The eternal enigma the Red Sox have faced with Clay Buchholz will now be inherited by Joe Kelly. Expect a similar series of successes and failures.
Sesame Street has an educational approach to things that are similar and different by using their various characters to describe the concept to young children. Children begin to notice differences and as we become adults it is part of our ingrained observational abilities. Some things are quite different and some eerily similar – in baseball, for example, since this is a baseball site.
A few weeks ago I wrote about Clay Buchholz and the Red Sox needing a divorce. Sometimes a parting of the ways is beneficial for both parties and if the angst of a Buchholz start became a distant memory, maybe Buchholz could find his lost talent elsewhere. His salary certainly is nice closure.
Prepare yourself for Buchholz Part Deux – Joe Kelly.
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Last season, with a strong finish the last two months, was a tease. This was Kelly’s answer to Buchholz’ 17-7 or 12-1 record – a glimpse that sometimes significant of a talent level that makes one not give up easily. Buchholz survived ten seasons and Kelly is in his third season.
Kelly has made several visits to the disabled list (DL) and that certainly is a familiar path that has been walked by Buchholz many times – and some of the injuries were certainly questionable.
Kelly last season issued home runs at a rate of one per inning and this season that figure has escalated to 1.8. Sound familiar? One can accept home runs if the other numbers are in reasonable shape, as some Hall of Fame pitchers were notorious for giving up the long ball, but often that was related to the fact that they limited their walks. You keep it around the plate and sooner or later someone will pop one out.
The magical number for me on BB/9 is 3.0, as anything beyond that has the yellow tape indicating a baseball crime scene. Walks to me are as acne is for a teenager. I despise them. I am frustrated by them. With Kelly, they come in batches, as indicated by a career BB/9 of 3.5 and an abysmal 7.8 this season. Was Kelly’s locker at his Pawtucket rehab too close to that of Henry Owens?
Buchholz has the same walk disease that the CDC in Atlanta is well aware of. With Buchholz, it occasionally reaches epidemic proportions and no drug research firm or elite baseball pitching gurus have been able to resolve that issue. This season the free pass is 3.8 and 3.2 for his career. The sheer frustration for this observer is even in the best of times, Buchholz had the walk jitters yet put up superior numbers. You see that you give more second chances than a doting parent to a rambunctious four-year-old.
I don’t care about the various metrics with either. Totally meaningless. What I care about is the pattern and that pattern of Buchholz is now being repeated by Kelly. You will get the remarkable 6.2 inning effort with no hits, but embedded was three walks in one inning. And the next start is pure garbage. You will see Buchholz breaking off “Uncle Charlie’s” that leave batters gasping only to have the next few look like a launch of a Saturn V.
No one questions the talent level of either, as massive internet ink and Canadian forests have been used to describe that talent – but the collective package shows a puzzle with a few pieces that don’t fit.
Kelly may certainly put together a string on excellent starts with the idea in RSN that some type of mystical performance corner has been turned. You believe that, I have some ocean beachfront Kansas property to sell you. Kelly will still be playing mind tricks with all for the next few years or until he follows Buchholz out the door on Yawkey Way. For full disclosure, I actually compared Kelly to Dave Stewart three months ago for a career turning point. No more.
With the hopeful return to prominence of Eduardo Rodriguez, the Red Sox will have four starters capable of keeping them in the game and the fifth slot cries out for a reliable arm and hopefully, Dave Dombrowski will respond.
Statistics via baseball-reference