Tag:Josh Bard
Posted on: April 9, 2009 5:33 pm

Red Sox Recap 4-9-09

Last season, I put together a recap following each Red Sox game. This season, I’ll take a look at the Sox games and post a recap at the conclusion of each Boston series.

The brightest spot of the early season for the Sox was Josh Beckett and his opening day start. Beckett racked up 10 strikeouts in seven innings while allowing only one run on two hits. Beckett had an average season last year, compiling a 12-10 record with a 4.03 ERA while averaging almost exactly a strikeout per inning pitched. But, by the standard of the 20-win campaign he had in 2007, he fell far short of expectations. He does look poised to return to his 2007 form, and we have to remember that Beckett started last season injured. He was held out almost entirely from spring training, which is vital for starting pitchers. A good indication of where Beckett is this season in comparison to last season is his reliance on only two pitches. He had to go to his change-up last season and a two-seam fastball, which is not Beckett’s game. He is effective if he can go through a start using his fastball and curveball 65-70 percent of the time. He threw very few change-ups on Tuesday.

Today’s starter, Daisuke Matsuzaka, got off to a less desirable start of the season. Although putting up solid raw numbers with an 18-3 record and a 2.90 ERA, he finished a distant fourth in Cy Young voting and received no first place votes. This was due mostly to his relative inconsistency on the mound, which led to a very high number of walks (94 in 164 IP). The high walk total combined with the fact that Matsuzaka is a strikeout pitcher led to high pitch totals and short outings (He average a little under 5 and 2/3 IP per start). Although he has very good stuff, it seems that this is simply the type of pitcher Matsuzaka is. He will nibble at the corners, rely on his breaking pitches, and only go after hitters when he must. Today, however, the Sox would have gladly taken last season’s version of the Japanese import. Matsuzaka was leaving a lot of pitches up in the zone, and the Rays hitters had many aggressive swings off of him. No pitch seemed to be working, and he gave up home runs to Evan Longoria (slider), Matt Joyce (fastball) and Shawn Riggans (slider). Walks were not an issue, but Matsuzaka’s pitches were very flat and up in the zone. Although he had significant work in winning his second consecutivce World Baseball Classic MVP award, Matsuzaka looked today like a starter who was not quite ready for the regular season.

The bullpen has lived up to its billing through the first series. Tabbed by some as the best in baseball, the Sox have finally put together a clear path for the middle innings to get to Jonathan Papelbon. New addition Ramon Ramirez was effective today and will play an integral part of getting to the ninth.

A few things about the offense:
-Kevin Youkilis has gotten off to a red-hot start. He had record eight hits in his first 11 at-bats this season, and he continues his recent string of productive Aprils. Although there are question marks with David Ortiz, Mike Lowell and Jason Vartiek in the lineup, Youkilis is the most pivotal member of the big part of the lineup. Depending on his production, it will affect how teams pitch to Ortiz and other members of the lineup.

-Speaking of Varitek, I hate to be the bearer of unwanted news, but I am hearing a lot of talk about Varitek having a good solid comeback year in which he puts up numbers such as a .250 BA, 15 home runs and 70 RBIs. GM Theo Epstein made a great move bringing back Varitek this off-season, he did not re-sign him because of his offense. Varitek’s numbers will be startlingly similar to his numbers from the 2008 campaign, which were .220-13-43. If the Sox had wanted more offense from their catcher, they would have kept Josh Bard. It is a great sign that he has two home runs in the first three games, and both left-handed, but any offense from the catcher’s position is gravy.

The A.L. East is by far the toughest division in baseball this season, with some speculating that the top three teams in all of baseball are in that division. No one is writing off the Rays, but it seems that most have them finishing third behind the Red Sox and Yankees. The Rays however should not finish lower than second. They have the same team as they do last year, and have added a big bat in Pat Burrell. David Price is waiting in the wings, and he will be called up sooner rather than later, ala Longoria last season.

Check back after the series finale Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. (All recaps will be posted here .)
Keep the Faith.

(P.S. I am also in the market for a new avatar, as mine was also a casualty of the wonderful new restrictions set forth by cbssports, so if anyone has ideas, I’d appreciate them.)

Posted on: January 3, 2009 1:54 pm

Boston is the Best Place for Bard

Until ten days ago, Josh Bard seemed destined for infamy in the eyes of Red Sox fans. His named was becoming cliche, with phrases like "That player is so bad, Josh Bard could catch better than him," or "That trade hurt us even more than Josh Bard." When Boston signed Bard in the 2006 off-season, they were looking for a more dependable back-up for Jason Varitek than Doug Mirabelli, who in parts of six seasons with the Red Sox managed only a .237 batting average and 48 home runs in over 1,000 at-bats. Bard's performance in Boston was vividly nightmarish.

