Link 3-24-2011: Clay Buchholz’s slider

There’s a very good read up over at Beyond the Box Score by Luis Apostoleris on our very own Clay Buchholz and how his slider has changed over the years. As he’s gained confidence in the pitch, Buchholz has been able to phase out his curveball, throwing it less and less each year since 2008. With so many offerings coming at the batter at 90 mph or faster, it’s made his already devastating changeup that much better, from the looks of it.

Throwing the slider harder means that Buchholz is basically using the pitch as a cut fastball, which he can then throw with more spin, resulting in a slower pitch with more break. If you look at the data, the pitch is most effective in the 86 mph range, causing the most whiffs and resulting in the most runs prevented. However, it’s not as simple as only relying on that version of the pitch. One reason it’s so effective is that hitters may be looking for the hard slider, and their timing can be upset when Buch pulls the string a little bit.

Apostoleris is right in that the slider really became a go-to pitch against lefties in 2010, especially inside. Look at the difference between 2009 and 2010 here. The cutter looks inside to a southpaw, then it bends in over the inner part of the plate.

Buchholz credits Jon Lester with helping him develop this pitch. Over the past few years, former pitching coach John Farrell introduced just about every Sox pitcher to the cut fastball as a way of easily adding a different looking pitch which could still be thrown for strikes, so this change is not that surprising.

Links 11-15-2010: Free agents, offseason progress, Hot Stovespeak

It’s a tough choice this offseason: Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth? As I’ve discussed here, I think getting either one would be a very nice addition, but perhaps Werth is a better fit long-term as a right-handed power bat. Patrick Sullivan agrees, also citing the length of the expected contracts.

As far as Cliff Lee goes, we could certainly afford to sign him, but it’s not the right move this offseason unless he can play third base or catcher. It looks like it’ll be a bidding war between the Yankees and the Rangers (and Nationals???) at this point anyways.

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11-9-2010: Sox reach out to Werth, Martinez a must sign, Adrian when?

According to Gordon Edes, the Red Sox have touched base with agent Scott Boras to express their interest in free agent outfielder Jayson Werth. The massive 6-5, 220 Werth will be 32 next season, and is reportedly seeking a contract approaching that of Matt Holliday’s 7-year, $120M deal (with an option year) last offseason. He is athletic and runs well, so he figures to age a bit better than the average 31-year old. Still, giving a player his age more than 4 years, $72M seems like a mistake. That gap makes me think that Werth will be a hard sign for the Red Sox, who have more pressing needs in the infield anyway. Regardless, they have to keep the door open and see what way the market goes; that’s their modus operandi.

My projections have Werth hitting .258/.346/.467 with a .369 wOBA in Fenway (think roughly Jason Bay with better defense and no knee issues). As a right-handed bat with some power, he looks like a direct replacement for Adrian Beltre in the lineup, but he would walk more, in the Red Sox style of play. Like most top Boras guys, don’t expect Werth to sign anytime soon.

Due to the weakness of the catching market, the staff at BP believe that Victor Martinez is a must-sign for the Red Sox. That would be true, but the Sox have been exploring the trade market for catchers for several years now, so it’s not like they are without any alternatives. However, Martinez is the best offensive one, by far.

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Links 11-4-2010: Sox hire Young, re-up Ortiz and Atchison, acquire Dlugach, BA prospect rankings

The Sox announced the hiring of Curt Young as their new pitching coach. He’s had a lot of experience working with young pitchers in the Oakland system, and helped them to some good success, even at young ages. Let’s hope that he can work some magic with the veterans here as well. He’s a quality hire by all accounts, and the timing was perfect for us, having just lost John Farrell.

Well, it’s official. As expected, the Red Sox chose to exercise their one-year options on David Ortiz and Scott Atchison, but let utilityman Bill Hall and MI Felipe Lopez go to free agency. While it might be shrewd to save a few million by letting Big Papi go out on the market, it’s not worth saving those millions if he signs with a potential contender like Tampa Bay, who has been looking for a true DH for years. The Sox still have the option of extending him if they so choose later on in the offseason. Atchison is a solid back of the bullpen guy with minor league options, so he was a no-brainer. As for Hall and Lopez, the presence of a healthy Jed Lowrie (knock on wood) makes it unnecessary to pay them big money to back up Dustin Pedroia and Marco Scutaro.

