What do right-handers Daniel Bard and Craig Hansen have in common? Both were first-round draft picks. The positive is both were high-profile prospects in the Red Sox farm system. And both were closers or expected to be closers for an extended period. And both crashed and burned Hindenburg style. In the instance of both, they simply lost the ability to pitch.
Bard recently signed another minor league deal in an attempt to resuscitate a once-promising career. Bard – who could consistently reach 100+ – had what is known as “The Yips” or Steve Blass Disease where the plate suddenly becomes the size of a postage staff resulting in a proliferation of walks.
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For Bard, the road to ruin was paved with walks and it started in 2012 with a 6.5 BB/9 and then it went downhill. One season in the Texas system a 121.5 BB/9! When Bard got the ball over the plate he was several degrees of intimidating. Was it arm trouble? A mind block? Maybe the latest comeback will tell, but Bard should have been either a setup or closer extraordinaire.
Hansen also threw hard and had issues with control at all levels. I had seen Hansen at Pawtucket (AAA) and presumed once the rough edges were refined the Red Sox had a talent for the bullpen. In 2011, despite a 2-9 record with Boston, it looked as if that talent would surface. The 3.0 BB/9 and 9.1 K/9 of that season disintegrated the following season and after 2013 Hansen never returned to the majors.
Looking at Hansen’s post-2013 minor league statistics is a wonder in control issues with even a BB/9 that at one time was Bard like. With Hansen, the issue that killed off his career was brachial plexus neuropathy that caused pain and weakness in the arms. Hansen remained persistent in career attempts, but the real Hansen never returned.