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Nobody will deny that the Red Sox’ starting rotation needs a major overhaul after last month’s epic collapse that caused the Red Sox to miss the playoffs despite being nine games ahead in the wild card race at the beginning of the month. Opinions vary on exactly how to fix it, however. On Wednesday, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com discussed the potential moves of setup man Daniel Bard and long reliever/spot starter Alfredo Aceves to the starting rotation. These would definitely be bold moves by the next Red Sox skipper, and would require the clearing of space in the starting rotation to make room for the proposed additions. The question is, how feasible are these options?
Daniel Bard has never started at a level above A, and he didn’t do it well. He was used exclusively as a starter between the Greenville Drive and Lancaster JetHawks in 2007, and posted a 7.08 ERA over 22 starts, good for a 3-7 record. He walked 78 batters – more than he has during his entire major league career – over 75 innings of work, and threw 27 (!) wild pitches to go along with eight hit batters and a balk. His WHIP was over 2.00, and he allowed 9.1 hits per nine innings.
While Bard has certainly matured as a pitcher over the last four seasons, there is still indirect evidence during his big league career that would suggest that any experiment as a starter would not work. His statistics plummet after his pitch count reaches 25, and there isn’t even any sort of correlation between performance and amount of days off prior to an outing. Therefore, I find it highly unlikely that Daniel Bard would perform at any acceptable level as a starter.
Unlike Bard, Alfredo Aceves has actually started games at a Major League level. Aceves has not been used primarily as a starter since 2008, when 27 of his 31 appearances were starts between the A, AA, AAA, and Major League levels of competition. In the minors, his performance as a starter was mediocre, which probably led to the Yankees, and then the Red Sox, using him almost exclusively as a reliever beginning in 2009. Has has been markedly worse as a starter than as a reliever in the big leagues, posting a 4.18 ERA over 9 career starts as well as carrying a higher WHIP, and lower K/9 and K/BB rates. He also seems to lose all semblance of control upon reaching the 50-pitch mark. Between pitches 51 and 75, opponents have a .296 batting average. There is clearly a reason why he has rarely been used as a starter, and even then only reluctantly.
While Aceves would probably work better as a full-time starter than Bard, it appears that neither of them would be able to pitch effectively enough to warrant the raiding of the bullpen that Bradford proposes in his article. Fixes to the rotation, I believe, would better be achieved by using Kyle Weiland or Matt Fox, who both had excellent seasons for AAA Pawtucket this season en route to a division title. Having to answer questions like these is going to make the new Red Sox manager’s job especially difficult.