Clay Buchholz, the forgotten man in the Red Sox rotation

Buchholz missed virtually the entire 2nd half of the season in 2011

We’ve heard a lot about Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, who struggled to give the Sox clutch starts late in the season and then were tar and feathered by the media for their beer and chicken scandal, since the end of the season.  We’ve heard a lot about the final two spots in the rotation and the cast of thousands that will try to fill them all off season.  Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves, Carlos Silva, Aaron Cook, Vincente Padilla, Felix Doubront, Andrew Miller, Tim Wakefield, the list goes on and on.  We’ve heard little talk of Clay Buchholz who was lost for the year late last season due to a stress fracture in his back.  Buchholz should be 100% and ready to go for spring training.  As a matter of fact he would have been able to pitch for the Red Sox had they qualified for the postseason last year.  Either way Buchholz is an important part of the rotation and his return to the Sox staff could provide a huge boost.

Buchholz had his best season yet in 2010, going 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA and a 1.203 WHIP for the Sox in a career high 28 starts.  He was an All-Star for the first time in his career.  Sox fans had high hopes for Buchholz in 2011.  He started the year off well enough, going 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA and a 1.294 WHIP in 14 starts before he went on the disabled list.  Then he was gone for 15 days, 15 days became 30, 30 became 60 and before we knew it we were in September and the club was in a nosedive.  The Red Sox could have sorely used his production late last year.  John Lackey went 12-12 with a 6.41 ERA and 1.619 WHIP.  Tim Wakefield went 7-8 with a 5.12 ERA and a 1.358 WHIP.  Andrew Miller went 6-3 with a 5.54 ERA and a 1.815 (ouch) WHIP.  It is easy to see that if you replace any one of these guys’ production with Buchholz’ in the 2nd half of the year, the Red Sox were going to the playoffs.  They only needed one more win to get in and Buchholz would have likely given them at least an extra 3.

Buchholz will at the very least bring stability to the middle of the Sox rotation

Buchholz will turn 28 in August.  Compare that with other pitchers in their 27/28 year – Josh Beckett went 20-7 with a 3.27 ERA and a 1.141 WHIP.  Pedro Martinez went 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA and a .923 WHIP (not like anyone is going to repeat that again).  Roger Clemens was 21-6 with a 1.93 ERA and a 1.082 WHIP (that either).  Even pretty good pitchers put up good numbers in that age group.  Tim Wakefield was 16-8 with a 2.95 ERA and a 1.183 WHIP at age 28.  Bruce Hurst was 13-8 with a 2.99 ERA and a 1.256 WHIP.  I’m sure you get the point – good pitchers with good stuff pitch extremely well at this age.  Buchholz has very good stuff.  Remember that the stress fracture was likely already starting to bother him at the beginning of last season and he still pitched relatively well while he was in there, with a few control issues.  Once he tidies that up you could see him return to the form that he showed us during his breakout year in 2010.

I’m not saying that a healthy Clay Buchholz will instantly catapult the Sox to the playoffs but you can’t deny that the Red Sox chances of making it to October are infinitely better with him in the rotation.  People complain about our lack of depth in the 4th and 5th spot heading into camp but everyone forgets to mention that we had nothing in the 3rd spot last year and still were a game away.  Buchholz stabilizes things for the guys on both sides of him in the rotation.  Beckett and Lester will not have to carry the rotation by themselves if Buchholz is matching them or near matching them in production.  The guys at the back end don’t need to be more than what they actually are if they have a stud 3 man lineup in front of them.  Not to mention the improvements in conditioning that new strength coach Mike Boyle and staff are sure to implement.  And who knows?  Maybe we have not seen the best of Buchholz yet.  Maybe he’ll get better and have an even more productive year in 2012 than he did in 2010.  He’s got the stuff to be an ace, a top of the rotation guy.  Just because he doesn’t have to be in this rotation doesn’t mean that he won’t be.

Bottom line is that I’m not necessarily saying that Clay Buchholz could be one of the top starting pitchers in the American League but I wouldn’t exactly rule it out either.

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

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