Is 2010 Clay Buchholz’s Year?

January 20, 2010

Buchholz can handle the pressure of the big stage.

So is 2010 finally the year that Clay Buchholz takes that big step towards super stardom?

I feel funny asking that question of a guy who threw a no hitter in his second big league start. But then again, the way hyped-up prospects have a way of occasionally fizzling out, it may never happen.

To me I don’t think this will be the case. I don’t see Clay Buchholz being another big name, sure-fire, can’t miss prospect that dwindles away into obscurity. Not this kid. I just see too much potential in him and too much talent in the that right arm for him to not make some sort of impact in baseball.

I have scouted many players up close and from a distance during my time as a fan and a writer and Buchholz is one of those guys I have watched extra close. This is because I have been impressed with him and what he can do on the mound. Here are some of the detailed notes on Buchholz as a pitcher that I have taken over the past few years of watching him throughout the minors as well as in a Red Sox uniform…

Pitch Repertoire

The Fastball
• Buchholz has a nice combination of a two and four-seam fastball that sit anywhere in the low to mid-90’s. His two-seamer has the better movement and can bust in on lefties while the four-seamer could use a little more movement on it to make it more effective. He also works his large arsenal of pitches off of his fastball very well thanks to the great movement on his secondary pitches.

The Change-up
• Right off the bat Buchholz has a major weapon with this pitch due to the fact that he has one of the best change-ups in baseball. The pitch settles in right around 80 mph which he uses as one of his two out pitches and is almost unhittable when he is on with it. What makes it so hard to hit is that he disguises it so well with his normal delivery that it becomes very deceptive and keeps hitters off balance when expecting a fastball.

The Curveball
• Almost as good as his change-up, Buchholz’s knee buckling curve freezes hitters in their tracks. It’s a hard breaking 12-to-6 overhand curveball that just drops right off the table. Like his change-up, he uses it as his out pitch (depending on which pitch is on that night) and will usually sit in the 76-81 mph range. With a solid fastball and one other out plus pitch, being a batter and worrying about a second out pitch can’t be easy.

The Slider
• As Buchholz’s fourth pitch, his slider comes in somewhere in the low to mid-80’s. Right now it is an above average pitch but shows the potential to be yet another plus pitch. As scary as that sounds, his slider has continued to improve over the past few years and isn’t far off from being yet another plus pitch to add to his bag of tricks.

Pitcher’s Makeup

Buchholz has a wonderful delivery (hubertk/Flickr).

The Delivery
• Buchholz’s delivery looks like you are watching an instant replay on a loop. He has a very repeatable motion after some great strides towards improving it over the course of the last couple of seasons. His delivery melds perfectly with his pitches as he’s able to throw his fastball and change from the same arm slot with the same motion to help make it that much more difficult to pick up. The only concern I have with his delivery is the high arm angle that he pitches with. It could be an issue down the road with injuries so it is something they will need to keep an eye on.

The Mechanics
• Just like his delivery, Buchholz is very much under control with his pitches. He has solid mechanics from the moment he starts his movement all the way until he releases the pitch.

The Big Game Factor
• Buchholz is built to be a big game pitcher for the blood thirsty Red Sox Nation. This kid does not rattle easily and has the presence on the mound to pitch in a very intense city like Boston.

FINAL GRADE

From what I’ve seen over the years is a young pitcher who is confident on the mound with some fantastic pitches at his disposal. Buchholz has a lot of pressure on him with big expectations from a very impatient fan base along with not a lot of room for learning on the job. The Red Sox need every win they can get in the ultra competitive AL East as well as a slew of veteran pitchers they bring in each year making it difficult for Buchholz to really feel comfortable.

Coming into 2010 I expected Buchholz to be a big piece to the Red Sox rotation. But with the signing of John Lackey this may make it difficult for him to get a spot once again. I do believe that before the end of the year, we will have seen Buchholz get an extended period of time on the mound and he will have seen that young kid from 2007 show us why he is a big part of Boston’s future.

And if you ask me that’s a pretty nice place to be.


GM for a Day: Texas Rangers

January 23, 2009
My plan will bring the post season back to Arlington (Rich Anderson/Flickr).

My plan will bring the post season back to Arlington (Rich Anderson/Flickr).

The original goal of my “GM for a Day” series was to focus on teams that are on the cusp of the playoffs and what moves could push them over the top. I started this with my first two, the Cubs and the Braves, but veered another direction when I attempted to start rebuilding the Pirates back towards respectability. This edition brings us back to a team who just needs a bit of a boost to make themselves a contender and we will revisit teams who need to rebuild later down the road.

