Tagged: Clay Buchholz

Stephen Strasburg & Game Score

pirates nationals baseball-54466386.rp420x400.jpg(Photo cred: AP)

Did everyone see Stephen Strasburg‘s debut on Tuesday?  If you didn’t you missed a truly historic performance.  Strasburg managed to exceed the seemingly un-exceedable hype while tallying 7 innings, 4 hits, 14 breathtaking K’s, and his first big league win.  His fastball had more movement than any I’ve ever seen and his curveball had me shouting at my tv in amazement.  His only mistake was a changeup that Delwyn Young took out of the park for a 2-run homer, but Strasburg kept his composure and finished by striking out the last SEVEN batters that he faced.  I can honestly say that I’ll remember this game for the rest of my life, even if it ends up being the best one of his career ($5 says it won’t be).

But you don’t come to The 26th Man for numbers you’ve already found in the boxscore- so I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to a Bill James stat called Game Score, if you are not already familiar with it.  Game Score is a great stat because it’s fun to tally and it’s useful too.  It’s aim is to provide a measuring stick for a starting pitcher’s performance.  Game Score is calculated like this (from Baseball-Reference):
1. Start with 50 points
2. Add 1 point for each out recorded, so 3 for every inning pitched
3. Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th
4. Add 1 point for each strikeout
5. Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed
6. Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed
7. Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed
8. Subtract 1 point for each walk
For those following along with Strasburg’s boxscore from the other night, that’s good for a Game Score of 75, which is more than respectable for a Major League debut.  I’m sure you’ve heard from the media that Strasburg’s 14 K’s places him behind Karl Spooner and J.R. Richard for most all-time in a Major League debut (they each had 15).  Richard’s game is a great example of how you can arrive at the same Game Score in different ways.  Strasburg matched Richard’s Game Score of 75 exactly, even though Richard allowed 3 runs and 7 hits.  Richard’s Game Score was boosted, though, by his 9 innings pitched.  It is interesting to note that Game Score doesn’t care whether you win or lose.  Statisticians and even fans have begun to drift away from win-loss records and towards more significant numbers such as ERA and WHIP when determining a pitcher’s success, and Game Score matches that sentiment.  
Spooner’s game was in fact much better than Richard’s and Strasburg’s, as he posted a Game Score of 93 while hurling a complete game shutout.  Spooner’s start ranks 2nd all-time among pitchers making their Major League debuts though, falling just shy of Juan Marichal‘s 96 Game Score in 1960.  Marichal also pitched a complete game shutout, allowing just 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 12.  Andy over at the Baseball-Reference blog recently posted about the best Major League debuts of all time.
In case these Game Score numbers seem a little arbitrary to you, here’s some sort of a frame of reference.  Roger Clemens‘ 20-K game in 1986 registered a 97.  Last night, Clay Buchholz took the loss after pitching 7 innings and registered a Game Score of just 56, while his counterpart Justin Masterson earned his second win of the season with a complete game shutout and a Game Score of 87.  In Game 7 of the ALCS in 2004, Kevin Brown lasted just 1.1 innings for the Yankees and was rewarded with a Game Score of 25.
kevinbrown.JPG
(Photo Cred: sullybaseball.blogspot.com)
Poor baby.
So here’s to many more fantastic starts for Strasburg- at this point the Nationals are still bad enough and irrelevant enough to the Red Sox that I can root for him in the same way you root for the little geek to finally beat up the bully.  Plus, team allegiances aside, the young man is truly a sight to see and real exciting to watch.  
24 hours from now I’ll be at the airport England-bound.  But dry your tears, I’ll be back in a week for your reading pleasure.  
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Close Calls & DMac

Before tonight’s 2-0 victory over Toronto, check out the last time the Red Sox won by more than 1 run:

