The ripple effect of the Daniel Bard decision
It’s an old adage that the waves made by a stone hitting the water are larger the further you get away from the source and that this applies to the decision’s made not concerning rocks and still lakes.
The Boston Red Sox are currently paying because of the waves created by a choice they made way back during Spring Training.
When the Boston Red Sox decided to turn pitcher Daniel Bard from a set-up man into a starting pitcher, it was a surprising development. For three years, the Red Sox had been grooming Daniel Bard as a relief pitcher in the minor leagues after an incredibly poor A-Ball season as a starting pitcher and Bard had been fairly successful out of the pen for the Boston Red Sox since coming up in 2009. With Jonathan Papelbon on his way out at the end of the 2011 season, it was expected that Daniel Bard would take his 99 mile-per-hour fastball and become the newest closer of the Boston Red Sox.While the Sox went out and got closers Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon
from Oakland and Houston respectively, it was seen as an attempt to bolster the bull-pen and shorten the game for the Boston Red Sox. If the Sox could throw Melancon in the 7th inning, Bard in the 8th inning and Bailey in the 9th inning, it would save their starters for the long-run of the season and make the Red Sox that much more formidable.
Then, all of a sudden, the Sox decided to make Daniel Bard a starting-pitcher and set forth a ripple effect in the Red Sox staff that they are still reeling from even though they have closed the gap in the American League East division.
Let’s take a look:
- Andrew Bailey was thrown on the disabled list due to thumb surgery. While this has nothing to do with Daniel Bard directly, the choice of the Red Sox to turn Bard into a starting pitcher was pretty much set in stone by the time the injury came down the pipe. The Sox were scrambling. They didn’t want to take Melancon from his role as a set-up man and the Sox were left without a closing pitcher. After a save in Washington during the last pre-season game of the year, Alfredo Aceves was named the Boston Red Sox closer. This choice was made despite the fact that Aceves had never been a closer before and had been most effective as a long reliever and spot-starter.
- Mark Melancon promptly shit the bed as a relief pitcher in Boston, eliminating any opportunity for the Sox to consider him to be closer and the Sox had him sent to Pawtucket. If you’re scoring at home, the Sox now have Alfredo Aceves and Vicente Padilla in their closer and set-up roles, two guys who were previously starting pitchers and long-relief guys. This usually isn’t a recipe for success.
- Daniel Bard was erratic and inconsistent as a starter which is a huge surprise considering that the last time he was a starting pitcher he was erratic and inconsistent. His confidence was shot and the Boston Red Sox sent him back down to Pawtucket to try and re-find himself. He was promptly shelled.
- Meanwhile, in Boston, Alfredo Aceves has blown four saves and lost six games. The link to Daniel Bard is this. Had the Boston Red Sox had kept Bard in the role as a relief pitcher, they would have at least had the chance to try Bard as the closer at some point this year. The erratic nature of Bard during the 2012 season would likely not have existed as the Sox would not have forced him to become a starter and he would have been more effective. In addition, a successful Daniel Bard in the bull-pen means blown leads in the bull-pen and maybe less times that Alfredo Aceves has an opportunity to blow saves if he even is the closer. There also isn’t the terrible Daniel Bard starts and some other fifth starter like say Franklin Morales. The waves generated by that one little stone toss may be a difference of 6 or 7 wins this season. Considering the fact that the Sox are 7.5 back as of right now, that could make a big difference.
- The Sox finally righted their wrongs by making the organizational choice to turn Daniel Bard back into a reliever. At this point the damage has been done to his psyche. Even as a relief pitcher, Daniel Bard has a 6.75 ERA and a 1.650 WHIP implying that maybe Bard has been permanently damaged by the choice to make him a starter.
Essentially, the Sox choice to make Daniel Bard a starting pitcher has resulted in less wins, more blown saves and maybe even have run the risk of losing Daniel Bard as even an effective relief pitcher.
It’s amazing to think about how one choice can change the course of a season.