3 Up 3 Down

The race to achieve 20 wins is over and your winner is the Boston Red Sox. The Sox who currently sit at 20-8 easily own baseballs best record (Yankees are 17-10 which is good for 2nd in baseball), and have for some time now. Funny how much difference a year makes, huh?

Let’s take a quick snapshot look at where the 2012 Boston Red Sox were through 28 games last season:

  • Record: 12-16
  • Runs scored: 155
  • Runs surrendered: 161
  • Lineup on Game 28, May 7:
    • Aviles (SS), Pedroia (2B), Ortiz (DH), Ross (RF), Gonzalez (1B), Middlebrooks (3B), McDonald (LF), Byrd (CF), Shoppach (C)
    • Jon Lester: 6 GS, 1-2, 4.62 ERA, 25 SO, 36.2 IP
    • Clay Buchholz: 6 GS, 3-1 (How?), 9.09!! ERA, 17 SO, 27.1 IP

Now, 360 days later, let’s take a look at the 2013 Red Sox through 28 games:

  • Record: 20-8
  • Runs scored: 148
  • Runs surrendered: 99
  • Lineup on Game 28, May 2: Ellsbury (CF), Gomes (LF), Pedroia (2B), Napoli (DH), Nava (RF), Middlebrooks (3B), Carp (1B), Ross (C), Drew (SS)
  • Jon Lester: 6 GS, 4-0, 3.11 ERA, 33 SO, 37.2 IP
  • Clay Buchholz: 6 GS, 6-0, 1.01 ERA, 47 SO, 44.1 IP

The above statistical difference between these two Red Sox teams is quite self-explanatory. However, the fact that the 2013 Red Sox have allowed 62 fewer runs, with 3 of the same 5 pitchers, than 2012 is absolutely astonishing. It truly is all about pitching. I guess it is also complimentary when your offense is scoring at a pretty rapid rate as well.

Clay Buchholz pitching and using sweat, water and rosin: a lethal combination. (Kelly O’Conner — www.sittingstill.net)

3 Up

Clay Buchholz

It is like clockwork. At one point on Wednesday prior to Buchholz taking the mound en route to his 6th win I actually considered sitting him on my fantasy baseball team. I ended up giving him the start, but, seriously, shame on me. Buchholz is unquestionably the real deal this year.

Even Buchholz detractors, namely those who read Fangraphs and such, are jumping on the Buchholz bandwagon. For those who don’t know, many sabermetric gurus and Fangraph readers always pointed to Buchholz xFIP in his good years as indicators that he was a bit lucky and due for a reversion.

In 2010, Buchholz went 17-7 and sported a 2.33 ERA. However his xFIP was 4.07. The following year Buchholz pitched in 14 games, possessed a 3.48 ERA and a 4.28 xFIP. The xFIP, once again, suggested Buchholz was getting lucky and was due for a regression in 2012. Well, Buchholz ended 2012 with a 4.56 ERA, which was back near his career xFIP. It seemed as though the formula on Buchholz had finally reared its ugly head.

Then came 2013, and how sweet it has been. As shown above, Buchholz has been dominant and there is no denying it. His fastball has been touching 95, high offspeed pitches are vicious, his K/9 is over 9, and has shown pinpoint accuracy. Even the xFIP has bowed down to the Sox ace; it is now showing 3.01, which is over a full run off his career xFIP. And with a favorable matchup against the Twins next time out, the Buchholz train is bound to keep rolling.

Ryan Dempster

Newcomer Ryan Dempster found his groove last week and has been an extremely good number 3 starter; all the Red Sox have asked him to be.

Since Friday, Dempster has thrown in 2 games and produced very similar results: 6 innings, 4 hits, 2 and 1 ER, 3 BB, 10 and 4 SO, and won both games. His ERA now sits at a cool 3.00.

Mike Carp (Kelly O’Conner — www.sittingstill.net)

The only knock on Dempster thus far is that he is walking nearly a batter every two innings. Hopefully that won’t catch up to him.

The Hitters… All of them

Over the past 6 games (5-1 record) the Red Sox hitters have driven in 41 runs or nearly 7 per game. They have hit 12 home runs or 2 per game. While they didn’t homer last night, they were patient enough to earn 10 walks.

Among those to homer in that 12 game span: Ross (2), Middlebrooks, Ortiz (2), Carp!! (2 while hitting .464!!), Gomes, Drew, Nava, and Napoli (2). Absent from this list is still Dustin Pedroia. Soon enough he will find his power stroke and this hitting lineup will be that much better.

3 Down – Really?

It is extremely hard to find a collection of players to place on a 3 down list when your hitters have scored 41 runs and your pitchers have only given up 19 in the past 6 games.

Jon Lester

Lester was not sharp Tuesday night in Toronto as he gave up 5 earned runs in 6 innings. However, despite the fact that he, self admittedly, did not have his best stuff he only allowed 8 baserunners against a good lineup. Thus, we have a silver lining.

Should we be worried? In a word: no.

Shane Victorino

The mysterious back injury continues. Get well soon. Victorino reappeared last night and seems to be healthy. Good news for the Red Sox.

Jack Morris and Dirk Hayhurst

When I was at work on Thursday I was shocked to see that two Blue Jays color commentators had accused Buchholz of cheating on Wednesday night. Really, guys? I was even more appalled at the fact that Sherlock Holmes Morris took the liberty to saunter into the Sox clubhouse on Thursday afternoon to discuss the accusations with Farrell, Ross, and Salty. In the words of Monday Night Football analysts, “Come on man.”

John Gibbons didn’t complain. Even more telling was that the Blue Jays hitters didn’t utter a word about it. Yet here we have two acrimonious Blue Jays analysts accusing Buchholz (and then Tazawa) of cheating when he was unmistakably using three completely legal substances: rosin, water, and sweat. Sorry, Jack, next time Clay won’t touch the rosin bag, sweat or drink water. That still won’t change the fact that your Blue Jays are 10-19, have a 4.66 team ERA, are 23rd in the league in runs scored, and are hitting a league worst .228.

David Schoenfield of ESPN Sweet Spot did some investigating of this own and found that the vertical and horizontal break on Buchholz 2012 and 2013 fastballs are not that different: “So, let’s check into some of the detailed movement on his pitches.

Horizontal break on fastball, 2013: minus-4.7 inches

Vertical break on fastball, 2013: 9.9 inches

Horizontal break on fastball, 2012: minus-4.8 inches

Vertical break on fastball, 2012: 9.1 inches

Those are average totals, of course, suggesting he’s getting a little more downward movement on his fastball, but overall, the movement is similar to last season.”

It is actually sad that Buchholz has to deal with this distraction, which takes away from the fact that he is the, albeit very early, Cy Young front-runner. To quote Dennis Eckersley: “Zip it.”