Gm# Date Tm Opp R RA W-L GB Win Loss Save
8 Wednesday, Apr 14 boxscore BOS MIN W 6 3 4-4 1.5 Lackey Slowey Papelbon
9 Thursday, Apr 15 boxscore BOS MIN L 0 8 4-5 2.5 Liriano Wakefield
10 Friday, Apr 16 boxscore BOS TBR L 1 3 4-6 3.0 Cormier Delcarmen Soriano
11 Saturday, Apr 17 boxscore BOS TBR L 5 6 4-7 4.0 Shields Buchholz Soriano
12 Sunday, Apr 18 boxscore BOS TBR L 1 7 4-8 5.0 Garza Lester
13 Monday, Apr 19 boxscore BOS TBR L 2 8 4-9 6.0 Niemann Lackey
14 Tuesday, Apr 20 boxscore BOS TEX W 7 6 5-9 5.5 Papelbon Francisco
15 Wednesday, Apr 21 boxscore BOS TEX W 8 7 6-9 5.5 Okajima Nippert
16 Thursday, Apr 22 boxscore BOS TEX L 0 3 6-10 6.0 Wilson Buchholz Oliver
17 Friday, Apr 23 boxscore BOS BAL W 4 3 7-10 5.0 Delcarmen Albers Papelbon
18 Saturday, Apr 24 boxscore BOS BAL W 7 6 8-10 5.0 Lackey Albers Papelbon
19 Sunday, Apr 25 boxscore BOS BAL L 6 7 8-11 6.0 Johnson Atchison Meredith
20 Monday, Apr 26 boxscore BOS TOR W 13 12 9-11 5.5 Schoeneweis Camp Papelbon
21 Tuesday, Apr 27 boxscore BOS TOR W 2 1 10-11 5.5 Buchholz Downs Ramirez
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/29/2010.

That’s right, not since April 14th, 2 weeks ago. The BoSox may have gotten back to .500 with tonight’s win, which is always good to see, but the fact of the matter is they still have a lot of work left to do if they want to contend this season. I am encouraged by the way Clay Buchholz has been pitching and by Jon Lester‘s last two starts. If John Lackey and Josh Beckett can pick it up, then the rotation will be in good shape even if #5 remains a mystery with Tim Wakefield and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Don’t look now, but Lester hasn’t allowed a run in his last 13.1 innings.

One of the more interesting and surprising bright spots for the Sox thus far has been Darnell McDonald. Carrying a .286 average and 2 home runs through just 25 plate appearances into tonight’s contest, many fans are wondering where the heck this guy came from. That’s where I come in.

McDonald is 31 years old and in his fourth major league season. He made his major league debut back in 2004 at the tender age of 25 with the Baltimore Orioles, who selected him with the 26th overall pick in the 1997 amateur draft. Since then he’s been all over the majors and the minors, logging just 147 big league at-bats coming into this season. During that time he posted a below average slash line of .231/.276/.333.

So where is this new found success coming from? Your guess is as good as mine, but I can tell you one thing. He’s not the young prospect that some interpret him as, and for this reason he doesn’t have a legitimate chance of staying with the team long term. He may be a fan favorite already, but something’s gotta give when both Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury (remember them?) return from the DL. The team can’t afford to carry more than four outfielders at a time, and there’s just no way that McDonald can play himself ahead of Ellsbury, Cameron, J.D. Drew, or Jeremy Hermida. Thanks for the memories DMac, but I’m afraid your time is almost up.

Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?

Okay, now hear me out on this one.  You’ve got Clay Buchholz on the mound.  Through 7 innings he is throwing a one-hit shutout.  The next logical step to an ten-year old would be to leave him in the game because he is pitching so well.  I apologize for wanting to have a manager with just a little more insight than an ten-year old.  Buchholz was over 90 pitches entering the 8th inning.  He’s just a kid and at the end of last year the Sox even curbed his use in order to save his arm the wear and tear.  But now, Francona ignores his bullpen and pushes his luck with Clay, in turn costing us the game.  You can argue until you’re blue in the face that it was worth the risk considering the poor performance and lack of rest/health of the bullpen recently.  That is still no excuse to stretch out the starting pitcher longer than is appropriate.  It’s not fair to Buchholz, it’s not fair to Okajima (who should’ve got the ball), it’s not fair to the fans.  We’ve won 2 World Championships under Francona.  For that he deserves a medal.  Maybe two.  But I have hated him as a manager ever since his arrival in Boston and it is decisions like the one he made tonight that add fuel to that fire.  Accuse me of Monday Morning Quarterbacking, but I thought it was quite obvious that Clay was done for the day.  It sickens me that Francona just signed a four year contract extension.  Stop chewing your damn tobacco for half a second and pay attention to the game.

On a happier note, Jacoby Ellsbury has been making a pretty strong case for himself being the centerfielder of the future.  With two more hits tonight, he’s at .296.  How long before Coco Crisp gets traded?  His stock may be at a peak right now as he too is off to a hot start hitting .333.  Then again, if we traded Crisp then Francona wouldn’t be able to anger all of Red Sox Nation by benching Ellsbury.  And we all know how much he likes to do that.