On Sunday, Joe Blanton and Daniel Bard continued to test the extremes of missing and finding the strike zone, respectively.
Daniel Bard has the second-highest walk rate in the American League. Joe Blanton has the fourth-lowest walk rate in the National League. Both of them pitched yesterday, and both of them found the strike zone about as often as expected. Here's what that looked like, courtesy of Brooks Baseball's pitch plots:
Neftali Feliz, Daniel Bard, Chris Sale, Aroldis Chapman, and Aaron Crow are all bidding farewell to the bullpen this spring. Are their teams making the right move, and which convert has the best chance of success?
Five talented young pitchers are attempting to enter the rotation this spring after making their first marks in the majors in relief. Neftali Feliz, Daniel Bard, Chris Sale, Aroldis Chapman, and Aaron Crow have all excelled in the bullpen, but they don’t have a single big-league start between them. However, they do have starting experience: all but Sale, who started in college, have pitched out of the rotation in the minor leagues, and Chapman was also a starter in Cuba before signing with the Reds in 2010. Are their teams making the right move by returning them to their original roles, or will they regret messing with their young arms’ early success?
Most relief pitchers begin their baseball lives as starters before being banished to the bullpen. Relatively few pitchers ever succeed in the rotation after becoming established as relievers. If all five of this spring’s newly-minted starters—who range in age from 22 (Sale) to 26 (Bard)—stick in the rotation, their simultaneous success would be unprecedented. Since 1950, there have been six seasons in which four pitchers successfully converted—throwing at least 100 innings predominantly as starters a year after throwing at least 50 innings predominantly in relief—but five would be a first. No pitchers pulled off the feat last season. Alexi Ogando came close to qualifying (he threw only 41.2 innings the year before), and Phil Coke tried and failed, but the last two to do it were C.J. Wilson and R.A. Dickey, both in 2010.
Returns to the rotation for Neftali Feliz, Daniel Bard, and Chris Sale this spring might signal a renewed appreciation for the significance of the starting pitcher.
It’s that time of year again: spring, the season of growth and change when life returns to the world, in baseball as in nature. For baseball fans and writers alike, it is a season dominated by prospects blooming into Opening Day starters, free agent closers descending on the bullpen like choking ivy, and Rich Harden blossoming onto the Disabled List (poor Rich has been done for the season since early February after aggravating the same shoulder capsule for the fifth straight year).
It is also the time of year when that young reliever with filthy stuff your team brought up for late-inning leverage gets his annual look as a starter. Sticking a young starter from the minors into the major-league pen for half a year to get him some seasoning and then plugging him into the rotation the next spring is a time-honored tradition; the Baltimore Orioles under Earl Weaver and company used this process to develop most of the guys who would start for them during that team’s heyday in the late Sixties and Seventies, including Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, who remains a vocal advocate of the process to this day, but they were hardly alone in doing so. However, since Dennis Eckersley’s fateful union with manager Tony La Russa in Oakland in 1988, the pendulum swing towards the closer over the past two decades and change led to some of those promising young minor-league starters never leaving the bullpen, lingering there to give their skippers late-inning certainty while collecting the big paychecks that come with that peace of mind.