ESPN has a video piece wonder which converted reliever will be a better starting pitcher, Daniel Bard of the Red Sox or Neftali Feliz of the Rangers.
(I didn’t watch the clip. It’s here if you’d like to see it.)
There are multiple factors to determine which pitcher is the better option for fantasy players and is likely to be better for his respective team on the field.
Let’s take a look.
Minor league success/failure.
Bard was a terrible starter in the minors—stats.
Feliz was a good starter in the minors—stats.
Obviously that doesn’t mean that either pitcher is going to be good or bad as a starter in the big leagues, but the best determinative factor in how a player will do in the future is how he did in the past.
Feliz, as a starter in the Braves and Rangers organizations put up excellent stats across the board with a low ERA regularly under 3, massive strikeout/innings pitched numbers and good control.
Bard was not good as a starting pitcher.
He had no idea where the ball was going; he walked far more batters that innings pitched; he didn’t strike anyone out.
As relievers, both were good. Feliz was able to handle closing whereas Bard wasn’t. Once he moved to the bullpen in Double-A, Bard was lights out. He racked up the strikeouts, threw strikes and had excellent hits/innings pitched ratios.
The main difference is this: Bard was bad as a starter and good as a reliever but unable to close; Feliz was good as a starter and a closer in the big leagues for a team that won back-to-back pennants.
Bard and Feliz both have the aresnal to be good starting pitchers.
Bard has a high-90s fastball, a slider and a changeup. As a reliever, the changeup was rarely used but he’ll have to use it as a starter. It’s a touch-and-feel pitch that requires timing, concentration, the same fastball arm action and command.
Feliz has a high-90s four seam fastball, a sinker, a cutter, a changeup and a slider. It’s a starter’s repertoire.
Health wise, Bard hasn’t had any issues in his three years in the big leagues; Feliz on the other hand missed two weeks in late April-early May of the 2011 season with shoulder inflammation possibly caused by the haphazard non-decision of “will he start or relieve?” the Rangers pulled in spring training of 2011.
The Rangers are generally savvy and gutsy with their pitchers, but the wishy-washy “we’ll let him start in the spring, then decide” was absurd. Now, with Joe Nathan onboard, the decision was smartly made in the winter for Feliz to start, period.
The Rangers and Red Sox aren’t going to push either pitcher too hard, but the Rangers are more flexible with their innings limits and pitch counts than the Red Sox are.
It’s been an ongoing debate as to which club’s development apparatus is better. The Red Sox build their pitchers up gradually; the Rangers push their young starters deeper into games with higher pitch counts.
It’s hard to argue with either given their success rates. The Red Sox developed both Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz using their techniques and gradual buildups; the Rangers have developed Matt Harrison and Derek Holland and they’ve converted Alexi Ogando and C.J. Wilson from the bullpen to the rotation successfully.
The Red Sox moved Derek Lowe from the bullpen to the rotation, but that was ten years ago and it was before the new, stat/study-heavy regime took command.
If you’re looking for greater depth, Feliz is more likely to pitch 180 innings than Bard is. Bard will be handled very carefully. Feliz will be free form.
The Rangers are deep enough in their rotation—even with the departure of Wilson—to keep an eye on Feliz and not feel the need to bend the rules in order to win.
The Red Sox aren’t in that position. Their rotation is notoriously short after Josh Beckett and Lester. Buchholz is returning from a fracture in his back and they’re having an audition for the fifth starter between foundlings, journeyman and eventually Daisuke Matsuzaka.
With the way both teams are constructed, that the Rangers are more cohesive and organized and the Red Sox still in the middle of what can only be described as chaos, it’s clear that the better choice and higher immediate upside is Feliz.
Paul Lebowitz’s 2012 Baseball Guide is now available.
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