Red Sox

Nation STATion: Bard has lost his way

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Nation STATion: Bard has lost his way

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

Okay, I will admit that I wanted to write with joy about Jacoby and Dustin this morning, but Daniel Bard has become the latest Red Sox elephant in the room that is impossible to ignore. For those of you who read Nation STATion regularly, you know that from the start of the season I have felt that the Sox starters were this teams weakest link. I have not wavered in that. I see this team in the postseason, but their chances for success are reliant upon a combination of the Sox bats and the bullpen compensating for the starters.

Having said all that, having Daniel Bard in a slump is serious business. There is still a fortnight to get him back into sync, but the growing sense of urgency has to be felt, not just among the faithful of the Nation, but in the clubhouse as well.

From May 27 to July 31, Daniel Bard was damn near perfect. In 25 appearances, covering 26.2 innings, he held the opposition to a .125 batting average. He faced 96 batters, walking six and striking out 25. His fastball averaged 97.6 mph.

He struggled in his first two appearances in August, pitching one and a third innings allowing four runs on four hits, walking one, striking out one. His fastball averaged 98.2 mph.

The rest of August, Bard was back, baby! From August 7 to August 31, Bard appeared in eight games, threw 9.2 innings allowing just two hits. Batters hit just .065 against him as he struck out 13 and while walking just one. His fastball averaged 97.6 mph.

But for the second month in a row, turning the page on the calendar seems to have freaked Bard out. September has been a mess. He has been scored upon in four of his five appearances. He is 0-3 and has a 17.36 ERA in 4.2 innings. He has allowed 10 runs, nine earned and batters have hit him at a .316 pace. His fastball has averaged 96.2 mph.

I have included these fastballs numbers to show you that he hasnt lost a significant amount of speed; he has simply lost his way. As Bard said yesterday, Im struggling with timing with my delivery, Bard said. I can feel it on every pitch. Feels a little different. Ive been through it before. I think the effects of it are just magnified by how big these games are. Sometimes you go out there and your mechanics are a little off and they swing at a couple of pitches and youre able to get through it. Unfortunately they really havent been swinging and missing.

Of the 92 pitches he has thrown this month, batters have swung at 38 and missed on only eight. Theyve only swung and missed on three of the 64 fastballs hes thrown this month. Part of the reason, is that most of his pitches arent really even close to the strike zone. This month hes thrown 39 pitches in the strike zone and 53 out of the strike zone. And when I say hes not been close, I mean that only four of his pitches have been on the black (the edge of home plate), and on only one pitch has Bard hit the corner.

This current slump is much worse than any other that Bard has ever experienced as a major leaguer. Hes been the key 8th inning guy for the Sox, and the prototypical 8th inning reliever for all of baseball, over the past two seasons.

Lets compare 2010 and 2011, month by month, and you can see he is in uncharted territory:

410 three walks and 18 strikeouts in 14.2 innings, ERA: 3.07, WHIP: 0.750
411 three walks and 12 strikeouts in 12.1 innings, ERA: 3.65, WHIP: 1.135

510 six walks and 11 strikeouts in 11.1 innings, ERA: 0.79, WHIP: 1.147
511 four walks and 13 strikeouts in 13.1 innings, ERA: 3.38, WHIP: 0.825

610 three walks and 13 strikeouts in 13.2 innings, ERA: 1.98, WHIP: 0.732
611 three walks and 12 strikeouts in 13.0 innings, ERA: 0.00, WHIP: 0.538

710 four walks and nine strikeouts in 9.1 innings, ERA: 0.96, WHIP: 0.857
711 three walks and 12 strikeouts in 13.0 innings, ERA: 0.00, WHIP: 0.811

810 six walks and 11 strikeouts in 12.1 innings, ERA: 1.46, WHIP: 1.054
811 two walks and 14 strikeouts in 10.0 innings, ERA: 3.27, WHIP: 0.727

910 eight walks and 14 strikeouts in 13.1 innings, ERA: 2.70, WHIP: 1.500
911 five walks and five strikeouts in 4.2 innings, ERA: 17.36, WHIP: 2.357

Is Bard tired? Im sure he is, but everyone in the game is tired and dinged up by the time September rolls around. Bard has thrown 66.2 innings in 64 appearances, but thats 22nd in the majors in innings pitched for relievers. Look at the Braves closer, Craig Kimbrel, hes thrown 72.2 innings in 74 games and he has 44 saves and so far this month in seven innings and seven games he has walked four, struck out 13 and has 1.143 WHIP.

