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Touching All the Bases

It's Time to Move on From Clay Buchholz, and Other Thoughts on the Revamped Red Sox

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I'll admit it: After the dealing was done and the apparently energized Red Sox promptly won their first game of the Yoenis Cespedes era, I started wondering whether they might be able to make a run at .500.

To get to 81 wins -- which would have been a moral victory, I'd say, albeit about 15 fewer real victories than we expected -- they would have had to go 32-21 after Anthony Ranaudo's impressive debut in a 4-3 victory Friday.

Well, I've come to my senses. The Sox followed that moment of hope with two frustrating losses to the Yankees, featuring exasperating pitching performances from Clay Buchholz and Allen Webster. It was a reminder that despite the suddenly deep lineup, they don't have enough experience in the rotation to put together any prolonged stretch of consistency.

What we saw over the three games against the Yankees is small but telling sample-size of who they will be the rest of this season. They'll score lots of runs, they'll give up lots of runs, and they'll probably win every other game the rest of the way.

Put 'em down for 75 wins, which is six more victories and a hell of a lot more hope for the future than they had during the lost season of 2012.

Three other thoughts regarding the state of the Sox ...

1. Clay Buchholz needs to go in the offseason: I understand, to a point, why John Farrell, Juan Nieves, and the Red Sox braintrust continue to give the lanky righthander chance upon chance to get his act together.

When he's physically and mentally right, as he was during the majority of the 2010 season or during the first half last year, he is one of the premier pitchers in the American League.

Buchholz at is best is so good that it's worth enduring some bouts of inconsistency along the way. But it's not worth it anymore, because he hasn't been a good pitcher for a long time.

Here are his regular season stats since this point last year:

He says he's physically right at the moment, which is downright scary, because he's a complete mess on the mound.

He'll be 30 in 10 days, and it's time to stop waiting for him to fulfill his promise. This is what he is, save for the occasional flashes of aptitude that exist only so he can buy more time to exasperate us.

The talent is there, but the body is brittle, and he's so lacking in mental toughness that he's pretty much the last guy you'd want mentoring a young pitching staff.

Hell, Anthony Ranaudo showed more poise in his debut than Buchholz has at any point in recent memory. Buchholz makes just $12 million next year.

Time to trade him to a franchise naive enough to believes he's salvageable. We should know better by now, and so should the Red Sox.

pettisgaryfinn84.jpg2. Jackie Bradley Jr. has to be at least competent at the plate: A month or so ago, a reader suggested the Red Sox' rookie center fielder is nothing more than the next Gary Pettis, a spectacular defensive outfielder whose breathtaking defense can't quite make you forget how inept he is at the plate.

I scoffed at the suggestion, in part because Bradley seemed to be making progress in shortening his swing and in part because he's a player who has required adjustment time at each level before eventually solving the league. He did have an .842 OPS at Pawtucket last year, after all.

But now? I'm starting to wonder whether Pettis is the perfect, horrifying comp. Consider this: Bradley has one home run and 101 strikeouts in 101 games this season.

What follows is the complete list (excluding his) of individual seasons in MLB history of no more than one home run, 100 or more strikeouts, and at least 100 games played:

That's 14 seasons ... and three of them were submitted by the one and only Gary Pettis. And you'll note that every player on the list other than Manny Lee was adept at stealing bases, which Bradley is not at this point.

It's probably too much to ask, JBJ, but how about hitting that second homer soon, and then we can pretend we never had this discussion at all. Deal?

3. Allen Craig's power outage is even worse than I realized: I'm on record as having preferred prospects from the Cardinals in return for John Lackey, but I don't necessarily have a problem with the package the Red Sox received. Despite a FIP (4.01) that was considerably higher than his ERA (2.69) last season, Joe Kelly is at least established as a competent big-league pitcher. Hell, he's lined up to be the Opening Day starter next year at this point.

But the key to whether this turns out to be a savvy trade or a forgettable one is Craig, an unsung but prolific offensive force for the Cardinals from 2011-13 three seasons, most notably last year when he had a ridiculous .454 batting average with runners in scoring position.

A foot injury and the aftereffects have conspired to severely reduce his production since this point last season:

And this season? It's almost unfathomable how powerless he has been at the plate. Consider: Craig has a .348 slugging percentage in 98 games between Boston and St. Louis.

That's worse than David Ross (.384), Shane Victorino (.382), Grady Sizemore (.368 between Boston and Philly), and Xander Bogaerts (.360). It's also the same slugging percentage A.J. Pierzynski had with the Red Sox before he was released, and its 10 points higher than Stephen Drew's current .338.

But hey, at least Craig has Bradley (.303) beat.

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