Tag:Clay Buchholz
Posted on: November 30, 2011 9:11 pm
 

Valentine falls into bed of Red Sox roses

For all the talk about how Bobby Valentine can change the Red Sox, let's remember that he's taking over a team that spent 4 1/2 months as the best team in baseball.

"He fell into a bed of roses," another big-league manager said Wednesday, the day the Red Sox made it official that Valentine will take over as their new manager.

Valentine will try to avoid the thorns. The Red Sox front office gets to spend the next couple of months finding a few more roses.

It can't be any harder (or as time-consuming) as finding a new manager, right?

Besides, the Sox got a good long look at what needs to be done, in the form of September's painful collapse.

The problem is that we're now two months into Boston's offseason, and rather than get a start on fixing what's wrong on the roster, the Red Sox added to their issues by losing free-agent closer Jonathan Papelbon to the Phillies.

Somewhere, the Red Sox will find a new closer. One rival official predicted Wednesday that the Sox will be the team that ends up trading for Andrew Bailey, the very-available A's right-hander.

But where will the Sox find two or more new starting pitchers?

If there was one biggest key to sinking the Sox in September -- yes, bigger than clubhouse beer and fried chicken -- it was the failure to find or develop enough rotation depth. Aces Josh Beckett and Jon Lester were subpar in the final month, and Clay Buchholz was hurt, but the Sox were forced to use the overmatched Kyle Weiland or the over-age Tim Wakefield to start far too many games.

The Red Sox also need another outfielder. No, they need a right-handed hitting outfielder.

Boston's collapse was mostly pitching-driven, but Kevin Youkilis' injury also left the Red Sox lineup far too weak against left-handed pitching. The Red Sox tried to add a right-handed hitter at the July 31 deadline last summer, but couldn't get it done (just as they couldn't add enough pitching depth).

More roster depth all-around wouldn't hurt. One scout who saw the Red Sox in September said Wednesday that he was surprised by how much the team seemed to be affected, offensively and defensively, by the Youkilis injury.

The problems are obvious. The solutions are out there, and maybe front-office power-broker Larry Lucchino and general manager Ben Cherington won't have as hard a time agreeing on the answers as they did on a manager.

Just remember that the Red Sox are fixing a team that is already one of baseball's very best, despite what you saw in September (and despite the chaos you've seen since then).

"They're loaded," the rival manager said.

Yes, they are.
Posted on: April 9, 2011 6:05 pm
Edited on: April 9, 2011 6:09 pm
 

The Red Sox aren't in trouble, unless . . .

BOSTON -- The Red Sox scoff at the idea that they're already in trouble.

"Dire?" Kevin Youkilis said incredulously, after Saturday's 9-4 loss to the Yankees dropped the Sox to a major-league worst 1-7. "I don't think it's dire."

"Tough situation?" Adrian Gonzalez said, just as incredulously. "We're eight games in. It's not a tough situation. It's so early in the season. We're going to recover just fine."

He's right. They're right.

Seven losses in eight games is bad, and not just at the start of a season (it's only the second time in Terry Francona's Red Sox tenure that the Sox have lost seven of eight).

But the Red Sox aren't in trouble . . . unless Clay Buchholz is going to pitch all year the way he pitched Saturday against the Yankees.

The Red Sox aren't in trouble . . . unless Buchholz is going to be as useless to them as Phil Hughes already seems to be to the Yankees.

That doesn't seem possible. Unlike with Hughes, Buchholz hasn't seen his velocity mysteriously vanish. He didn't make it out of the fourth inning Saturday, but he was throwing 94 mph.

"He had plenty of stuff," said one scout who watched. "He just isn't pitching with his fastball."

Buchholz gave up four home runs in his first start against the Rangers, and he allowed a three-run home run to Russell Martin on Saturday. A year after going 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA, he's 0-2 with a 7.20 ERA.

