The Red Sox confirmed today that Clay Buchholz does indeed have a stress fracture in his lower back, but Terry Francona told Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com that his return this season “hasn’t been ruled out.”
Buchholz will take part in a five-step recovery program, beginning with core-strengthening exercises, before being reevaluated in a month. If all goes well, he could then be cleared to begin a throwing program.
The odds of him returning this season will be long because the minor league schedule ends in early September, which means that he likely wouldn’t be able to make any rehab starts against advanced competition. Still, Buchholz is holding out hope that he will be able to return should the Red Sox reach the postseason.
“If there was a timetable then the postseason is where I’d want to come back. That makes the most sense to me,” said Buchholz. “I’ve been frustrated for a while. I’ve wanted to go out there and pitch. That’s why I’m here and that’s why they gave me the extension that they gave me earlier this year. It’s definitely something I didn’t want to happen, but I also believe that everything happens for a reason.”
According to Tony Lee of NESN.com, Buchholz is prepared to pitch out of the bullpen if he is able to return this season, but he is also willing to go to the instructional league in Florida to build up his pitch count if the Red Sox want need to make a start. Of course, looking at the bigger picture, the good news is that he is expected to be 100 percent for spring training next season.
“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.
Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:
Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?
There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.
As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.