Never a great control pitcher, but known for his strikeouts, Daniel Bard this year has had even more trouble keeping hitters from getting free passes. His strikeouts have dropped as well, and he is struggling even with the outstanding number of ground balls he is inducing.
He is having his worst season of his career hitting the zone, but for comparison I included his zone percentage as given by PITCHf/x as apposed to theuUmpire.
Zone % Zone % Pitch f/x 2009 51.70% 50.80% 2010 47.80% 50.90% 2011 48.30% 52.90% 2012 43.50% 51%
It looks like he was squeezed slightly in 2010 and 2011, but this season umpires have been really tough on Bard. There is a 7.5 percentage point difference between the two. For comparison, the league average pitcher has a 45.4 percent in-zone by umpires and according to PITCHf/x they’re throwing 45.4 percent in the zone.
Trying to identify why umpires are squeezing him I broke it down by pitches. His change-up was the first suspect, as it is a pitch he is using significantly more. It is a strike 54 percent of the time, which includes foul balls and swings out of the zone. Here is his strike chart showing it hasn’t been called too tightly
|Daniel Bard 2012 Change-up|
Before we look at the slider and fastball, we should get an idea of how many pitches umpires have “missed.” Bard has thrown 702 pitches this season and that seven percent would represent 49 pitches. It looks like those pitches are represented in the next two slides for fastballs and sliders.
|Daniel Bard 2012 Fastball|
|Daniel Bard 2012 Slider|
Clearly Bard has suffered from some tight calls up in the zone with fastballs and down in the zone with the slider. Seems like a lot of close calls as well that could be given the benefit of the doubt for the umpire. Bard’s slider is probably the bigger concern as he is clearly hitting the corner and not getting the call.
While there is some amount of data to suggest Bard is being squeezed, he’s also not doing the job himself. He’s also not getting swings on his out-of-the-zone pitches like he used to. In 2010 and 2011, batters swung at 32 percent of pitches out of the zone, but it looks like they are reading him better in 2012—they are swinging only 25 percent of the time.
Heading into 2012 I expected Bard could hit the zone better by dropping his velocity, but still throw the high heat when he needed it. That hasn’t been the case so far and he’s been worse on every front. Bard is not doing anything right now to give the Red Sox reason to defend him as a starter in the rotation and he can’t blame it all on the umpires. He’s going to need a turnaround soon or risk a return to the bullpen.