He started only five games in 2006, all of which were starts by knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Bard proceeded to allow ten passed balls in only 53 innings, leading Wakefield to start the season 1-4. A few days into May, Bard was traded to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Mirabelli with, most notably, Pawtucket Red Sox reliever Cla Meredith, who was called up by the Padres upon his arrival, and finished his rookie year 5-1 with a microscopic 1.07 ERA in over 50 innings pitched. Bard, meanwhile, backed up Mike Piazza and hit .338 in 231 at-bats for the Padres.

Needless to say, Bard left Red Sox fans with a bitter taste in their mouths.

So, imagine the surprise when GM Theo Epstein announced that, in a year in which the Sox have likely lost all three of last season's catchers to free agency, the Red Sox have resigned Josh Bard to a one-year contract.

But Red Sox fans should not dismay. Yes, we have seen a number of players come through a revolving door labeled "talented, but cannot play in Boston," but seldom do they get a second chance. Bard is one of the better hitting catchers in the major league, and he brings with him the fifth-highest career batting average among active catchers.

For Bard, Boston was a shocking dose of reality. Professional athletes have a tendency to take a lot for granted, but Bard has emphasized after his signing that playing in Boston taught him nothing is ever guaranteed. He will be a pleasant surprise for the Red Sox next season.

First, the expectations are extremely low. Because of his last stint, there is nowhere to go but up. Second, he was not around long enough to show that his offense abilities allow him some slack for his defensive shortcomings. In the same way that Varitek's abysmal offensive production was dismissed because of his defense and play-calling ability, so too will the opposite be true for Bard. And thirdly, Bard is by far the best available option. There is no point for the Red Sox to empty their farm system for a player like Jarrod Saltalamacchia when Bard is available through free agency.

Posted on: April 26, 2008 10:30 pm

Red Sox Recap 4-25-08

The Red Sox lost their first extra inning game of the season, and now have lost a season long three straight games. Some thoughts on today’s game:

Kevin Cash had a lot trouble handling Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball tonight. Wakefield had a good start, but did get into trouble by giving up too many walks. In his last start, the Rangers were taking the philosophy of simply swinging early and often against Wakefield, and while they did put up some runs against him, he was able to cover eight innings. Tonight was much different for Wakefield, who has an excellent record pitching in the Tropicana Field, seemed to have more control issues than usual. Cash looked reminiscent of Josh Bard’s attempts to field Wakefield knuckleball, as even when the pitches were strikes, the balls were still bouncing out of Cash’s glove. It was the first time that Cash has caught Wakefield indoors, where Wakefield says that he is more comfortable and he gets more movement on his pitches, and Cash was probably having trouble picking up the knuckleball in the lights on the top of the dome. It is generally accepted that when a knuckleball is dancing so much that even the catcher cannot handle the strikes, it is that much more effective, but that was not the case tonight. In addition to Cash’s struggles, Wakefield had poor command all night, often looking as if he lost the grip on his pitches. He also reverted to throwing more fastballs than is wise.

The early season ineffectiveness of the relief corps and the short starts delivered by the starters has heavily taxed the Sox bullpen. Javier Lopez, though he recorded a big out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the night to send the game into extra innings, is very much over worked. Mike Timlin was seen going back and forth from the Sox clubhouse to the bullpen, and he may not be completely healthy. Through in the fact that the Sox’s two best starters, and two pitchers most likely to eat up innings, were missed in their last two starts, the Sox bullpen desperately needs a respite. The Sox have a strange mix of pitchers in their bullpen, being compiled of either stars, or aging veterans, or younger and inexperienced pitchers who seem on the verge of always being out of a job. However, this bullpen will find success if the starters can string together multiple starts of seven innings or better, so that pitchers that could use a day off do not even have to start to warm up. Also, the Sox have seemed very reluctant to use Julian Tavarez. True, he may be the least effective one-inning man the Sox have, although Timlin is trying hard to take that away from him, but a well-rested Julian Tavarez is certainly more effective than an overworked David Aardsma. Tavarez is the Sox long-relief man, and the only one they have in the bullpen, but if the starter only goes five innings, and especially if the game is tied or they are losing, the first man out of the bullpen should be Tavarez. He believes that he has a rubber arm and can pitch as often as the Sox need him to, but while the Sox struggle to find their rhythm as a complete pitching staff, Tavarez may be more effective in one inning duties rather than long relief work.

Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game as the Sox try to end this recent skid. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com