"Good mistake-hitting teams are going to hit your mistakes, and that's basically what's going on right now," Buchholz said. "They're hitting pitches they should be hitting."

A year after going 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA, Hughes is 0-1 with a 16.50 ERA.

No, Buchholz isn't Hughes, but the comparison is still important.

First, if the Red Sox are going to lose the American League East, the Yankees almost have to be the team that beats them.

Second, if you look at the two rotations, you see similarities. Like the Yankees, the Red Sox have a dependable ace (Jon Lester plays the part of CC Sabathia). Like the Yankees, they have huge questions at the back of the rotation (with Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka playing the parts of A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia).

And like the Yankees, the Red Sox figure to hit their way to some wins on days when their pitching is bad (as they did in Friday's home opener). The Red Sox hitters are off to a slow start (a .215 team average, with Youkilis at .125 and Carl Crawford at .152), but that looks more like an early slump than a sign of bigger problems.

We all knew before the season that terrible starting pitching could sink the Yankees. Sure enough, the Yankee rotation has a 5.80 ERA through eight games, which is why they're 5-3 while averaging six runs a game.

Eight games in, the Red Sox rotation has been even worse, with a 7.46 ERA that is baseball's worst.

"We've got to pitch better," Dustin Pedroia said. "We gave up a lot of runs [Saturday]. It's hard to score 10."

It's hard for a Red Sox team this talented to lose seven times in eight games (staring at eight of nine if Beckett can't beat Sabathia on Sunday night). Since Francona took over in 2004, the only other time the Red Sox lost seven of eight was in that awful August of 2006, in the week that included the five-game Yankee sweep at Fenway Park.

That sweep dropped the Red Sox to 6 1/2 games out of first place, with just 38 games to play. Even a loss to the Yankees Sunday night would leave the Sox just five games back of the Yankees, with basically a whole season left to play.

"I think we feel like we're going to have a good team," Francona said. "Sometimes when you don't want to be patient, you have to."

Be patient. The Red Sox aren't in trouble . . . as long as Clay Buchholz is going to pitch a whole lot better than he pitched Saturday.


Posted on: June 19, 2010 8:15 pm
 

The Red Sox are dead? Who said that?

BOSTON -- Yeah, the Red Sox were dead.

Thankfully, I never said they were, even though I quoted one scout saying just that in this May 18 column .

"They're dead," he said, one month ago today, when Boston was 8 1/2 games behind first-place Tampa Bay in the American League East.

They're not dead, it's easy to say today, after a 5-4 win over the Dodgers that at least temporarily moved the Red Sox to within half a game of the Rays. If the Rays lose to the Marlins in a game that just began as I'm writing this, the Red Sox will be tied for the wild-card lead (and one game behind the Yankees), the first time they'd be in a playoff position since the second day of the season.

Good thing I didn't say they were dead. Too bad I gave almost all the wrong reasons for the way they could come back to life.

Let's look back:

1. What I said: Josh Beckett has to start pitching like an ace.

What happened: Beckett went on the disabled list with a back injury that he and the Red Sox said was a minor problem, and a month later he hasn't returned.

2. What I said: Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury need to come back.

What happened: Cameron came back. Ellsbury came back for three games, then got hurt again. The Red Sox outfield is still such a jumble that manager Terry Francona has used 20 different combinations in the first 70 games, and today against the Dodgers he started Daniel Nava in left, Darnell McDonald in center and Bill Hall in right.

3. What I said: The veterans need to stop complaining, and the newcomers need to fit in.

What happened: They've been winning, and it's been quieter, so maybe I was closer to right on this one.

4. What I said: They need to own Fenway.

What happened: The Red Sox were just 12-11 at home when I wrote that. They're 13-4 since.

5. What I said: The Yankees and/or Rays need to stumble.

What happened: The Yankees are 17-12 over the last month. The Rays, going into tonight's game with the Marlins, are 13-15. Is that a stumble? Sure, but not as big as I thought the Sox needed.