The Texas Rangers exhibited a very strong offense in 2008 with very little pitching help. This wasn’t a real big surprise as that has been the story in Texas for pretty much their entire existence. When you scratch the surface and look at the breakdown, the Rangers scored 5.6 runs per game last season (the best in the AL West) and let up 6.0 runs per game (the worst in the AL West). But if you look closer, here’s win contributions breakdown:

+------+---------+----------+---------+---------+
|      | OFFENSE | STARTERS | BULLPEN | DEFENSE |
+------+---------+----------+---------+---------+
| WPA  |   0.6   |   -4.8   |   2.2   |  -4.0   | 
+------+---------+----------+---------+---------+

As the table above shows, the Rangers defense was almost as big of a liability as the starting pitchers were. These are two big areas the Rangers need to attack heading into 2009. With a huge crop of great young players being cultivated in the minors, the Rangers need to start making strides to have a solid club behind them. They are in a very winnable American League West division with a now weakened Angels club, an improved Athletics team and a still floundering Mariners group. Here’s what I would do if given the reigns for a day:

Luckily the Rangers wouldnt have to rely on Sheets bat (Jibby7/Flickr).

Luckily the Rangers wouldn't have to rely on Sheets' bat (Jibby7/Flickr).

1.) Sign Ben Sheets to a multi-year contract laced with incentives surrounding his durability.

Look, I know that Ben Sheets has an injury filled past with the Brewers. I get it. But if you look closely at his stat lines, he’s improved in the amount of games and innings pitched over the past three seasons including just a hair under 200 last season.

+------+-----+----------+-------+-------+------+-----+------+----+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM     | IP    |  W-L  | ERA  | SO  | WHIP | GS |
+------+-----+----------+-------+-------+------+-----+------+----+
| 2006 |  27 | Brewers  | 106.0 |   6-7 | 3.82 | 116 | 1.09 | 17 |
| 2007 |  28 | Brewers  | 141.3 |  12-5 | 3.82 | 106 | 1.24 | 24 |
| 2008 |  29 | Brewers  | 198.3 |  13-9 | 3.09 | 158 | 1.15 | 31 |
+------+-----+----------+-------+-------+------+-----+------+----+

When Sheets is healthy and in the rotation, he’s been one of the best pitchers in the game (for a scouting report I wrote on him, click here). The Rangers desperately need a true ace to head up their very questionable rotation and Sheets is just the guy to do it.

In recent years, the Rangers have tried filling their rotation by throwing their money at players that really didn’t have much chance of filling the void. Just look at the two best examples in recent memory. First there was the large contract they threw at Chan Ho Park to be their ace when he was never really any better than a number four starter with the Dodgers and ended up being horrific in Texas. Then they tried to fit Kevin Millwood into that role when he came from Atlanta where he was a number three. So Sheets is really the closest thing to a true ace as they have had in my memory. Throwing him in front of Millwood and Vicente Padilla will go a long way in helping solidify the Rangers’ staff. It won’t make them great, but it will sure help.

2.) Sign Omar Vizquel to a one-year deal and slowly introduce Elvis Andrus into the everyday role.

Yes I know the Rangers already signed Omar Vizquel to a contract, but in all honesty I suggested this a while ago (believe it or not). This makes sense on so many levels. First, Elvis Andrus is a huge piece of your future as a star at the top of your order and you want to slowly get him acclimated to the big leagues without throwing him to the wolves (after all he is currently the ripe old age of 19). Secondly, what better way than with a mentor as highly regarded as Omar Vizquel? He can teach him the ins and outs of the position which is so important for Andrus considering his defensive woes he experienced last season in AA committing a woeful 32 errors. Hopefully Vizquel can help Andrus work through these difficulties as the Rangers can’t afford to weaken their already rough defense.

If Andrus can begin to tighten up on his defense, he has the potential to be a perennial All-Star for years to come as his offensive abilities have been well established. Take a look at his stats from the past couple of seasons.

