Why Jack Morris' accusation doesn't stand up to the evidence.
As you’ve probably heard, pitcher-turned-commentator Jack Morris has accused Red Sox hurler Clay Buchholz of throwing pitches with illegal substances on his hand during his start on Wednesday against Toronto. Buchholz, his manager, and his catchers have taken turns explaining that that’s a ridiculous proposition.
Examining the mechanical changes that have driven the success of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and the Red Sox.
One of the biggest stories of the first month of the 2013 season has been the incredible turnaround of the Boston Red Sox. The team went from a near-lock for the postseason in September of 2011 to the victims of one of history's greatest collapses, and the disaster carried over to 2012. The Sox were a .500 team in April of last season, and were still three games over at the end of June. However, Boston would go 28-56 over the rest of the campaign, winning just one-third of their remaining games in a brutal crash that was catalyzed by bad blood in the clubhouse and the fire sale of August 25th, in which the Red Sox flipped a quarter-billion dollars worth of contracts in a salary-dump that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett to Los Angeles.
General Manager Ben Cherington made a splash in free agency, signing a handful of players to revamp the roster, but the general outlook for this season was bleak. Preseason predictions by the BP staff placed Boston fourth in the AL East this year, but the team and the city have become a symbol for triumph in the wake of tragedy. Going into play on Tuesday, the Sox have the best record in the game at 18-7, and their run differential of +40 also leads the majors.
The role of sports during times of tragedy has been debated in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. How can one cheer, yell, and feel joy in a time so filled with sadness? I suppose the answer is up for each of us to decide on our own, but it seems that, in times such as these, when heartbreak and fear have touched us so deeply and it’s all we can do to not break down and cry, sports has the power to help unite us in common purpose. It can alleviate, however slightly, our sadness, and through that, can help us feel a little less sad and a little less alone. Maybe that’s putting too much on it, but that’s the way I feel.
On Saturday the Red Sox returned home for the first time since the bombings at the Boston Marathon. On a sunny Saturday afternoon in an exhausted and shaken city a baseball game was played. And it was perfect.
Clay Buchholz has rewarded Jason's faith ih his first three starts this year.
One of the early criticisms of the Towers of Power Fantasy Hours podcast was that Paul Sporer and I were too agreeable on players and topics. For those that are not aware, Paul and I have known each other since 2000, and I helped introduce him to the advanced metrics of fantasy baseball. Given the amount of baseball discussions we have had throughout the years, it is easy to understand why we are rather agreeable on most players. Unfortunately, that does not hold up when it comes to Clay Buchholz.
Buchholz is a pitcher that Paul doesn’t care for, and he loves to poke fun at the fact that I am a believer in the Red Sox’ right-hander—as evidenced by his handy artwork:
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Clay Buchholz is known for throwing a nasty changeup, but he's added a new off-speed pitch to his arsenal in 2012.
Clay Buchholz has added a splitter this year to go with his well-known (and devastating) changeup. We first noticed this back when he was throwing one or two per game, but now it’s not unusual to see him throw a nice cluster of splitters in each start. A comparison between his pre-splitter and post-splitter pitch graphs is shown below:
If the perception in your league is that these guys are ERA-killers, now's the time to swoop.
When it comes to making trades in fantasy baseball, impressions are everything. It doesn’t matter if R.A. Dickey throws 41 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings and two straight one-hitters; if his owner thinks Dickey’s knuckler is being guided by a ghost named Thaddeus who stormed off after Dickey’s last start, upset that Dickey hasn’t credited him for his help yet and swearing he’ll never help Dickey again, well, that owner is going to be selling Dickey mighty low before the pitcher takes the mound again. Perception is everything.
While you’ll be hard-pressed to find an owner who believes Dickey is being helped by a potentially egotistical ghost named Thaddeus (and has a cynical view of friendship and forgiveness to boot), there are other forms of perception that can impact a player’s trade value. One of the biggest ones I like to be on the lookout for is slow starters who have begun to turn a corner.
Doug issues Mechanics Report Cards for four pitchers who throw from high arm slots: Clay Buchholz, James McDonald, Johnny Cueto, and Joe Wieland.
I maintain a list of pitchers to analyze, comprised of equal parts self-indulgence and reader suggestion. The list grows longer by the day, with names being added much more quickly than they can be crossed off, so I figure that I am overdue for a multi-player piece that puts a dent in the pitcher queue.
The idea behind “Four of a Kind” is to select a quartet of pitchers who share a common bond, to break down each player's in-game mechanics, and to grade each one on the six subjects of the Mechanics Report Card (patent pending). The report cards represent single-game snapshots, with the recognition that pitching mechanics are dynamic throughout the season.
Jeremy Hellickson gets hit hard and Clay Buchholz impresses in the game of the week, plus thoughts about Tampa Bay's pitching and Bobby Valentine's way with words.
The night before Saturday’s game, the Red Sox scored eight runs against the Rays to turn a relatively normal game into a 12-2 laugher. Actually, there was something abnormal about it, even before the offensive explosion: Rays starter David Price lasted only three innings. He gave up three runs on four hits and three walks while running up an 83-pitch tab. Josh Beckett, meanwhile, suffocated Tampa Bay for eight innings, allowing just one run on five hits.
A look at some pitchers who have had good luck this season and some who haven't.
When Eric Seidman and I introduced SIERA in February, we were very careful to show that it predicts future ERA better than current ERA does. While Defense Independent Pitching Statistics are not a foolproof way to measure pitchers, using them as a guide to dig further into the numbers can be very helpful. Last October, I spent a couplearticles analyzing Cole Hamels’ performance, and I highlighted how little was different between his 2008 and 2009 season, and how I expected his performance to improve as his luck neutralized. Sure enough, Hamels has seen his ERA fall back toward 2008 levels in 2010. In June, I disappointed Rockies fans by explaining the luck that had led to Ubaldo Jimenez’s 1.16 ERA at that time. Sure enough, he has a 4.36 ERA since that article was posted. Eric and I wrote on the Diamondbacks’ starters, stressing the bad luck that Dan Haren had seen to that point in the season. He had a 5.35 ERA, but it has been 3.59 since that article was posed and Haren has also been traded to the Angels. My point is not to cherry pick successes, but to prove that this type of analysis works. I certainly cannot be right every time I say a pitcher’s ERA is likely to fall or rise, because luck plays a role in pitching to a very large degree and luck by its very nature can reoccur. However, this type of analysis will prove prophetic more often than not.