Boston Red Sox About to Get Better... Maybe

Steven GoldmanMLB Lead BloggerApril 23, 2012

Daniel Bard: A man to whom there are few alternatives.
Daniel Bard: A man to whom there are few alternatives.Elsa/Getty Images

The Red Sox will start to get healthy today. Despite their miserable start and a pitching staff that is last in the league in runs allowed per game by a wide margin, Boston still rates a better than 50-50 chance of making the playoffs.

That’s because (a) standard disclaimer, it’s early, and (b) their schedule is about to get gentle for a little while. Consider:

With the exception of the White Sox, who have the third-best run differential in the league at the moment, that’s 22 games against teams whose run differentials range from +2 (Indians) to -27 (Twins). If the Red Sox can’t get their pitching staff in order against these guys, they’re simply not going to.

The only impediment to this grand plan is the Red Sox pitchers themselves, who just aren’t that good. There also aren’t enough of them. It’s like the old joke about the restaurant: “The food there is terrible, and the portions!”

One irony of the current move to place Daniel Bard in the bullpen is that, at least as measured by ERA, he’s the second-most effective starter on the staff. Sure, he’s walked a bunch, but he hasn’t allowed a home run and he’s struck out 10 per nine innings.

It’s understandable that with off-days, he’s being skipped this time around and made available for relief, but it runs the risk of being successful, thereby creating demand to fill a spot in the bullpen by opening a hole in the rotation, a move of the least utility rather than the most.

The truth is, as long as Bard is marginally successful in the rotation, Boston doesn’t have much choice but to keep him there.

There isn’t much help on the farm unless you’re counting the veteran Aaron Cook, he of the career 3.8 strikeouts per nine—that isn’t going to play in AL, and I don’t care what his ground-ball rate is. There is also the prospect Alex Wilson, off to a rough start at Pawtucket. After that—it’s your guess.