A lot was made coming into the 2010 season about the Red Sox' pitching and how it would be an asset for the team. Of course, what everyone has been alluding to is the the starting pitching.
And why not? With the likes of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett and John Lackey in the rotation, who wouldn't be excited?
But as the year has progressed, it's one member of the Red Sox bullpen who has impressed in virtually every outing.
Daniel Bard continues to progress on an accelerated pace and has become one of the best relief pitchers in all of baseball. His numbers aren't good, they're great. Bard is among league leaders in multiple pitching categories.
For AL pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched in 2010, he ranks eighth in ERA, 15th in strikeouts per nine innings and fourth in both WHIP and opponents' batting average.
But it's more than just the numbers. Take last week's series in New York for example. The Red Sox took the field in the finale on Monday knowing that a win would give them a split and likely keep them in the race.
Lester threw a gem for the Sox, but ran into trouble in the seventh. Enter Bard. The young righty came in with the bases loaded and only one out. How did he respond? He struck out Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher — on three pitches each.
Lester pitched great, but it was Bard making sure that great effort would hold up. He came in and got the two most important outs of that game.
While the bullpen has struggled this season at times, it's been in spite of Bard's consistent performance. His ERA got as low as 1.80 in early June, and he entered play Wednesday night with a 2.01 ERA, a testament to his ERA.
He will undoubtedly be a big league closer some day. And if he keeps up his impressive performance and continues to get even better, he may someday be a Cy Young candidate.
But, with everything considered this season, is it possible that the Red Sox' most valuable pitcher this year has been Daniel Bard?
Share your thoughts below.
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