Sunday, September 2, 2007

Clay Buchholz

I was supposed to be in Fenway Park last night, but I had trouble reaching my ticket connection. Didn't miss anything...that is if you don't think throwing a no-hitter in your second Major League start is anything.

There's been a lot of talk (hype?) about young pitchers this season - the Yankees have three whom the fans are salivating over. Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy are considered to be the future of the franchise. The Red Sox already have Jonathon Papelbon set as a dominant closer, Manny Delcarmen has pitched extraordinarily well out of the bullpen, and now rookie Clay Buchholz has thrown a no-hitter in just his second Major League start. Chamberlain's slider is absolutely filthy. Hughes started off great before an injury set him back a bit. And yesterday, Ian Kennedy looked very strong against a Tampa Bay lineup that had spanked Hughes around the night before. If they have any kind of poise, pitchers generally have an advantage the first time they face a team. The Orioles had never seen Buchholz's curve ball before, so they had no idea what the break of it looked like. He even fooled the plate umpire a couple of times.

Look what's happened to Hughes. Great start. A near no-hitter himself in his 2nd outing before getting hurt. Now, he's having some trouble getting people out. Why? Well for one, he's had enough outings that there's all kinds of video on him now. Plus, hitters like to talk to one another, so word's getting out. As great as Chamberlain has looked, remember that most teams are only getting one look at him in a series (think there's a message in "The Chamberlain Rules" that have been dictated to Joe Torre by the front office? They're probably scared to death that Torre will do to Chamberlain what he's done to other relievers - burn him out). It will be interesting to see what happens next season if the Yankees put Chamberlain in the starting rotation. Major League hitters make adjustments all the time; sometimes those adjustments happen game-to-game and sometimes they happen within the same game. Put Chamberlain on the mound for 7 innings every 5 days for a couple of months and see what the results are. I'm not saying that he won't do well. What I am saying is that 1) he won't be able to hit 100 consistently over the course of a game and 2) the hitters are going to make adjustments.

Look at Mariano Rivera - why are some teams able to handle him now? One is age is catching up to him and another is that the hitters know what his pitches do because they've seen him so often. Not that he isn't still very good most times and sometimes still dominant, but he's not the same as he was in the days when John Sterling dubbed him the Greatest Relief Pitcher Of All Time.

So while last night there was all kinds of talk on ESPN and Red Sox-related Internet forums about putting Buchholz in the starting rotation for the remainder of the season, keep in mind that he had a distinct advantage last night. Talk to me after he's gone through a half-dozen or so starts and the adjustments start.

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