Part of me wanted to write a Six Million Dollar Man spoof in honor of Buchholz's return to Portland, but since I've never watched the show, I kept the reference to the title. You'll thank me later. Instead, some thoughts on what I've seen 'round the Internets about Clay's downswing:
- A few days ago - before the fateful final start against Baltimore - I spotted an article (that I now can't find, of course) about Buchholz finding a hole in his mechanics during his side sessions with John Farrell. As a professional fixer of sorts, I like hearing rational reasons like "correctible mechanical problems" and since Buchholz gets a lot of good will for pitching that no-hitter, I want him to succeed. As a result, I develop an almost irrational faith in the potential of the fix: the coaches know the problem, so they'll fix it. Clearly, not so much. These fixes take time.
- The Herald quoted Kevin Cash and referenced Jason Varitek in two separate articles on Buchholz published today; both catchers spoke about the importance of pitcher confidence. The intimation of both articles is that Clay lacks the confidence in his pitches; Francona even cited an incident against Baltimore where Buchholz shook off a fastball because he felt he wouldn't succeed. As Jonah pointed out over at Soxlosophy, the pitcher is meat: the catcher should be making the calls that determine the course of the game. If the pitcher doesn't have the confidence to throw the pitches his play caller demands, it's time to step back, to the lower-pressure world of the minors if necessary.
- In the article that brings up Varitek, Tony Massarotti voices our worst fear: that Buchholz is a flame out, a reincarnation of Kevin Morton, whose stellar debut with the Sox in July, 1991 (five hit, one run complete game against the Tigers) marked the high water mark of his 16 game major league career. But I think the comparison is inaccurate. As some of the partisans at SoSH (which incidentally has a good discussion of the whole confidence issue) continue to point out, Buchholz's BABIP continues to be about 60 points higher than average, which makes him one heck of an unlucky pitcher. Morton's BABIP was three points below average, which - if nothing else - means that his numbers were a reflection of his abilities: he really wasn't that good a pitcher.