This is the feel-good story that just keeps on giving. Daniel Bard earned his first win since 2013. Then his first save since 2011. After yips sidelined him and turned him into a coach, Bard is back with a 3.00 ERA and he is perhaps the most consistent and effective pitcher in the Rockies’ bullpen right now. It’s beyond a script made for Hollywood though because his stats are out of this world.
Here are some of the highlights that are drawing national attention:
• 12 strikeouts and no walks in nine innings over eight appearances (37 batters faced). That perfect strikeout-to-walk ratio is tied for first in the MLB with Cincinnati’s Raisel Iglesias. (Fun fact: Yency Almonte is tied for third on the list with 11 strikeouts and zero walks.)
• Bard hasn’t given up any homers, even though five of his appearances have come at Coors Field.
• A 0.40 Fielding-Independent Pitching mark that is second among relievers with at least eight appearances. As David Adler explains, FIP is “a version of ERA based on strikeouts, walks and homers that tries to provide a truer estimate of a pitcher’s run-prevention ability by isolating the outcomes he has the most control over.”
• When it comes to league- and ballpark-adjusted ERA, Bard’s ERA- is 58, while the league average is 100. Not too shabby.
• He is still hitting 98.7 mph on the radar gun, only losing a bit of speed despite being 35 years old and out of the game for seven years. His average fast ball velocity is 96.5, which is better than he was in 2012 (93.7) and 2013 (94.3). He also has the fourth highest spin rate on his four-seam fastball at 2,627 rotations per minute. The MLB average is 2,304 rpm.
• Bard’s slider is pairing beautifully with his four-seam fast ball and is faster than it was in 2009-11 (averaging 87.1 mph – up to 90 mph once now, compared to 84.5 mph then.)
This headline is a little misleading because it actually is more about each team figuring out its own personnel first to see if trades are needed. For the Rockies, the focus is pitching as always. After starting off 2020 in spectacular fashion, pitching has been problematic for the last four games. The starters, outside of Kyle Freeland, struggled. The bullpen, outside of Daniel Bard, struggled. So, this article brings up a good question: Can Jario Díaz handle the closer role?”
With Davis and Scott Oberg out, Diaz earned the role and Black thinks Díaz has the grit and aptitude to do it. Díaz has three saves this year, and while he doesn’t have any blown saves, his appearances have been nerve-wrecking with Wade Davis-like drama and action on the bases. After the Mariners series, Díaz spoke about his confidence in being the closer: “I’m taking in this new role, and I’m going to be ready for whatever situation comes up and whenever the team needs me. I don’t want traffic, but thank God, when there’s been guys on base, so far I’ve been able to dig down and get out of it.”
He’s given up at least one hit in six of his eight appearances and four runs (three earned) over his last three games. The Rockies have won six of those eight games, including the Aug. 11 nail-bitter of a win against Arizona when he and Phillip Diehl were hit hard and had to be bailed out by Bard. Since Davis’ departure, Yency Almonte has also earned a save. Another disheartening trend for Díaz is that he struck out seven batters in his first four appearances, but hasn’t struck out any in his last four appearances.
So Chris Haft’s question is “Do the Rockies stick with Díaz, or go to a multi-closer system?” He has a funny answer because he defers, saying it doesn’t matter and the Rockies should pick up a proven late-game reliever before the trade deadline. Knowing the Rockies trade/acquisition history, and recent bad decisions in signing, and later releasing veteran relievers (Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw come to mind), this seems unlikely and unnecessary. when we have Díaz, a possible committee and a “proven late-game reliever” named Daniel Bard.
Can Jairo Díaz handle the closer role for the Rockies?
This poll is closed
Yes. He’s ready and has the grit for it.
Maybe someday, but not yet. He creates too much traffic on the bases and stress for fans.
No. It should be closer by committee.
Someone else should do it. (Tell us who in the comments.)
Even though the 15-game hit streak is over and there’s been a lot of focus on Charlie Blackmon, I am going to keep rolling with it because it’s a great story and it’s better than talking about giving up a whole lot runs to the Diamondbacks and losing three of the last four games.
Chuck Nazty is currently hitting .472/.506/1.187. Kyle Newman calculates that hitting for about a .365 batting average in the remaining 42 games, give or take a few points depending on off days and number of at bats, will give Charlie a .400 average at the end of the season. Even though that is incredibly hard to do, it seems doable for Blackmon and his routine-driven, detail-oriented work ethic. If he can complete the feat, he would join an elite group of players who have hit .400 or over during the course of 60 consecutive games in the past decade: Jose Altuve, Joey Votto, and Andre McCutchen. In 2008, Chipper Jones was a .400 hitter in the first 60 games of the season.
Whether it’s a 60-game season or not, ending the season with a .400 batting average and being the first since Ted Williams in 1941 to do so, even if it is with an asterisk, would be another amazing accomplishment for the four-time All-Star and 2017 NL batting champ.