+------+-----+----------+-----+-----------+----+-----+-----+----+
| YEAR | AGE | LEVEL    | AB  |  AVG/OBP  | HR | RBI |  R  | SB |
+------+-----+----------+-----+-----------+----+-----+-----+----+
| 2005 |  16 | Rookie   | 184 | .293/.380 |  3 |  21 |  29 |  8 |
| 2006 |  17 | Single A | 437 | .265/.324 |  3 |  50 |  67 | 23 |
| 2007 |  18 | A - Plus | 495 | .257/.338 |  5 |  49 |  78 | 40 |
| 2008 |  19 | Double A | 482 | .295/.350 |  4 |  65 |  82 | 54 |
+------+-----+----------+-----+-----------+----+-----+-----+----+

As you can see Andrus has made significant strides towards becoming a more well rounded hitter. His improvement in batting average and on-base percentage is the most notable as these are such important categories for a top of the order hitter. His increase in OBP translated to more stolen bases attempts for the speedster which the Rangers will really love in front of their sluggers. Andrus is just the tip of the iceberg for the fantastic group of prospects the Rangers have coming up through their system.

Clay can prove himself in Texas (hardballwarriors.com).

Clay can prove himself in Texas (hardballwarriors.com).

3.) Trade Jarrod Saltalamacchia (and prospect) to the Boston Red Sox for Clay Buchholz.

Sure having an excess of talented young catchers that you project to be solid offensive weapons is nice, but the Rangers have a log jam of them with Taylor Teagarden, Max Ramiez and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Despite being the shiny piece that came back in the Mark Teixeira trade with the Braves back in the 2006 season, I think Salty is the best of the group to move on. And the best fit is definitely the Boston Red Sox. This is especially the case if they don’t come to terms with Jason Varitek before the season starts. You don’t expect the Red Sox to start the season with Josh Bard as their starting catcher, do you?

I know some of you are questioning the Clay Buchholz portion of the trade as they have been so adamant about not trading him in the past. But with a slew of starting pitchers on the Sox roster heading into next year (Buchholz projects as a number 7 or 8 starter at this point) and a solid group of young pitchers who will be left out in the cold, the Sox need to make a move. Plus they were willing to ship him off to Florida last month in a package for their former prospect Hanley Ramirez (which was shot down after 10 seconds). So at least he isn’t marked “untouchable.” Buchholz would make a nice number four or five starter for the Rangers and would help bridge the gap until their super pitching prospects Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland are ready. We’d be looking at a solid, young staff heading into the next decade.

4.) Sign free agent Cliff Floyd to a one-year, $2 million contract.

If the Rangers are going to be serious about winning the AL West, they are going to need a deep bench and a strong veteran presence in the clubhouse. Cliff Floyd provided both of those things for the young Rays team that took the world by storm last season and he could be a key ingredient for the Rangers in 2009. He can also serve as a reliable back-up for DH Hank Blalock who has been limited to only 123 games combined over the past two seasons. It is these types of seemingly insignificant acquisitions that can make all the difference in a tight race over 162 games.

So with these additions to the bench and rotation, here is how the Rangers team would look heading into next season:

Floyd is the veteran this club needs (keithallisonphoto.com).

Floyd is the veteran this club needs (keithallisonphoto.com).

1.) Elvis Andrus, SS
2.) Michael Young, 3B
3.) Ian Kinsler, 2B
4.) Josh Hamilton, CF
5.) Chris Davis, 1B
6.) David Murphy, LF
7.) Hank Blalock/Cliff Floyd, DH
8.) Nelson Cruz, RF
9.) Taylor Teagarden, C

Ben Sheets, RHP
Kevin Millwood, RHP
Vicente Padilla, RHP
Matt Harrison, LHP
Clay Buchholz, RHP

Looking at that lineup and that starting rotation, it makes me feel a lot better about the Rangers chances to take the AL West. We all knew the Rangers had the offense to hang with anyone in the league so there wasn’t much reason to fix what wasn’t broken. Other than adding Floyd to deepen the bench (which is already fairly strong), the only thing that needed fixing was the rotation. Signing Sheets gives them an ace and trading for Buchholz gives them depth and a solid young arm for years to come at the expense of a position they are already extremely deep at.

While I’d like to add another pitcher from somewhere (via trade or free agency – Andy Pettitte if you really want to throw some money around) I think this is enough to start with. Hopefully they will be in position to be buyers at the trade deadline and can add an extra arm (Paul Byrd?) if needed.

The time is now to strike in the American League West as the former kings of the division have some major weaknesses that can be taken advantage of. And the Rangers are just the team to do it if they can just correct some issues that have plagued them for decades.

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | Facebook

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Versus Series: Clay vs. Joba

February 8, 2008

Joba vs. Clay and Clay vs. Joba. That’s all we seem to hear in the world of prospects ever since last season when these two enigmas exploded on to the scene and helped guide their respective teams into the playoffs. Both players play on major market teams, both players play on World Series contending teams and both players play on opposite sides of the biggest rivalry in sports today: Yankees vs. Red Sox.

