TORONTO — A good way to evaluate how well a pitcher is throwing is to count how many times the batter swings and misses at his pitches.
It’s a simple, raw way of looking at things. Throwing a ball right by a major league hitter means you’re doing something right.
Daniel Bard produced 18 swings and misses by the Blue Jays tonight. To put that in perspective, only one Red Sox starter had more all of last season. That was Josh Beckett, who got 20 against the Orioles in September.
That’s why the Red Sox want to see what Bard can give them as a starter.
The short view is that Bard took the loss, giving up five runs on eight hits in five innings as the Blue Jays beat the Sox, 7-3.
But look closely and you’ll probably see a lot to like. Bard walked off the mound in the sixth inning with the Red Sox trailing, 3-1. Justin Thomas, the rookie lefty, came in and allowed two inherited runners to score and another one of his own.
Thomas walked lefty Eric Thames to load the bases. Bobby Valentine had righthander Matt Albers warmed up but let Thomas stay in the game. J.P. Arencibia dropped a two-run single into center and Colby Rasmus followed with a sacrifice fly as Toronto took a 6-1 lead.
“Just a dumb move,” Valentine said, smacking his hand on his desk.
Albers throws a sinking fastball that could have induced a double play. But Valentine was hoping Thomas would keep his changeup down and get a grounder that way. Instead Thomas left a pitch up and Arencibia added to Toronto’s lead.
“I don’t like being dumb. I like doing what I’m supposed to do,” Valentine said.
Bard was equally frustrated. Of the eight hits he allowed, five were on two-strike pitches. Two of the hits were infield singles. Four others were groundballs.
“Let’s say half of those get fielded, which is a probably a normal night. If we catch three or four of those and get outs on them, that’s probably three runs and about 30 pitches and I’m pitching into the seventh and giving up two runs,” Bard said.
Bard was referencing his batting average on balls in play. The Jays were 8 of 17 (.471) against him. A normal BABIP is .300. So he was exactly right. If the Jays were 5 of 17, Bard maybe wins that game.
“You take that 30 times a year, you’re going to get a lot of wins out of it. I’ll bet anything on that,” Valentine said.
It’s easy to look at the unsettled Red Sox bullpen and say Bard should be back there. But a high quality starter is more valuable than virtually any reliever. Bard showed tonight that his transition is well worth continuing.
• Dustin Pedroia jammed his right shoulder when he slid into third base in the sixth inning but stayed in the game. He had ice on his shoulder afterward along with a pain-relieving patch but said he was fine.