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Daniel Bard’s unlikely comeback is complete

The 2020 NL Comeback Player of the Year provided a much needed feel-good story

Welcome to the 2020 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2020. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.

★ ★ ★

No. 7, Daniel Bard: 0.9 rWAR

One of the brighter spots of the Rockies 2020 season was undeniably the resurgence of Daniel Bard.

In a surprising offseason win, the Rockies signed the then 34 year-old back in February to a minor league deal with a spring training invite. The Rockies were taking a low risk chance on Bard who had been out of the majors since 2013—more specifically, April 27th of 2013, one day before a certain Rockies third baseman made his MLB debut.

It’s been well told all season long what Daniel Bard went through to return to the majors—desperately reinventing himself in the minors, retiring, working in the Diamondbacks organization, then, feeling he had finally regained form throwing the ball, he decided to give it another try playing.

This second run of his playing career began better than the Rockies or he could have imagined.

Bard was one of the more reliable options the bullpen had last season. He finished the year with a 3.65 ERA and collected 27 strikeouts in 24 ⅔ innings. A few splits worth highlighting was his effectiveness vs RHB (.205 opponent BA in 44 ABs) and ability to pitch on the road (3.00 ERA and .217 opponent BA in 12 innings). Just like the rest of the league, he struggled to pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers who were responsible for 3 of his 10 runs given up all season.

As the season went on and the bullpen began to falter, Bard’s role in the pen grew and he became the closer, earning his first save since 2011 on August 11th against the very same Arizona Diamondbacks that employed him a year earlier.

Bard’s hard work in returning didn’t go unnoticed as he was voted the 2020 NL Comeback Player of the Year by his fellow MLB players, capping off a long and remarkable journey to get back into the league. He’s also the second Colorado Rockies player to earn the award (Greg Holland, 2017).

Moving forward, Bard is under team control for two more arbitration eligible years. He’s expected to be brought back and be an important part of an improved 2021 bullpen. At 35, the Rockies will look to get as much out of him as possible, but it’s unclear how long the Rockies can depend on the right-hander. But as Bard knows better than anyone, nothing is promised and he’ll have to prove himself every season.