So is all the hype for these young guns worth it? You better believe it. If their star potential wasn’t obvious enough before they made their debuts then their dazzling work on the mound this past summer and fall shouldn’t have left any doubt in your mind.

With that being said we now have to do what we analysts do and compare and contrast these young righties to figure out who is better and why. I plan on breaking down each pitcher individually (in alphabetical order to not show favoritism) and their specific games by first looking at their arsenal of pitches and then following that up with their pitching makeup (everything else that goes into being a pitcher). Hopefully this will help give a better look at them and just why they are two of the most impressive young pitchers to hit the Majors in quite some time.

Pitch Repertoire

The Fastball

• Buchholz has a nice combination of a two and four-seam fastballs that sit anywhere in the low to mid-90’s. His two-seamer has the better movement and can bust in on lefties while the four-seamer could use a little more movement on it to make it more effective. He also works his large arsenal of pitches off of his fastball very well thanks to the great movement on his secondary pitches.

• Chamberlain on the other hand is a power pitcher with a big frame whose fastball sits in the mid to upper-90’s and occasionally hits triple digits. He also has very good control of his fastball and is able to locate it anywhere in the zone. This also helps set up his slew of secondary pitches.

Decision: Chamberlain gets the edge with his fastball due to having quite a few more mph on it as well as having better movement.

The Change-up

• Right off the bat Buchholz has a major advantage in this competition due to the fact that he has one of the best change-ups in baseball. The pitch settles in right around 80 mph which he uses as one of his two out pitches and is almost unhittable when he is on with it. What makes it so hard to hit is that he disguises it so well with his normal delivery that it becomes very deceptive.

• Chamberlain has been working on improving his change-up and it is getting better with time. As of now it is sitting in the low-80’s and is lacking enough movement to make it a stand out pitch. It is effective enough of a pitch to incorporate into his game plan but it will take more work to be a solid Major League pitch.

Decision: This one isn’t even close as Buchholz holds a MAJOR advantage over his adversary in this battle. Anytime your pitch is one of the best of its kind in the game today, it’s is very difficult to find someone to rival it.

The Curveball

• Almost as good as his change-up, Buchholz’s knee buckling curve freezes hitters in their tracks. It’s a hard breaking 12-to-6 overhand curveball that just drops right off the table. Like his change-up, he uses it as his out pitch (depending on which pitch is on that night) and will usually sit in the 76-81 mph range. With a solid fastball and one other out plus pitch, the thought of being a batter and worrying about a second can’t be easy.

• Chamberlain is also at a bit of a disadvantage with this pitch too as he doesn’t use his curve as much as Buchholz for a couple of reasons. For one it’s not nearly as good as his fastball or slider which he predominantly uses coming out of the bullpen. Secondly it just isn’t that effective of a pitch for him yet as he doesn’t have reliable control over it. It is more of a slow looping curve that generally sits between 79-82 mph. This approach is ok during his time in the bullpen when a dominating fastball and hard slider will work great, but he may want to fine tune it a little more before joining the Yankees rotation.

Decision: Buchholz wins this battle too as, like their change-ups, Chamberlain’s curveball isn’t even in the same league as Buchholz’s.

The Slider

• As Buchholz’s fourth pitch, his slider comes in somewhere in the low to mid-80’s. Right now it is an above average pitch but shows the potential to be yet another plus pitch. As scary as that sounds, his slider has continued to improve over the past few years and isn’t far off from being yet another plus pitch to add to his bag of incredible pitches.

• Chamberlain’s other dominating pitch is his plus slider. It sits in the neighborhood of 85-89 mph and is used just as much (and effectively) as his fastball. As a power pitcher, Chamberlain uses his hard slider as his strikeout pitch as he keeps it low in the zone and constantly over matches hitters as they swing and miss. When he has it working it is a simply devastating pitch that even if you know it is coming is almost impossible to hit.

Decision: While Buchholz continues to improve his slider, the edge right now has to be given to Chamberlain simply because of how nasty of a pitch it can be. Now in a few years the tables may turn on who has the better slider, but for now Chamberlain can rest assured he has locked this up.

Pitch Repertoire Results: Even though these two split the four pitches by each winning two, I have to give the edge to Clay Buchholz in the pitch repertoire category for a couple of reasons. As I mentioned, Buchholz has one of the best change-ups in all of baseball and a curveball that isn’t far behind. While Chamberlain has a fantastic fastball-slider combination working for him, the fact that Buchholz has an increasingly effective slider on the rise gives him the slight edge in this match-up.

