Buchholz, Beltre: Some comparisons

CHICAGO -- A couple of history lessons with your late-morning coffee:

Topic I: Clay Buchholz

With one start left in the season, Clay Buchholz has a 2.33 ERA, second in the league to Seattle’s Felix Hernandez (2.31), who is scheduled to pitch Tuesday night for the Mariners. Both pitchers should have one start left this weekend.

Since the start of the live-ball ERA, 1920, only three Red Sox starting pitchers have had a lower ERA (minimum 150 innings): Pedro Martinez (1999, 2000, 2002, and 2003), Roger Clemens (1990) and Tex Hughson (1944). Martinez’s 1.74 ERA in 2000 is lowest.

Since 1990, only four major-league pitchers who were Buchholz’s age or younger had a lower ERA: Hernandez, who is 24 this season; Jake Peavy (2.27); Zack Greinke (2.16); and Martinez (1.90 at age 25). Buchholz turned 26 in August but statistically his age is considered 25, since his birthday came after June 30.

Topic II: Adrian Beltre

Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre drove in his 100th run Tuesday night. He is batting .323 with 28 home runs and 101 RBIs, with an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .926.

How many third basemen since the start of the expansion era, 1961, have batted .320 or better, with 25 or more home runs, 100 or more RBIs, and an OPS of .925 or better?

Nine. Three have done it twice: Beltre, Chipper Jones and Miguel Cabrera (who played third for Florida before being moved to first).

The others: David Wright, Garrett Atkins, Melvin Mora, Ken Caminiti, Gary Sheffield and George Brett. Beltre’s OPS is the lowest on the list, but that’s pretty select company, and another reason why Beltre is looking at a big payday.

Ah, but then there’s that vexing question of diminishing returns as a player gets older. Beltre is 31. A-Rod turned 31 in 2007, when his OPS was 1.067. Since then, it has been .965, .933 and its current .855.

Chipper Jones’ OPS was .920 when he was 31. He went .847, .968, 1.005, 1.029 at 35 and 1.044 at age 36 before falling to .818 and .806 the last two seasons.

And let’s throw in a Hall of Fame third baseman, Mike Schmidt. His OPS was 1.080 at 31, before dropping each year to .949, .923 and .919. It was still as high as .936, though, in 1987, when he was 37.

A-Rod, Jones, and Schmidt all remained productive players well into their 30s. Jones was more productive, the other two fell off.