He's in his fifth full season in the major leagues and already He's in his fifth full season in the major leagues and already

Clay Buchholz: The Key to the Red Sox Success in 2012

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He’s in his fifth full season in the major leagues and already Clay Buchholz has experienced more in that time than most pitchers will have in their entire career.  He was apart of the 2007 World Champions team, threw a no-hitter in ’07, was named an All-star in 2010 and finished sixth in the Cy Young voting that same year. Not to mention he experienced first hand one of the greatest collapses in all of baseball last season and now the 27-year old could be the difference maker for the Red Sox in a make or break season.

It’s likely that Buchholz will slot in as the number three guy in the rotation, behind Josh Beckett and Jon Lester.  When healthy, this trio is one of the best in the game today.  Last year Buchholz battled injuries that forced him to miss most of the second half and was limited to just 14 starts.

This year he’s healthy when spring training started and so far in his two outings he’s been steady on the mound.  Not great, but steady.  But it is early and you can expect him to improve greatly.

Thus far the Texas native has gone five innings of work through two starts, surrendering two runs on three hits while walking two and fanning three.  As I said, it’s still early and this is a small sample pool to be making any conclusions around.  But it is promising to not see him explode on the mound or surrender multiple moon shots after a nine month absence.

The Red Sox see value in this kid.  They signed him to a four-year extension last year and they want to build around cornerstone type pieces like him and Dustin Pedroia.  But he needs to deliver this season and his success will go a long way in determining the Red Sox success this season.

It’s safe to say that Lester will once again win 15-17 games and should he stay healthy and focused, he could make a run at 20 wins.  The same goes for Beckett.  Many critics feel that Beckett will regress this year, some because it’s an even calendar year.  Yes, some go that far.  I disagree however.  I think Beckett is poised to rebound and prove any and all doubters wrong that he still has the fire in the belly and he wants to win.  He should be good for 15 wins minimum and again if he can get the run support and stay healthy and out of the chicken, he could win 18 games.

That’s a nice start for any ball club to have your top two guys win an average of 18 games each.  Here is where Buchholz plays a huge role.

As the number three guy, he will be counted on to work his share of innings throughout the year, but at the same time deliver the goods so to speak.  He won a career high 17 games in 2010 and while he may not be expected to win that many, he does need to improve on his numbers from last year.

He had a WHIP of 1.294 which was slightly higher than the ’10 season.  His walk ratio was the same, 3.4/9 as was his strikeout ratio, 6.5/9.  He relies on the ground ball to get him out of trouble but last year in 82.2 innings he surrendered an average of 1.1 home runs per 9 innings, double of what it was in 2010 (0.5).  When he keeps the ball in the yard he wins.  When he stays healthy, he can win.

It’s not a stretch to say Clay Buchholz can win 14 games this season.  But if he can’t stay healthy enough then the Red Sox will suddenly find themselves looking for a qualified number three starter.

Daniel Bard isn’t ready to assume the workload of innings that comes with the territory and it’s hard to fathom that either Aaron Cook, Vicente Padilla, Andrew Miller or Felix Doubront could do it either.  So the reliance shifts to Buchholz.

A championship ball club needs to have three legit starters who can possibly carry the team on short rest in a seven game series.  If the Red Sox want to win the World Series in 2012, Clay Buchholz will have a lot to do with it.

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