What to watch for with Bard tonight
April, 10, 2012
By Jeremy Lundblad | ESPNBoston.com
Three things to watch for tonight in Daniel Bard's first major-league start:
* Fastball velocity: Last season, Bard’s fastball averaged 97.2 miles per hour, the second fastest in the American League behind Angels closer Jordan Walden (97.5). Can he possibly sustain that as a starter? The answer is likely no.
Bard will need to conserve velocity to pace himself for and increased workload. Consider that the hardest throwing starter last year was Alexi Ogando. At 95.0 mph, his average fastball was more than two miles-per-hour slower than Bard.
As Bard is this season, Ogando moved from the bullpen to the rotation in 2011. He may provide a glimpse into the future of Bard’s fastball.
As a reliever, Ogando’s fastball averaged 96.2 mph. As a starter, that fell to 95.0.
Can Bard’s fastball be as effective when it loses velocity?
Last season, opponents hit .200 with 19.9 miss percentage against his fastballs 96 mph or faster. On fastballs 95 mph or slower, they hit .161 with a 41.1 miss percentage.
Sometimes velocity isn’t everything. Bard is counting on that.
* Pitch selection: Last season, Bard threw 68 percent fastballs and 25 percent sliders. That left just seven percent for his changeup.
Bard likely won’t get very far with two pitch types accounting for 93 percent of his pitches. Last season, only four starters had their fastball and slider account for over 90 percent of throws: Ogando, Bartolo Colon, Ervin Santana and Michael Pineda.
That’s why Bard’s spring training start last month against the Blue Jays was so alarming. Of his 83 pitches, just one was a changeup.
It’s a pitch that he still considers a work in progress. It may have to come along quickly if he’s going to be an effective starter.
* Endurance: Bard’s career-high for pitches in a game is 38, which came in his major league debut back in 2009. That’s actually the same career-high as Joe Mather -- the outfielder.
Having never thrown more than 2 1/3 innings at the major-league level, Bard will need to build up arm strength to pitch deep into games.
The bigger challenge may be facing batters multiple times in the same game. That’s something Bard hasn’t needed to do since 2007, his disastrous first season in the minors.
Again, Ogando can provide potentially interesting context. Last year, opponents hit .222 in the first time through the order. But facing Ogando a second time, that jumped to .253. The biggest difference was with his strikeout rate, which was nearly cut in half in the second time through the order.