The Silence on Clay Buchholz Proves How Far the Red Sox Have Fallen

– Shane Carley –

Clay Buchholz is as close as you can come to a born-and-raised Red Sox player. He came up through our minor league system. He threw a no-hitter in just his second major league start. He’s already had one season where he received some Cy Young consideration, no matter how slight.  In short, you won’t find a guy who the people of Boston want to root for more than Clay Buchholz.

Unfortunately, Clay’s 2012 campaign is almost singlehandedly proving that wins are a ridiculous metric for measuring a pitcher’s effectiveness. Buchholz is currently sitting on four wins, which is a respectable number for slightly less than two months into the season, putting him on track for 10 or 11 wins. That’s the good. The bad is that his ERA is currently sitting well north of 7.00. And while that alone is not good, it’s only in the last two weeks that he has even managed to get his ERA south of 8.00.

How Buchholz even has four wins is an absolute mystery, especially considering the Red Sox early season struggles. Only three times this season has he managed to give up fewer than five (five!) runs, which essentially means that the Sox batters have actively decided to dick over the rest of the rotation and save up all of their runs for Buchholz’s starts (he said, only about 50% kidding).

Let’s look at some of Buchholz’s other struggles:

  • Opponents are hitting .328 against him
  • 28 walks against just 33 strikeouts
  • WHIP of 1.83 (a full 0.40 higher than his career average and 0.63 higher than his all-star 2010 season)
  • Currently averages just over five innings per start
  • 11 home runs in just 10 starts

Those are some truly awful numbers. His performance against the Rays over Memorial Day weekend gave me pause, however: he gave up just two runs over seven innings and should have won the game. Watching that game was very interesting, because it was, by far, his best appearance of the year. He looked reasonably in control at all times and actually managed to hit the seven-inning mark for just the second time this year.

The problem is that when you are a starting pitcher in the MLB, a seven-inning, two run performance should not be a “massive improvement.” And when you have the track record of Clay Buchholz, it should be almost expected. So the question is, where is the outrage?

Don’t tell me that the outrage is there. Buchholz’s numbers this year are so bad that John Lackey wouldn’t touch them.  Just for the sake of comparison, at the beginning of June last year, John Lackey’s ERA was 7.60 (scarcely worse than Buchholz’s today)…and he had actually been injured! While Lackey is reviled throughout the city of Boston, Buchholz sparks concern but is certainly far from scorned.  So the question is, why?

There is no simple answer, though there are many contributing factors. Buchholz is a native son, not a big name free agent. Buchholz has traditionally kept his head down, not thrown fits. But the biggest reason? Buchholz remains so far down on the list of problems facing the Red Sox that it almost doesn’t bear talking about.

It’s true! This is a team that now has all three starting outfielders on the DL, with no return in sight for any of them.  This is a team that had to be galvanized into cohesion by their aging DH, a man who is himself angry about his own contract situation. This is a team whose ace pitcher has been booed as much as cheered this season. This is a team whose closer either gives up no runs or five. This is a team whose manager is basically a self-parody of a guy who belongs in a buddy cop movie or something (but definitely not managing a baseball team–unless, say, it’s in a movie like Little Big League or Rookie of the Year or Angels in the Outfield, in which case I think we can ALL agree that Bobby Valentine would have been AWESOME in any of those).

So in a way, the fact that Clay Buchholz has escaped the kind of scrutiny that has dogged John Lackey is a testament to how many other issues the Red Sox have. Of course, if you asked most Red Sox fans, they would also tell you that Buchholz will probably turn things around at some point. But the odds of him finishing the season with an ERA under 5.00 are quickly slimming. The season will almost certainly be a black mark on his record, and remembered as a severe disappointment. In a way, Buchholz might be thanking his lucky stars that the Red Sox have been as dysfunctional as they have, if only because it has saved him from the wrath of an angry fan base.

Also, I don’t really have a lead-in for this, but Clay Buchholz is definitely Theon Greyjoy.

Now, on to other matters:

Adrian Gonzalez: Suddenly an Everyday Right Fielder: Normally I’d make a comment about the Kevin Youkilis Trade Train (ALL ABOARD!) or compare his stats to Will Middlebrooks, but the tear Youkilis has been on since returning to the lineup has, frankly, made the prospect of trading him a lot less funny. Suddenly, the Sox have too many corner infielders with active bats in the lineup. Fortunately(?), as I mentioned before, every single starting outfielder for the Red Sox is currently on the DL, freeing up right field for Adrian Gonzalez, the slowest player I have ever seen on a baseball field. Is it perfect? Yeah, no, probably not. And I wouldn’t want it as a long term solution, that’s for sure. But for the three more games until Youkilis inevitably gets hurt again? I’ll take it!

Report from the Ryan Sweeney Bandwagon: Sweeney returned to the lineup for the first time last night, which means technically he didn’t have a single at-bat last week. THAT SAID, last night he DID go 3/4, which means the SWEENEY BANDWAGON KEEPS ON CHUGGING!

Eight Runs or None? Josh Beckett once again failed to give up eight runs, settling for a much more helpful two on Saturday. His last three starts have yielded 0, 1, and 2 runs respectively. My very scientific system tells me that this means he will 100% absolutely give up 3 runs in his start this week. Make your bets accordingly and thank me later.

Thanks a Lot, Guys: Once in a while I’m lucky enough to get up to Baltimore to watch the Red Sox play there. Last week was one of those weeks. Even though I didn’t think we’d win the series, I held out hope that we’d at least win the game I went to. While the Red Sox DID end up winning the series, the ONE GAME that they DIDN’T win was, of course, the one I went to. Thank a lot, guys. IMPORTANT FOOD NOTE: there is an awesome BBQ place inside Camden Yards. Hell if I can remember what it’s called, but you can figure it out. It’s awesome. Go to it.

The Week Ahead:

Thanks to the day off, the Red Sox have already started their series against Detroit, winning a game they had no business winning because of an umpire’s idiotic blown call. Of course, anyone who watched the Celtics game last night knows that, as far as terrible refereeing is concerned, the universe owed us one.  So, uh, suck it Detroit! In any case, we finish the homestand with three more games against Detroit before moving on to a brief three-game road stint in Toronto.  Let’s take a look at the probable pitching matchups:

5/28: Detroit (Fister) @ Boston (Doubront) [NOTE: Boston won, 7-4]
5/29: Detroit (Verlander) @ Boston (Bard)
5/30: Detroit (Smyly) @ Boston (Lester)
5/31: Detroit (Scherzer) @ Boston (Beckett)
6/1: Boston (Buchholz) @ Toronto (Alvarez)
6/2: Boston (Doubront) @ Toronto (Drabek)
6/3: Boston (Bard) @ Toronto (Hutchison)

As they’ve already won one game against Detroit, I’ll give them a series split. Detroit is another team that has underperformed this year, but they have a lot of firepower in their lineup. I think they’ll take two, although the Fenway crowd has been behind the Sox a lot more lately. We should have enough to take two of three in Toronto, and keep clawing our way back into the division race.

Fearless Prediction for the Week: 4-3

Last week’s prediction: 3-3. Last week’s results: 3-3

One Response to “The Silence on Clay Buchholz Proves How Far the Red Sox Have Fallen”
  1. Sean Breslin says:

    Good read. I think it’s very telling that even the homegrown guys don’t get a pass — the whole team is performing poorly, and you can’t do that in Boston.

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