why not use him in the pen? Why not so many things?

    +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • That’s what makes me think there might be something more to this. It’s probably mostly performance-based, but I dunno, maybe they really hated the guy. Maybe Bedard privately said he didn’t feel like relieving and wanted to be free. I…really don’t know. Trade him! at least.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Richie says:

      Agreed. There is absolutely no reason to release the guy 3 days before roster expansion. Zero.

      Best case, Erik said “no, I won’t go to the bullpen”. Worse case, They are really hacked off at him for some reason or another.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Ruki Motomiya says:

    He’s walking way too many guys: Just over 4.00 BB/9! He needs to be a groundball pitcher for that kind of walk rate and he just doesn’t have it. The fact it’s so close to his career average doesn’t inspire confidence either.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. JeffSullivanFanboy says:

    Wow, just wow. This article is just so incredible I nearly soiled my bottoms in excitement. Sullivan >>>> pie.

    -14 Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Anonymous says:

    He looks so labored when his pitch count starts climbing up. He is probably better off being used as a long reliever/spot starter.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Dan Gayle says:

    I wouldn’t mind having Bedard back in Seattle for next year. Because of the depth of our relief corps, getting typical Bedard mileage won’t be so much of a problem, and again, we can flip him when* one of our minor league pitchers figures it out.


    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Sam says:

    Dan Duquette is licking his chops right now… one more post-prime lefty free agent to join Wolf, Saunders, et al!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Dan Duquette says:

      Post prime lefties actually do an excellent job of getting the particular batters on the Yankees, Rays, Red Sox and Jays out more than any other type of pitcher.

      Trust me, I’m a GM.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Daven says:

    Not the teams won’t continue to take a flyer on him for another year or two, but it seems like when that’s done, he might be an excellent bullpen arm. His inability to go deep in games wouldn’t matter; he’s a lefty; he generates good strikeout numbers as a starter and one would assume those would go up slightly as a reliever. It also might help get around some of his injury proneness.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. Mr Punch says:

    Something going on here. The Red Sox acquisition of Bedard last year didn’t make much sense, but it made no sense at all if they weren’t prepared to give him another year – and they didn’t. He’s wearing out his welcome(s) awfully fast.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. wilt says:

    “and a lower xFIP than Tim Hudson,”

    1. regress extreme GB pitcher’s home run rate.
    2. use as name-associated comparison.
    3. ????
    4. GENIUS

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • You do know that xFIP regresses HR/FB rate, right? Not home run rate.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • wilt says:

        Hudson is 13th in the league in HR/FB%.

        Buehrle is the same case actually– consistent FIP/ERA disparity.

        Good name drop from a writing perspective in the same way Hudson is in this article.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • dustin says:

      Would it make you feel better if he said, “His xFIP- is 103”? I think either fact might surprise someone who wasn’t following the Pirates closely.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. The Anchorman 2 says:

    I read an article when he first became a Mariner about how private and often aloof Bedard is. He admitted to having a unique personality that got him in trouble with various minor league coaches and personnel. Even in the majors his relationship with other players was unique. This was a few years back, but it could be a reason for a young energetic team with young energetic leaders like McCutchen to release him.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. matt w says:

    FWIW, Bedard hasn’t pitched out of the (major-league) pen since his last appearance of 2004. Also, Charlie Wilmoth at Bucs Dugout was just calling for him to be dropped from the rotation, so it at least needn’t be a clubhouse thing, since Charlie doesn’t pretend to know what’s going on in the clubhouse. (Though he wants to see Locke or maybe Kyle McPherson or Chris Leroux replace him, not Correia.)

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. Antonio Bananas says:

    why the hell would you compare him to Tim Hudson using FIP? Hmm, a guy who succeeds with the groundball….let’s use him as a comparison through a stat that doesn’t even acknowledge that outcome. Seems like a little bit of fabrication going on there.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Cus says:

    I bet he called Hurdle a hoser.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • bigtwnvin says:

      Of course look at the years in Baltimore. Bedard if anything knows a loser. And he’s not onthat team anymore is he.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. Aaron Murray says:

    How often does the average starter top 100 pitches in a game? Is it significantly more than the ~20% of the time that Bedard did it this year?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. maqman says:

    Somewhere Bill Bavasi is weeping.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  18. Bookbook says:

    FIP matters differently for groundballers?

    Vote -1 Vote +1