It might be time to write off Daniel Bard for the rest of the year.
The 27-year-old righty walked four of the five batters he faced Tuesday in his appearance for Triple-A Pawtucket. He’s walked 10 and giving up eight runs in 4 2/3 innings this month.
Bard was throwing better towards the end of July, allowing just an unearned run and two walks over five innings in his last five appearances of the month. August has been a different story, though. The feeling is that Bard’s struggles are the result of both poor mechanics and a lack of confidence. He hasn’t gone full-on Rick Ankiel, but some of it is mental.
“There were some outings I was really frustrated afterward, and it was like, ‘Where do I go from here?’” Bard said earlier this month. “It kind of gives you that light at the end of the tunnel. I’m healthy, I’ve done this before, I’m going to do it again in the near future.”
Overall, Bard has allowed 24 earned runs in 28 innings for Pawtucket, giving him a 7.71 ERA. He’s struck out 30 and walked 27.
In case you were wondering, Mark Prior, too, is having some control problems at Pawtucket. He’s walked 13 batters in his last nine outings, and his ERA is on the rise. He has a 4.01 ERA and a 38/23 K/BB ratio in 24 2/3 innings over his 18 appearances.
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.