So why are the Red Sox winning, with Nava and McDonald and Hall, and without Beckett and Ellsbury?

Well, as Dustin Pedroia pointed out after his game-winning hit against the Dodgers, the offense that was such a question this spring is leading the majors in runs scored. And while Beckett hasn't returned, over the last month Jon Lester is 5-0 with a 2.18 ERA, and Clay Buchholz is 5-1 with a 1.90 ERA.

The Sox were 20-20 when I asked whether they were dead (and then said that they weren't). They're 22-8 in the 30 games since then.

No, they weren't dead (easy to say now). And yes, we might have that great three-team race in the American League East that we were hoping to get.
Posted on: June 11, 2010 10:29 am
Edited on: June 11, 2010 12:10 pm
 

3 to watch: The 2 days till Strasburg II edition

Until further notice, every Stephen Strasburg start is going to be worth watching. Thus, until further notice, every Stephen Strasburg start will be part of 3 to watch.

Strasburg II will be Sunday, and while there may have been a more-anticipated debut-plus-one, we can't remember one.

So who made the best second start ever?

A few candidates, with the help of baseball-reference.com's play finder :

-- Clay Buchholz, Sept. 1, 2007, for the Red Sox, against the Orioles. He threw a no-hitter. We really don't need any more candidates, do we?

-- Wilson Alvarez, Aug. 11, 1991, for the White Sox, against the Orioles. He threw a no-hitter, too. So there can be a debate, after all. Or maybe this just means we need to make plans for Strasburg's first start against the Orioles.
 
-- Burt Hooton, Sept. 15, 1971, for the Cubs, against the Mets. He was knocked out of the game by the Cardinals in the fourth inning of his debut, but Hooton rebounded with a complete game three-hitter, with 15 strikeouts.

-- Dick Selma, Sept. 12, 1965, for the Mets, against the Braves. A four-hit, 10-inning shutout for a 1-0 win, with 13 strikeouts. But only 13,500 turned up at Shea Stadium to see it, so it must not have been the most-anticipated Game 2 (and only 5,981 turned up at Wrigley Field for his next start, so the 10-inning shutout must not have been big news nationwide).

-- Tim Fortugno, July 25, 1992, for the Angels, against the Tigers. I must have been at this game, and yet I have no memory of it. A three-hit shutout, with 12 strikeouts.

-- Randy Johnson, Sept. 20, 1988, for the Expos, against the Cubs. The first of his 212 double-digit strikeout games, a 9-1 complete-game win.

-- Jack Morris, July 31, 1977, for the Tigers, against the Rangers. Morris, who belongs in the Hall of Fame, pitched nine innings and allowed two runs. Bert Blyleven, who many believe belongs in the Hall of Fame, pitched nine innings and allowed two runs. Maybe if one or the other had gotten the win, it would be enough to get him into the Hall of Fame.

On to 3 to watch:

1. Remember when Jake Peavy was supposed to be a Cub? Remember when the White Sox were supposed to be good? The White Sox aren't good, but at least Peavy gets a trip to the North Side, for White Sox at Cubs, Friday afternoon (2:20 EDT) at Wrigley Field .

2. Remember when Daisuke Matsuzaka last faced the Phillies? (Hint: It was only three weeks ago.) He took a no-hitter into the eighth inning. The Phillies believed they were terribly unlucky that day, because they hit so many balls hard. We'll see, because they get another chance at Dice-K, in Phillies at Red Sox, Saturday afternoon (4:10 EDT) at Fenway Park .

3. Remember when nobody would have cared about a Nationals-Indians game? Now, it's big enough that TBS changed the schedule to show Nationals at Indians, Sunday afternoon (1:07 EDT) at Progressive Field . Any idea why? Must have something to do with the guy starting for the Nationals. Strasburg is one reason to watch this game. Catcher Carlos Santana, the Indians super-prospect who was called up Friday, is another.

 
 
 
 
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