Q&A: Daniel Bard: Data-Influenced Conversion

Daniel Bard is moving into the Red Sox rotation this summer, and according to the stat-savvy flamethrower, data supports the decision. Bard went 2-9, 3.33 as a set-up man last year, but those aren’t the numbers he looked at when he began exploring a new role. The Boston right-hander explained his thought-process prior to Monday’s game in Fort Myers.

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Daniel Bard: “I’ve always kind of watched the starting pitchers who have success in the big leagues. I watch them on a daily basis, throughout the year, and think, ‘This guy is pretty good; what is he doing that I can’t do?’ That’s what kind of started this whole thing.

“From there I took a little deeper look at the numbers I’ve put up over the past three years. While they’re spread out over a three-year period, they total roughly 200 innings and kind of give a gauge of what is possible over a full season. That’s the way I saw it.

“I looked at more of the secondary stuff, like my batting-average-against [.176], my ground-ball rate [52.7] and my strikeouts-to-walks ratio [3.08]. If I can get close to those numbers as a starter — I know it’s not all going to translate directly — there’s no reason I can’t be successful. My gut instinct is that I can start in this league and digging a little deeper the numbers back me up. They give me more conviction that I can make this transition.

“A two-pitch mix probably isn’t going to translate to the same numbers, so I’ll need to continue to develop my changeup and use a two-seamer to get more ground balls. I’ll be happy getting ground-ball outs and not necessarily as many strikeouts, because a lot of good pitchers keep their pitch counts down.

“My velocity will probably go down some, but if I can sit 94-95 and hit 97-98 when I need it, or throw it 92 with some sink, those are basically all different pitches. Hopefully, over time, I’ll be able to add and subtract from my fastball at will. Anything that helps you throw a hitter’s timing off a split second is going to help.

“The differential on my changeup [velocity] should go down with my fastball. If my fastball goes down three or four mph, my changeup should as well. If not, it will need a little bit of work, although Josh [Beckett] has a great changeup and he throws his 88 to 90, at times. His fastball is 93-94 and his [changeup] is effective, which proves that you can have less separation if it has a little movement and is well-located. But if I can get mine in the 86-88 range, it should be really effective.

“I’m confident that I can make the transition. Like I said, I looked at what puts starters in a good position to be successful, things like minimizing the amount of runners on base — your WHIP — and the data backs up my gut instinct. If I can translate my numbers to starting, I’ll be successful.”



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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.


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SiddFinch
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SiddFinch

Not the most sound rationale on Daniel’s part, but it says his head is in the right place. At first, I was worried at his “look at the last 3 years, which totals about 200 innings” reasoning, but later on in the article he fesses up that he knows he needs to further develop a third or fourth pitch.

As a BoSox fan, I seriously hope he succeeds. I’ve had enough of the high expectations over the last few years with Matsuzaka and Lackey, and Buchholz getting hurt. We need the rotation that we field on opening day to produce as expected and stay healthy!

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