Pitcher’s Makeup

The Delivery

• Buchholz’s delivery looks like you are watching an instant replay on a loop. He has a very repeatable motion after some great strides towards improving it over the course of the last couple of seasons. His delivery melds perfectly with his pitches as he’s able to throw his fastball and change from the same arm slot with the same motion to help make it that much more untouchable. The only concern I have with his delivery is the high arm angle that he pitches with. It could be an issue down the road with injuries so it is something they will need to keep an eye on.

• Chamberlain grades very high when it comes to his delivery despite the fact that it at times can seem a bit violent. But anytime you have a pitcher trying to hit triple digits on the gun you are going to see some sort of effort put into it. Chamberlain’s strong frame and powerful legs are used very prevalently in his delivery which is where he generates his dominating stuff.

Decision: Again, this is an extremely difficult decision between these two. I am going to give the slight edge to Chamberlain because he’s able to repeat his motion so consistently and with so much force.

The Mechanics

• Just like his delivery, Buchholz is very much under control with his pitches. He has solid mechanics from the moment he starts his movement all the way until he releases the pitch.

• While Chamberlain has a very good delivery, he does have a little room for improvement in his mechanics. The real test will be when he moves from the bullpen to the rotation and has to go 6 or 7 innings versus one or two.

Decision: Buchholz edges out Chamberlain due to his ability to stay in control at all times without showing any flaws.

The Big Game Factor

• Buchholz is built to be a big game pitcher for the blood thirsty Red Sox Nation. This kid does not rattle easily and has the presence on the mound to pitch in a very intense city like Boston.

• Like Buchholz, Chamberlain is perfect to pitch in a big time city like New York for a big time team like the Yankees. It has been said numerous times that he has ice water running through his veins and has shown it coming down the stretch run last season.

Decision: As of right now it has to be given to Chamberlain. While Buchholz had some incredible performances at the end of last season for the Red Sox (including a no hitter), Chamberlain was put in some of the most intense situations out of the bullpen at the end of games when the Yankees’ season was on the line. In my book that is proof enough for me.

FINAL GRADE

On the outside you wouldn’t think these two pitchers would have anything in common. One is a wiry 6-3, 190 pound string bean and the other is a meaty 6-2, 230 pound beast. Each have different dominating pitches yet each have an excellent make-up. So as different as they may be, they seem to be just as similar.

The best part about doing the first ever “Versus Series” column with these two is I really can’t go wrong no matter who I choose. As for my final decision, I know I am going against the grain and may have a lot of people argue with me, but I have to go with Clay Buchholz by the narrowest of margins. After the 2008 season I may sing a different tune when we get a chance to see Chamberlain start, but for now I am going to give the nod to Buchholz for his overall ability as a pitcher both now and into the future.

These are just two more stars that have been injected into the intense Yankees vs. Red Sox rivalry and I can’t wait for the opportunity to see them go head to head very soon.


2008 Top 5 Prospects: Boston Red Sox

January 28, 2008

As we lead up to both the start of the 2008 season and our “Diamond Cutter” top 100 prospects list, I will be taking a look at the top five prospects from every single Major League team. Each team will have its top five prospects along with a brief scouting report on each player that I have pulled from my scouting notes. Today we continue digging into the AL East with the prospect rich Boston Red Sox. As always, let me know how you feel about the rankings in the comments section below or via email.

1.) Clay Buchholz, RHP: Buchholz has already proven he has the tools and talent to be an ace in the big leagues. He has a mid-90’s fastball and an incredible set of pitches with a change up (one of the best in baseball) and knee-buckling curveball (both which can be unhittable) and puts it all together with great control. Very good at handling pressure and has the makeup to be a big game pitcher which is exactly what a team like Boston needs. Enough good stuff can’t be said about this youngster as he looks to have his eye on being one of the best young pitching prospects we’ve seen in a long time.

2.) Jacoby Ellsbury, CF: Ellsbury is an amazing athlete and will be a team leader for years to come. He has excellent speed and demonstrates that with his great base running ability as well as his superb glove in center field. Looks to be a great candidate to hit lead off for the Sox with very good gap power. Constantly compared to a young Johnny Damon only with a better swing. Has already proven himself at the Major League level to be a star in the making.

