Pitchers & Catchers Report to Ft. Myers

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Not a Bad Debut In The Rotation For Bard

I was doing Trivia last night, so I was bit preoccupied and missed a good part of Daniel Bard's debut last night in Toronto's 7-3 win.

My friend Dave, a fine lawyer and sabermatrician, sent me an email last night about his start, and I'll share it with you. He thinks Bard was better than it may at first appear:

Bard's line (5.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 6K) looks pretty good except for one thing:  the high number of hits.  So I took a look at how MLB called those:

Bottom 1
0-0 Yunel Escobar singles on a ground ball to left fielder Cody Ross.
1-2 Adam Lind doubles (2) on a ground ball to left fielder Cody Ross. Yunel Escobar to 3rd. 
1-2 Edwin Encarnacion singles on a ground ball to shortstop Nick Punto. 

Bottom 3
2-2 Yunel Escobar singles on a line drive to center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
1-1 Kelly Johnson singles on a ground ball to right fielder Ryan Sweeney.
0-2 Adam Lind singles on a line drive to center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. 
0-1 Brett Lawrie singles on a ground ball to right fielder Ryan Sweeney.

Bottom 6
3-2 Edwin Encarnacion walks.
2-2 Brett Lawrie singles on a ground ball to shortstop Nick Punto. 

Each of the 2nd, 4th, and 5th innings, Bard went 1-2-3.  He recorded 15 outs, 6 by K, 4 by groundout, only 3 by flyout, 1 popout and 1 liner to Pedroia.  So the play-by-play says he did the following things wrong:

A)  Got hit hard three, maybe four times (the two line drive singles, the line-out, possibly the grounder that rolled for a double);
B)  Walked one;
C)  Did not effectively control the running game;
D)  Threw 96 pitches before getting an out in the 6th;
E)  Allowed a high number of batter-runners to reach on ground balls;
F)  Clustered his allowed hits into two innings, resulting in runs scored.

You don't have to be a stat-head to conclude that not all of these are equal, and that some of them are rather significantly different in the amount of bad luck involved.  In fact, the careful reader will have noticed the list above appears roughly in order of increasing amounts of luck, vis-a-vis the pitcher's input, determining the result of the at-bat.  I think modern-approach fans would probably put the dividing line between the "pitching" category and the "luck" category in the area of C/D.  More traditional fans might put it either before or after E.  Only Joe Morgan would put it after F.

In contrast, look at what Bard did right last night:

A)  Threw 97mph
B)  Threw a high number of strikes (65 of 96 pitches, over 70% when I think league average is 60%)
C)  Mixed in secondary pitches (change-up and slider), although I can't tell if he was able to throw his change-up for strikes)
D)  Struck out more than one per frame.
E)  Even in those resulting in hits, got to 2 strikes in most of his at-bats
F)  When he allowed balls in play, kept them on the ground (3/16 fly balls, 3/16 line drives, 9 grounders and one pop-up) 

That's an awful lot of what coaches tell pitchers to do.  The rest of it nearly everyone acknowledges has a lot to do with luck and your defense.  Bard was pretty unlucky last night.  To put it in James/McCracken terminology, Bard was medium-unlucky in run support, unlucky in hits turning into runs, and perhaps-very-unlucky in balls in play turning into hits last night. 

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