After missing the entire 2010 season, it's hard to view Erik Bedard's 2011 campaign as anything short of a success. After splitting the season with the Mariners and Red Sox, he has parlayed his return into a one year $4.5 million deal with the Pirates. What can reasonably be expected from Bedard in 2012?
For starters, it is likely he will land on the disabled list, or at the least, miss a turn in the rotation now and again. Even in a healthy season, by his standards anyways, he threw just 129.1 innings. It was his first season over 100 innings since 2007, when he threw 182 innings. He has never surpassed the 200 inning plateau in his career. The injuries that sidelined Bedard this year were a sprained knee, and a strained lat. Thankfully, there were no reports of problems with his throwing shoulder that has previously undergone surgery to remove a cyst in 2008, repair a torn labrum in 2009, and shave down a bone spur in 2010. Hopefully Bedard will have similar luck in putting his shoulder woes behind him to that of conquering Tommy John surgery on his elbow many years ago. Well wishes aside, I'd be shocked if he surpassed 150 innings. Set the ceiling at 150 innings, and realize the floor is having something fall apart on his body in spring training.
From a performance standpoint, he was much the same player of previous seasons in 2011. He posted a gaudy strikeout total of 8.70 K/9 with a near league average walk rate of 3.34 BB/9 (league average was 3.11 BB/9). Bedard will be pitching for a National League team for the first time in his career. That change should bode well for his strikeout rate, ERA and WHIP according to Derek Carty's study on the effects of moving from the American League to the National League.
Bedard benefited from calling spacious SAFECO Field home in Seattle for most of last year. Perhaps he recognized the benefit of pitching in a friendly home run suppressing environment, because much of what can be said about SAFECO Field can apply to PNC Park. The biggest difference is that the home run park effects are more evenly doled out between left-handed and right-handed batters in PNC Park, where as Safeco Field saps only right-handed home run power.
One of the major reasons Bedard was able to bounce back this season was that his stuff returned to pre-injury form. His fastball sat in the low-90s this year, putting it within roughly one mph of his 2007-2009 radar gun readings. He didn't generate as many whiffs with his curveball in 2011 as he had from 2007-2009 (8.1 percent whiff rate versus 10.9 percent whiff rate), but offset it with slightly better whiff rates on his four-seam fastball and change-up. The biggest change to his pitch selection was that he featured a two-seam fastball in 2011 that he did not feature from 2007-2009 according to TexasLeaguers PITCHf/x data. Bedard's new found two-seam fastball was thrown with nearly identical frequency to his four-seam fastball. Given the nature of two-seam fastballs, it is possible that as he becomes more accustomed to throwing it, he'll see his 42 percent groundball rate approach his approximately 48 percent rate from 2007-2008.
Bedard's fantasy value will ultimately be tied to how healthy he is in 2012. Building in projection for some missed time should leave him being drafted in the range of ratio boosting non-save relievers. It's early in the draft season, so any mock draft information needs to be taken with a large grain of salt, but Mock Draft Central does not have him listed amongst the 310 players on their latest report. Owners willing to put up with Bedard's health headaches could yield a profit on a minimal investment.