3.) Lars Anderson, 1B: This large left hander can generate incredible raw plus power with his slugger’s frame. Anderson also has an excellent eye at the plate, incredible plate discipline and pitch recognition and doesn’t chase pitches too often. Has a very smooth and even swing that helps him hit the ball well to all fields and projects to hit for both power and average with fantastic OBP’s. Anderson looks to be one of the best power hitting prospects in the game today.

4.) Jed Lowrie, SS: Lowrie looks to be a solid middle infielder at the Major League level with average range and a fairly good glove. Not sure if he will end up at shortstop or second base as he would be fine at both. Either way he seems to have good pop for a middle infielder and hits very well from both sides of the plate. Lowrie also has a great eye at the plate and does a great job at working pitchers and waiting for his pitch.

5.) Justin Masterson, RHP: Masterson was a very successful college closer and has been in the process of being converted to a starter. Masterson may be better suited for the bullpen and I believe will end up back there eventually. Two and four seam fastballs with good movement, solid slider (85-87 mph) and four-seam circle changeup (80-84 mph) with a very good drop.

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Passing the Buchholz

October 19, 2007

Entering Thursday night’s game five in Cleveland, the Boston Red Sox were on the cusp of being eliminated from the playoffs. Despite a dominating win in game one by a score of 10-3, the Sox would go on a tail spin losing their next three games. But thanks to another brilliant performance from their ace and Cy Young candidate Josh Beckett, the Red Sox jumped right back into the series and now head back to Boston. The only problem they face now is that Josh Beckett can’t pitch every game.

To show you just how much they are in need of someone in their rotation to step up, here’s a quick peek at how Red Sox pitchers have done in the ALCS:

Josh Beckett: 2 GS, 2-0, 1.93 ERA, 14.0 IP, 18 SO
Curt Schilling: 1 GS, 0-0, 9.64 ERA, 4.2 IP, 3 SO
Daisuke Matsuzaka: 1 GS, 0-1, 7.71 ERA, 4.2 IP, 6 SO
Tim Wakefield: 1 GS, 0-1, 9.64 ERA, 4.2 IP, 7 SO

Looking quickly at these stats the obvious thing that jumps out is the horrible ERA’s everyone but Beckett have posted. But what might be even scarier is the fact that no one other than Beckett has been able to pitch out of the fifth inning. Not only is that not what you want to see from your starters, but it wears out your bullpen. Oh, and while we are on the subject of bullpens, that hasn’t exactly been rock solid either. Whlie Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima and Mike Timlin (combined 0.00 ERA) have all done well at the ends of games, their middle relief of Manny Delcarmen (16.20 ERA), Eric Gagne (13.50 ERA) and Javier Lopez (36.00 ERA) have been horrible. So basically what I’m saying is that unless Beckett starts, pitches his 7-8 innings, and then hands it over to the late inning guys, the Sox are in trouble. If anyone else starts or you need a bridge from starter to closer with your middle relief, well, let’s just hope Big Papi and the boys can knock in ten runs a game.

This of course (and unfortunately) is not always feasible.

As a proud, long-time member of the Red Sox Nation, what frustrates me more than anything is that all of this could have been avoided. I believe that when the Red Sox management elected to leave top prospect Clay Buchholz off the post season roster, they made a huge mistake.

The young right-hander pitched spectacular for the Red Sox down the stretch run and deserved a spot. In four games (three starts), Buchholz was 3-1 with a 1.59 ERA, 22.2 IP, 22 SO and capped everything off with a no-hitter in Fenway Park against the Baltimore Orioles on September 1. I don’t know about you, but I think his performance down the stretch more than warranted a roster spot. This is especially true considering Matsuzaka’s physical breakdown since mid-August.

Now I know the reason the Red Sox kept him off the playoff roster was because they say he was showing signs of arm fatigue, but I really have to wonder if that was a good enough reason. I know its not worth injuring the top prospect in your system, but at the same time, Buchholz would have been invaluable to this pitching staff in the ALCS. If you don’t want to throw him out there for a start, he would have been great in any one of those games as a middle reliever that you received short outings from your starter (similar to how Lester did the other night). If not, wouldn’t you like the opportunity to run him out there as a spot starter if Wakefield or Matsuzaka continue to struggle? I know I would.

So while I understand wanting to protect your young gun, you have to remember he is just that: young. Young arms have a tendency to bounce back if they are getting tired so even if you wanted to leave him out of the division series against the Angels, adding him before the ALCS would have been the smart thing to do.

But then again what do I know? It’s not like I predicted the collapse of Dice-K during the second half of the season.

Oh wait…

Catch my column “Twins Killings” every day only on the Most Valuable Network.

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