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Links 11-2-2010: Free agent news, AFL, Farrell farewell, Fenway changes, Fielding Bible, the pitching market

Thing are moving more quickly this offseason, with new rules in play. Three Sox are free agents already, and those with options will find out by Thursday if they are still Red Sox. With Adrian Beltre sure to become a free agent, Kevin Youkilis is doing the prudent thing and preparing to play third, just in case. Peter Gammons doesn’t see the Red Sox being able to keep Victor Martinez anymore. They squandered their chance when they offered only two years and didn’t see him catching for them beyond that timeframe. If he walks, the Sox will have to acquire a veteran catcher as well as make a big splash somewhere else in order to make up for his lost bat. Gammons believes that Boston will sign Carl Crawford, who doesn’t like being the stolen base guy atop the order. With Jacoby Ellsbury already filling that role, he won’t have to be that here. Of course, don’t forget that there are several teams with big money to spend.

The official Elias free agent rankings have been released, and Victor Martinez and Beltre are Type A free agents, as expected. David Ortiz, Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell are Type B free agents.

The other move that is percolating (probably at the next trade deadline) is the potential acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez. The Padres have all but admitted they can’t re-sign him beyond 2011, so they’ll be looking for a big return before he walks. With most of the big budget teams set at first base already and not much other competition, we could finally land the big bat we’ve coveted for so long.

Don’t look for Daisuke Matsuzaka to be dealt this offseason (barring a REALLY good offer from some team). While he hasn’t lived up to the hype, he has been more than serviceable as a middle/back-end starter.

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5-28-2010: The return of Dice-BB, Ellsbury status quo, Delcarmen back in form

I just have no words for yesterday’s start by Daisuke Matsuzaka. Did this guy really have a near no-hitter last time out? Matsuzaka walked EIGHT Kansas City Royals en route to one of his worst starts ever. The runs didn’t happen until the 5th inning, but there was trouble brewing form the very start, according to John Farrell. I guess we can throw out the Jason Varitek theory, because it happened with Tek behind the plate yesterday… I’ll spare you the long article telling you how I looked at his stuff in PITCHf/x, and there wasn’t much that was amiss; it was all a matter of control, which suggests a minor mechanical issue to me. Sigh. He’s always been good at preventing hits; it’s the control that’s an issue. Dice-K offered some vague excuse about “lower body soreness”, but come on- be a man already! Can someone explain to me why walking someone is more honorable than letting them hit it and getting them out again?

After a battery of tests, Jacoby Ellsbury is no closer to understanding what is ailing him than he is to getting back on the field. This is starting to look bad, especially because he can’t very well go out and play until we know what’s wrong and what the associated risks are.

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Links 5-10-2010: The Yankees series, the rotation, more Ortiz, Cameron starts rehab

I won’t rehash this series for you to too much gory detail. Just check out the excellent game summaries at WEEI’s Full Count blog (game 1, game 2, game 3). Not a lot to be enthused about, despite yesterday’s win. Still, I’m not panicking.

With the two bad starts against the Yankees this weekend and the pattern of bad pitching to start this season, there are plenty of questions being raised. Perhaps the Red Sox are not preparing their pitchers properly coming out of Spring Training? I think it’s some bad pitching, some bad luck, and some bad defense all converging in a perfect storm of sorts. There’s some hope, as Jason Varitek, John Farrell and Terry Francona all swear that Josh Beckett started off with some really sick (in a good way) stuff on Friday, only to implode in the 6th inning. Even Daisuke Matsuzaka’s fastball snapped back in the second inning after that awful first on Saturday. He’s happiest with his progress on that pitch. Once the rotation gets upright, the overworked bullpen is sure to follow. Let’s hope we are past the worst of it.

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