If you were holding out hope that Daniel Bard was going to morph into a capable starting pitcher, his performance shitshow on Sunday should have effectively murdered those dreams. You just don't walk 6 of 13 batters then take the mound again in 5 days. When you see the pitches he's hurling (like the one above, courtesy of sbnation.com) it's obvious he has no control over where the ball is ending up. He's like Ricky 'Wild Thing' Vaughn in the first half of Major League, only way less cool and intimidating.
Another trait that Bard and Vaughn share is a crazy-fast fastball. Except, that's another part of Bard's game that's gone completely out the window. His fastball isn't so fast anymore. It's actually quite pedestrian. And while a slight drop was expected (you can't throw the ball 98 MPH 100 times a game unless you're Superman or Justin Verlander), Bard's decrease in speed is way too great.
Cue fangraphs.com, who are way better at explaining this stuff than I am.
For your visual enjoyment, here is a plot of every pitcher whose average fastball velocity this year is lower than it was last year.
I bet you can pick out the little blue dot that represents Daniel Bard. He’s the lonely little icon in the lower left hand corner, hanging out all by himself with a reduction in average fastball speed of 4.2 MPH. Last year, only three pitchers in baseball – Henry Rodriguez, Aroldis Chapman, and Jordan Walden – threw harder than Bard. This year, Bard is throwing about as hard as Vin Mazzaro, Jeff Gray, and Jeremy Guthrie.
I'm not in Daniel Bard's head, nor am I in his meetings with the coaching staff. I don't know how much of this dropoff is by design and how much of it is physical or mental. But what I do know is that Bard's fastball was special. Not record breaking by any means, but strong and intimidating. It setup everything he did as a pitcher.
When you can zing a 99-100 MPH fastball at a batter you don't need to have pinpoint accuracy. The batter doesn't have time to figure out if it's outside by an inch or two. If it's close, he's swinging. His only hope is he gets the bat off his shoulder fast enough.
That weapon, that advantage that Bard possessed, has been neutered. Now he's just a pitcher with poor control and underwhelming stuff. Without the ability to just pull back and whizz one in there to get himself out of a jam, he's completely exposed.
I don't see any way that the Sox can keep Bard up in Boston, regardless of whether they decide to move him back to the pen. He's going to need some time to recover from this. Bard's not broken, but he's certainly in disrepair. And if they do decide that they still want to turn him into a starter, they better work on that velocity as well as his control.