BOSTON (CBS) — The alarms have been sounded and the people have spoken: Make Daniel Bard the closer!
Angry families crowded around the TV at Easter dinner let it be known. Furious thumbs banged away on Twitter and Facebook. Even prominent local columnists are making the call — Bard for closer!
Alas, despite the Red Sox 0-3 record and despite Sunday’s two blown saves, Daniel Bard is not the answer.
Forget the fact that the rotation is already a mess and subtracting Bard would only add to the disarray. And forget the fact that most of these calls come not just as a result of three games but from weeks or months of leftover feelings that Bard SHOULD have been the closer from the get-go.
Forget all of that and just focus on this: Daniel Bard may in fact be a lousy closer.
Sure, his 95+ mph fastball can strike batters out, something that seems nearly impossible for Mark Melancon and Alfredo Aceves at this point. And yes, Bard has experience in the back end of the bullpen.
However, not all experience is created equal.
As the setup man for Jonathan Papelbon last season, Bard finished the year with nine losses. The win-loss statistic is certainly flawed for starting pitchers, but for relievers, you typically earn every “L” you get. And Bard had nine.
The timing on those losses was unfortunate, too, as four came in the month of September alone, when the Red Sox were spiraling out of control and desperately needed wins to hold on to their playoff spot. One loss also came on Opening Day in Texas, when Bard allowed four runs in just 2/3 of an inning. Is that a situation that sounds familiar right now?
In addition to the nine losses, Bard also blew five saves, which was actually an improvement upon his seven blown saves the season prior, though three of those five in 2011 overlapped with losses.
Granted, to only speak of Bard’s failures would be disingenuous, as he went on as hot a stretch as any reliever ever could last year from May 27-July 31, when he gave up zero runs over 26 1/3 innings, picking up 16 holds and one save while striking out 25 batters and allowing just 17 base runners. It is the Bard folks seem to be thinking about now who could step into the closer’s role, don a red cape and stabilize the Red Sox as a top-of-the-line closer. But it is not the complete Bard.
The complete Bard includes his success and his failure, and the complete Bard, really, might not be a whole lot better than the current options on the staff. He’s struggled in high pressure situations in the past just as often as he’s succeeded. Under the intense pressure of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, he’s allowed five home runs in just 12 1/3 innings at Yankee Stadium in his career, surrendering nine hits total plus 11 walks in that time.
His fastball approaches 100 mph, and he’s more of a strikeout pitcher than Alfredo Aceves or Mark Melancon, but Bard would have been just as likely to fail in either Thursday’s or Sunday’s loss to the Tigers. We know this because he’s done it before.
After Sunday’s unbelievable loss in Detroit, a disappointed Bobby Valentine told NESN’s Jenny Dell that the Andrew Bailey injury left them in a bit of a scramble.
“We’re learning a lot about our guys,” Valentine told Dell.
They are learning about Melancon, Aceves, etc., yes, but they already know plenty about Bard. They don’t know if he’ll be a great starter, but they should already know that he’s simply not a closer.