McAdam: Buchholz out of luck so far this year

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McAdam: Buchholz out of luck so far this year

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

BALTIMORE-- When Clay Buchholz took a big step forward in 2010 and finished with a 2.33 ERA, the second best among among qualifying starters in the American League, it seemed as though it was a culmination of sorts.

For years, Buchholz had exhbited signs that he was capable of becoming a front-line starter, but, frustratingly, wasn't able to put it together on a consistent basis.

His breakout season saw him finally make good on his potential.

But even as Buchholz was injecting himself into the Cy Young Award debate, there were sceptics. Buchholz, some warned, had an extraordinary BABIP (batting average for balls in play) of .261, some 34 points below the American League average of .295.

What that means was that Buchholz, while very good, was also very lucky at times. In another year, with at-bats resulting in the very same results, it's highly unlikely that Buchholz would record as many outs as he did on balls put in play.

Now, five starts in to 2011, the suspicion is growing. Or maybe it's just karma.

Buchholz allowed a career-high 12 hits Tuesday night as the Red Sox five-game winning streak was snapped in 4-1 loss to Baltimore. Though Buchholz had his first quality start Tuesday -- the last of the five Red Sox starters to record one -- he did not have a single 1-2-3 inning in the seven that he started. Buchholz owns the distinction of being the only Boston staritng pitcher in the last 11 games to allow more than two runs.

And he's done it twice.

Is this a preview of things to come? Is Buchholz about to pay for his good fortune of 2010 with a return to normalcy, and with it, a dropoff of in results in 2011?

(The Red Sox, apparently, are undeterred. Though no front office is more intrigued by peripheral statistics or open to sabermetrics, they felt confident enough to lavish Buchholz with a 30 million contract extension earlier this month).

The caprcious nature of results was evident when Buchholz, unprompted, suggested that his stuff Tuesday night (producing four runs on 12 hits over 6 23 innings) was better than his stuff last Wednesday afternoon in Oakland when he allowed just one run on six hits over 5 13 innings.

"And I got a win out of the start in Oakland," noted Buchholz.

Buchholz's start Tuesday -- or the four which preceded it -- shouldn't necessarily be cause for alarm. Though he did have a parade of baserunners (two per inning), three of the four Orioles runs came on sacrifice flies and a fourth on a well-placed roller to first which kicked off the bag before Adrian Gonzalez could intercept it.

Had Buchholz better executed his two-seam fastball on a few at-bats, he perhaps could have gotten groundouts instead of run-scoring flyouts. The pitcher himself conceded -- and Francona agreed -- that he needed to do a better job throwing inside to hitters and not them extend their hands on pitches out over the plate.

If there was one refreshing aspect of Buchholz's start, it was improved command. Buchholz had averaged four walks per start in his first four outings and Tuesday night, he had just two.

"When Clay gets on a roll," said Terry Francona, "he really goes with that. And he hasn't got there yet. I see his battling, I see his stuff being good."

Maybe even as good as last year. But not, perhaps unsurprisingly, yielding the kind of results he got a season ago.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

BOSTON -- At first, 2016 seemed like the “Year of Xander.” It turned out to be the “Year of Mookie,” with Bogaerts dropping off a little as the season progressed.

The Red Sox shortstop saw his average peak at .359 on June 12. At that point he’d played in 61 games, hit eight home runs, 20 doubles and knocked in 44 runs. Although Mookie Betts had six more home runs and three more RBI in that same span, Bogaerts had six more doubles and was hitting 69 points higher.

The two were already locks for the All-Star Game and Bogaerts still had the edge in early MVP talk.

Then things took a turn after the very day Bogaerts saw his average peak.

Over the next 61 games, Bogaerts still managed seven homers, but only had six doubles and 27 RBI, watching his average drop to .307 by the end of that stretch. At first glance, .307 doesn’t seem like an issue, but he dropped 52 points after hitting .253 in that span.

And in his remaining 35 games, Bogaerts only hit .248 -- although he did have six homers.

But throughout it all, Bogaerts never seemed fazed by it. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than a month, Bogaerts still isn’t worried about the peaks and valleys.

“You go through it as a player, the only one’s who don’t go through that are the ones not playing,” Bogaerts told CSNNE.com before the Boston baseball writers' dinner Thursday. “I just gotta know you’re going to be playing good for sometime, you’re going to be playing bad for sometime.

“Just try to a lot more better times than bad times. It’s just a matter of trusting yourself, trusting your abilities and never doubting yourself. Obviously, you get a lot of doubts when you’re playing bad, but you just be even keeled with whatever situation is presented.”

Bogaerts level head is something often noted by coaches and his teammates, carrying through the days he finds himself lunging left and right for pitches. That’s also carried him through the offseason while maintaining the same preparation from past seasons -- along with putting on some weight.

“I don’t know how much I put on, but I feel strong,” Bogaerts said to CSNNE.com “I mean, I look strong in the mirror.

“Hopefully, I’m in a good position when the season comes because I know I’ll lose [the weight].”