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Gary Armida's Blog
The FullCount: Bard, Pirates, Underrated RayPosted on June 7, 2012 at 07:42 AM.
Yesterday, the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft concluded. The MLB draft will never compete with the drama and intrigue of the NFL or NBA drafts. Simply, it just takes too many years for most of the drafted players to even get close to the Major Leagues. Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, and Mike Trout are the exceptions. The majority of players are at least four or five years away from being Major League ready. Then add in the fact that most of the drafted players will never step foot on a Major League field and that makes for less than dramatic television. The MLB draft does not have the immediacy of the other Major Sports as a fan can see a college football player get drafted and see him on the field for the next season. Baseball just isn’t like that.
But, Major League Baseball has done the right thing in televising its draft. Having some of the players there helps. Having John Hart and Jonathan Mayo on set to give real background to some of the players is welcome and provides quality information. There is still much to improve upon for the television event. Someone like Harold Reynolds just can’t keep up on the college players. There is no reason to have him on set. Let Hart and Mayo do all the talking. MLB Network should also stop with the ridiculous player comparison features. Simply, there is no accurate way of doing that. Nobody is the next Justin Verlander.
There is still work to be done with the production of the draft, but Major League Baseball is heading in the right direction with that. It will never compare to the other sports, but just getting to know some names is enough for many fans.
Now on to our FullCount...
Pitch 1: Red Sox Ruin Bard
A starting pitcher is always more valuable than a reliever. 200 innings is more valuable than 60. It is simple math. It is why Neftali Feliz was moved into the rotation despite being an elite closer. It is why Chris Sale was always destined to be a starter. The Red Sox tried it with Daniel Bard, their premier setup man the past few seasons. In this case, the Red Sox were wrong. They aren’t wrong because Bard is now in triple-A and without a real role. It is because they took someone who had just one season as a starter under his belt in the Minor Leagues and figured it would work out. That one season was awful as Bard was 22 years old in class-A ball. He was 3-7 with a 7.08 ERA in 22 starts. In 75 innings, he walked 78 batters and struck out just 48. The next season, the Red Sox moved him to the bullpen and he posted a 1.78 ERA while striking out 107 in 48 innings of work.
For the past two seasons, Bard has been an integral part of the Red Sox bullpen. This winter, the bullpen looked to be a weakness and yet the Red Sox moved him back into the rotation despite the fact that he had such an awful season. There was really no reason to believe that this move would work. Now, Bard is in the Minors with zero confidence and no role. Hopefully, they move him back to the bullpen and he can rebuild his confidence.
Pitch 2: Pirates Hanging in
Last year, the Pittsburgh Pirates were close enough in the pennant race to actually make some additions at the trade deadline. But, it was a smoke and mirrors type thing because their pitching staff couldn’t keep up their pace. The lack of strikeouts and the over reliance of their bullpen finally caught up with them as they faded to another losing season. But, this year is different. With the offseason additions of Erik Bedard and AJ Burnett, and the continued development of James McDonald, the Pirates are getting more innings and more strikeouts from their starters. The bullpen is less taxed and the defense ranks 5th in the NL according to UZR. While the Pirates rank last in almost every offensive category, their pitching staff is set up for the long haul. With power pitchers in their system, the Pirates finally have a pitching system that can compete. Their offense will ultimately take them out of the race, but they have a chance at .500 with their pitching staff.
Pitch 3: Underrated Ray
The Tampa Rays continue to amaze despite their injuries. While their strength is their pitching staff, Matt Joyce has become their most important hitter. The 27 year old left handed hitter is batting .289/.400/.535 with 6 doubles, 3 triples, 9 homeruns, and 29 RBI. With Evan Longoria out for a while and Ben Zobrist yet to catch fire, it has been Joyce who has been the Rays most productive hitter.
Pitch 4: Dodgers Surviving Injuries
The Dodgers still hold a four game lead in the National League West even with Matt Kemp back on the disabled list. One big reason is the play of Bobby Abreu who was picked up after being released by the Angels earlier this season. Heading into Wednesday’s game, the 38 year old was hitting .329/.446/.461 with 5 doubles, 1 triple, and 1 homerun in 92 plate appearances. Abreu brings much needed patience to a lineup that has still yet to receive production from James Loney and Dee Gordon.
But, the biggest injury is one that won’t land Clayton Kershaw on the disabled list. Kershaw is dealing with Plantar Fasciitis, a foot ailment that can be painful and slow to heal. It isn’t an arm injury, but the slightest change in mechanics can lead to an injury. The Dodgers will have to be careful with their ace. Fortunately, they play in the weakest division in Baseball.
Pitch 5: Willingham to Move?
Josh Willingham was probably hoping to stay in one place after signing a 3 year, $21 million deal with the Twins this winter. But, with the Twins playing so poorly, the 33 year old outfielder could net a prospect or two given his affordable contract, his newfound health, and his underrated production. Heading into Wednesday’s game, Willingham was hitting .286/.406/.577 with 18 doubles, 11 homeruns, and 39 RBI. A lifetime .263/.364/.489 hitter, the right handed hitter would be a useful addition to any contending club. His production and his salary give him a big market of suitors. For the Twins, they need to acquire as much young talent as they can. Willingham can help with that more so than any other player on their roster.
BORN: April 17, 1975 (38)
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