Let's just go straight to the numbers:
Michael Bowden's line on Sunday (a 3-2 win):
8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 7 K
Michael Bowden's line for the season:
35 1/3 IP, 0.86 ERA, 1.8 K-BB ratio, 0.83 WHIP
Clay Buchholz's line last Wednesday (a 1-0 loss):
8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 K
Clay Buchholz's line for the season:
35 IP, 1.03 ERA, 3.7 K-BB ratio, 0.74 WHIP
Red Sox starting pitchers' combined line for the season:
217 1/3 IP, 5.76 ERA, 1.9 K-BB ratio, 1.58 WHIP
The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo on Sunday:
"A lot of clamoring to get Buchholz up to the big leagues, but what's the hurry? One of the problems with young pitchers these days is that they haven't had enough seasoning. There was a time when teams felt a kid had to pitch at least 500 minor league innings. Buchholz has pitched 379 1/3 in the minors and 98 2/3 innings in the majors, so he's just about there. He's dominated the minors -- 26-12 with a 2.30 ERA (in his career) -- but is 5-10 with a 5.56 ERA in 20 major league games. It won't hurt Buchholz to stay down a tad longer."
No, it won't hurt Buchholz to stay down a tad longer. That, on its face, is a true statement. His risk of injury is about as high in Pawtucket as it would be in Boston.
But it's not helping the Red Sox.
There's a risk Buchholz (as a starter, likely) and Bowden (in the bullpen, if you want to get radical) could flop upon promotion to the major leagues. But there's always a risk a young pitcher will flop. There's always a risk any young player will flop. That's the way it works.
But the guy can't spend the rest of his career pitching in Triple-A simply because he has an ERA of 5.56 in the major leagues. Until he pitches in the major leagues again, after all, he has no chance to improve that ERA.
In fact, given the work he's done in the last year or so, he might just be significantly better his second time around.
And in an era when every inning counts -- Buchholz himself was shut down at the end of the 2007 season to make sure he didn't throw too many innings -- it's a waste for Buchholz (and Bowden) to be using up their precious innings pitching in the minor leagues.
ESPN's Buster Olney throws out a suggestion in his chat: Buchholz to Cleveland for Matt LaPorta "and a secondary piece." LaPorta had a combined OPS of .924 in Double-A a year ago; he hit 22 home runs and 24 doubles in 433 plate appearances. The year before that, he had an OPS of 1.065 and hit 12 home runs in 130 plate appearances at Single-A.
He was also, let's remember, the centerpiece of the Brewers' trade for CC Sabathia last July. It's possible that he very quickly could be a Kevin Youkilis-type hitter in the middle of an American League lineup.
The other idea is the Indians' Victor Martinez, a switch-hitting catcher who appears to have bounced back from a supbar season a year ago. So far this season, he's hitting .401 and OPS'ing 1.109; he's leading the American League in batting average and is second only to Youkilis in OPS. The downside is that he's 30 years old and would have to be considered a first baseman or designated hitter over the next few years. The other downside is that he's a free agent after the 2010 season.
It's an interesting idea -- particularly if David Ortiz is as done as some believe he is. But does it really make sense to trade an ace-type pitcher before you've really given him a chance to succeed in your big-league rotation?