Another minor league invite, Bedard could provide valuable depth in the middle of the rotation, or he could spend most of the year in the minors pitching for Oklahoma City.
Injuries are just a part of being a pitcher. If you throw the ball in an unnatural manner, something in your shoulder or elbow will get out of whack eventually.
That's why there's such a thing as TINSTAAPP (There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect) and why guys like Erik Bedard get signed. Teams take chances on pitchers who have injury histories much more than they take chances on pitchers rebounding from terrible recent performances. That's why Houston signed Bedard and not Dice-K.
Still, Bedard's injury history is troubling and his recent track record hasn't been nearly good enough to get fans excited about him. Will he get hurt again? There's no way to know. As I said in this article, Bedard has dealt with a recurring knee injury in the past and was sidelined a bit last season with back spasms. Both of those areas are big red flags, meaning we shouldn't pin a lot of hope on him.
But, if we look at his performance in 2012, there's enough hidden in there to suggest Bedard could be a useful piece of Houston's rotation. At least, until he breaks down. Here's hoping Luhnow deals him before that happens...
After ending his Mariners tenure in 2011 by being traded to the Red Sox, Erik Bedard dipped into free agency and came out on the Pittsburgh Pirates. He threw 125 innings for the Buccos last season, going 7-14 before being unceremoniously released by the club in August.
Bedard had decent peripheral stats, striking out 8.45 batters per nine innings but walking a rather high 4.01 per nine. His home run rate was as stable as its been post-Orioles, but right around 1.00 per nine, which is certainly not great. He also saw an uptick in his batting average on balls in play, which rose to .314, nearly 20 points higher than it was in 2011.
That coupled with a bad Left On Base percentage of 66.5 percent (indicating how many runners he stranded that season), and it's expected that Bedard would have an ERA around 5.01 and why his FIP, expected FIP and SIERA were all significantly lower than that, charting in just around 4.00.
Bedard's line drive rate climbed dramatically in 2012, rising almost six percent over his 2010 totals. He's also seen corresponding drops in his fly ball rate and his infield fly ball rate. From that, we can infer he's giving up harder contact because his stuff isn't as good.
Turns out, we'd be right, as his fastball lost more velocity last season and clocked in under 90 MPH on average for the first time in his career.
Bill James at least thinks Bedard will bounce back in a positive way. Though James only projects him to start 17 games and throw 95 total innings, he's got Bedard with a respectable 3.85 ERA and 92 strikeouts with 40 walks. That adds up to an FIP of 3.79 and slightly lower walk rates than he had last season.
According to the Steamer projections over at FanGraphs, Bedard is set to throw 126 innings with a 7.56 K per nine rate, 3.57 walks per nine, a 4.13 ERA and a 3.92 FIP. Combined with a very low .287 BABiP, it looks like Bedard would be a great addition to the Astros rotation by these standards. That's close to what he did in 2011, when he was worth two wins. Only one pitcher on Houston's staff last season was worth more than two wins.
One more set of projections, thanks to the Oliver system over at FanGraphs. They show Bedard throwing 100 innings with a 4.06 ERA, 8.48 K/9 rate, 3.61 BB/9 rate with a .301 BABiP and an FIP of 3.71. The Oliver projections also show Left On Base Percentage, which rebounds back up to 71.3 percent.
No one seems confident in Bedard pitching more than 100-120 innings next season. I would think the same, though I could also see him posting an ERA around 4.00 with plenty of strikeouts. However, you have to factor in the risk of his recurring injuries and can't plan on him starting 25-30 games for Houston next year.
Best case scenario is that Bedard goes out and gives the Astros 10 solid starts to begin the season. At that point, they can either trade him for prospects, but if he gets hurt instead of dealt, that'd give guys like Brett Oberholtzer or Paul Clemens or even Jarred Cosart enough time to develop at Oklahoma City before being thrown to the American League wolves.
For the minimal monetary investment, Bedard seems prepared to pay dividends. Just don't expect them to be worth much more than minor league invites usually provide.