This is different than fatigue for Bard and way more serious for the Red Sox. He looks totally out-of-sync on the mound and his mechanics are out of whack. Even when he fielded a bunt yesterday, he sidearmed it and threw wide.

It must have been chilly in hell yesterday because John Lackey pitched half-decently and left with the lead. On the rare occasions when that happens, if the Sox are to make any headway in the postseason, these are the games the Sox need to win. The Sox are now 74-4 when leading at the start of the 8th inning. They cant afford to be any worse than that and Bard and Papelbon are the keys to that success.

I dont think that Bard is hurt, I think he is lost and unless he, Tek and pitching coach Curt Young can find him a GPS, Im afraid the Sox will be too.
To see heat maps of Bards performance referred to in this column, check out my article on BaseballAnalytics.org, which has been a data source for this column.

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

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MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

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Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

Max Scherzer heard his name and thrust his arms in the air, shouting and smiling big before turning to kiss his wife.

Corey Kluber, on the other hand, gulped once and blinked.

Two aces, two different styles - and now another Cy Young Award for each.

The animated Scherzer of the Washington Nationals coasted to his third Cy Young, winning Wednesday for the second straight year in the National League. He breezed past Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, drawing 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Kluber's win was even more of a runaway. The Cleveland Indians ace took 28 first-place votes, easily outpacing Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox for his second AL Cy Young.

Scherzer yelled "yes!" when his award was announced on MLB Network, a reaction in keeping with his expressive reputation. He showed that intensity often this year, whether he was cursing under his breath like a madman during his delivery or demanding - also with expletives - that manager Dusty Baker leave him in the game.

Just a little different than the pitcher they call "Klubot." Kluber was stoic as ever when announced as the AL winner. He swallowed hard but otherwise didn't react, only showing the hint of a smile moments later when answering questions.

Not that he wasn't thrilled.

"Winning a second one maybe, for me personally, kind of validates the first one," Kluber said.

Scherzer's win moves him into rare company. He's the 10th pitcher with at least three Cy Youngs, and among the other nine, only Kershaw and Roger Clemens aren't in the Hall of Fame.

"That's why I'm drinking a lot of champagne tonight," Scherzer said.

Scherzer earned the NL honor last year with Washington and the 2013 American League prize with Detroit.

"This one is special," he said. "When you start talking about winning three times, I can't even comprehend it at this point."

Scherzer was 16-6 with a career-best 2.51 ERA this year. The 33-year-old righty struck out a league-leading 268 for the NL East champion Nationals, and in an era noted for declining pitcher durability, he eclipsed 200 innings for the fifth straight season. He had to overcome a variety of ailments to get there, and Washington's training staff was high on his thank-you list.

"Everybody had a role in keeping me out on the field," he said. "I'm very thankful for all their hard work."

Kershaw has won three NL Cy Youngs and was the last pitcher to win back-to-back. He was 18-4 with a league-best 2.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts. This is his second runner-up finish. Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals finished third.

Kluber missed a month of the season with back pain and still easily won the AL award over Sale and third-place finisher Luis Severino of the New York Yankees. Kluber led the majors with a 2.25 ERA, and his 18 wins tied for the most in baseball. He added to the Cy Young he won with the Indians in 2014 and is the 19th pitcher to win multiple times.

The 31-year-old Kluber was especially dominant down the stretch, closing out the season by going 11-1 to help Cleveland win the AL Central. He and Minnesota's Ervin Santana tied for the major league lead with five complete games - nobody else had more than two. Kluber also led the majors with 8.0 wins above replacement, per baseball-reference.com.

Kluber and Scherzer both had rough outings in the playoffs. Kluber gave up nine runs over two starts in an AL Division Series against the Yankees, and Scherzer blew a save in the decisive Game 5 of an NL Division Series against the Cubs.

Scherzer said he couldn't even watch the League Championship Series, although he did tune in for the World Series.

"That will eat at me this whole offseason," he said.

Voting for the awards was completed before the postseason began.

The final BBWAA honors will come Thursday when the MVP awards are announced in the AL and NL.

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