Will Clay Buchholz Rebound When He Returns?
No one has forgotten the no-hitter that put Clay Buchholz on the map when he was called up in 2007. Since then, everyone's expected him to take the reigns as number one on the staff, but Jon Lester ending up doing that. Then, it was expected for him to be one of the best number-two starters in the league.
He hasn't lived up to that title yet.
While some may consider Buchholz to be a great talent, his numbers might show otherwise. He had a 3.60 career ERA before this season, which is respectable, but a bit higher than fans would expect from him. His career FIP before 2014 was 4.07, slightly worse than the average FIP mark of 4.00. That might be the most shocking stat of all. It roots in large part from his BB/9 being a 3.40 up until this year, and never logging a season where his BB/9 was below 3.0. Also, his career 6.9 K/9 is not helping him in that category either.
Buchholz has had two good years over his career. Ironically, both were All-Star seasons. One of those seasons was last year, in which he only threw 16 games because of reoccurring injuries that kept the Sox’s prized pony on the sidelines.
But what's going on with him in 2014?
To say Clay Buchholz has gotten off to a rough start this season would be a ridiculous understatement. The two-time All-Star has had a horrendous start to his year, and now he’s back in his natural habitat - the disabled list.
Buchholz's strikeouts per nine is 0.1 better than his career average, but his 4.32 BB/9 in 2014 is a problem. He's also tied his career high for HR/9 (1.26), allowing seven dingers over 50 innings. While his 7.02 ERA is of major concern, his WHIP is equally as bad, nearing the 2.00 mark (1.98).
It’s not like Buchholz has had one or two bad games to inflate his numbers, either. He’s had four starts where he let up six runs, and one where he let up four over 4.2 innings. The other five outings have all been quality starts, making it a complete Jekyll and Hyde season for the Texas native to this point.
A huge red flag has been the steady decline of Buchholz’s fastball velocity. He reached his peak of a 94.1 MPH average in 2010, but has been dropping ever since. This year, he's throwing much slower, averaging 91.1, consistently finding his fastball at 88 or 89, which is where his cut fastball used to sit. Now his cutter, the pitch he throws second-most, is averaging 86.9 and has been on a steady decline since he started throwing it in 2011. While Buchholz has never been a strikeout pitcher, he has clearly shown that it is more difficult for him to operate at these slower velocities.
Buy or Sell?
I am absolutely selling the idea that Buccholz will improve when, or if, he returns in 2014. This will be a repeat of the 2008 season for Buchholz. He isn't going to figure his “mechanical problems” out midseason and don’t be shocked if we don’t see him pitch for Boston for the rest of the year if that is the case.