Mailbag: Clay Buchholz can improve

8/25/2010 - Boston Red Sox

Editor's note: Curt Schilling answers user questions in an occasional mailbag for ESPNBoston.com. Click here to ask Curt a question for his next mailbag.

Q. Hey Curt, I'm glad you're doing this mailbag and we can always count on your honesty and experience. But what do you think will come with the Jonathan Papelbon saga? Should we lock him up or promote Daniel Bard and invest elsewhere? -- Bedminster, N.J.

A. If I was betting? My bet would be he's playing elsewhere and Bard's closing next year.

Q. Do you think the Sox will make a serious attempt this offseason to get Carl Crawford? I left Boston right after they won the 2004 World Series and thought the city would have put up a statue of you, did they? -- Steve (Las Vegas)

A. The Sox will most certainly be in the hunt, and if they want him bad enough I think they'll get him. The one thing we know though is that this team won't go into the stratosphere for anyone, which in this case I could see New York doing.

No, they didn't. If they were putting up a statue of anyone after that season it needed to be of Keith Foulke or Derek Lowe or Papi.

Q. Would you ever consider being a baseball manager or even general manager if offered the job? My opinion is that you would be a great general manager. -- Thomas (Uxbridge, Mass.)

A. I think I played for a bunch of guys that thought I already GM'd, or tried to, when I played. But no, never.

Q. How good do you think Clay Buchholz can be? I was arguing with a friend about it. He thinks Buchholz is a very good No. 2, but I think he has the potential to be a legit ace. He's still figuring things out and when he does, I think he could be that good. -- Ricky (Manchester, Conn.)

A. Sky's the limit for Clay. The ace part, to me, comes with one caveat. Can he be an ace? That depends on your definition. Mine always includes innings. An ace, to me anyway, has to be a guy that can make all the starts you set him up for, and be in the game in the seventh inning in 90 percent or more. That's 32+ starts and 230+ innings.

I don't know if he can. That's not to doubt it, but it's something that actually has to happen first. An ace has to be a guy that takes the ball on a day when there is no one in the bullpen available, and no one is concerned. Has to be a guy that the "quality start" label (which is a bogus stat anyway) applies to 25-30 starts a year.

In my opinion he has one more jump to make, and that's strikeouts. Guys with 200-plus strikeout stuff that don't strike out that many to me are guys that do not study hitters. There are literally 30-50 K's a year, if not more, you can get by just watching video and seeing hitters' tendencies and holes. His K total does not match his stuff right now in my opinion. When that starts aligning, I think he'll be at that next level.

Q. Do you think Josh Beckett still has physical issues? Just seems to me like that could be an explanation for his struggles? -- Jimbo (Andover, Mass.)

A. I don't know. I absolutely expected him to elevate the last two years, to enter into the 'best in the game' discussions and it hasn't happened. My assumption is that there are physical things going on, and there very well could be. He'll pitch hurt, that much you know, and that can cause the numbers you see these past two seasons. I take comfort in knowing the kid has worked his butt off when he strides to the mound every fifth day, and I assume when healthy John Farrell is getting him where he needs to be.

Q. If you were Theo Epstein what would be the first area you would focus on this offseason? -- Jerry (Springfield, Mass.)

A. I'd look to get Kevin Youkilis into a permanent position, and fill the other one. Define the back end of my bullpen going forward and figure out the health issues, why this year was so bad. I think the move internally to a very different medical system was a bad one. Losing one of the best trainers in baseball last offseason hurt this team in my opinion.

Q. So what was so different about John Lackey the other night that made him so good? Was it just a lousy lineup or did he pitch better/differently than he has been this season? -- Ricky (Hingham, Mass.)

A. I am not sure anything was so different. The AL East is vastly different than the AL West. The guy is a good pitcher, very good, but that means different things in those two divisions. When you're making 4 to 6 starts vs. the Yankees as opposed to Oakland or Seattle, your numbers are going to look different. The guy, as long as he stays healthy (which is an enormous part of his value) will be a very solid No. 2 or No. 3 starter. Give you 200-plus innings, and with this offense he'll give you every opportunity to win a lot more than he loses.

Curt Schilling, who pitched for the Red Sox from 2004-08, is a three-time World Series champion, six-time MLB All-Star and founded 38 Studios. Curt and his wife, Shonda, have raised money to fight ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) through Curt's Pitch for ALS, and have encouraged awareness for sun protection through the SHADE Foundation. They recently announced their support for the Asperger's Association of New England after their third child was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.