Player Profile: Clay Buchholz has been an enigma in his time with the Red Sox. He has all the physical ability and talent in the world. Very good stuff. But a maddening inability to stay healthy.
As 2014 dawns and as the Red Sox come off a championship season for the ages, the team is going to need to see more health and production from Buchholz than injuries. Like last season, the amount of success the Red Sox enjoy in the coming season will be dependent upon how much quality they get from the top two in their rotation: Jon Lester and Buchholz.
Oct 19, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz throws a pitch against the Detroit Tigers in game six of the American League Championship Series playoff baseball game at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
2013 Season and Recent History: Buchholz was carrying the team the first two months of last season and on his way to a probable Cy Young award with a 9-0 start when everything went awry last June.
He suffered a shoulder injury of some sort when his infant daughter fell asleep on his shoulder and he was never the same the rest of the season. He spent most of the year trying to get his shoulder strength back to 100 percent and wondering if and when he would be able to make his return.
He finally did return in September and made a few tuneup starts for the postseason with OK results.
He then made one start in each of the three playoff rounds with middling results. His most scrutinized start, of course, was in Game 4 of the World Series when there was some question, right up until the day of the start, as to whether he’d be able to go.
Eventually, he was able to take the ball and gutted his way through four innings allowing only one run as the Sox were able to tie the series 2-2 with a 4-2 win. The game ended up being the springboard to a championship.
Buchholz was fortunate that Lester was able to get hot in the second half last year and pick him up as the staff horse. John Lackey was also a big factor in the Sox not missing a beat all year in the rotation.
2014 Outlook: It can’t be assumed that the Red Sox rotation will have as much health as it had last season. That means it is time for Buchholz to become a dominant force in the rotation on his own.
There is the possibility that Lester will not sign an extension this season and if he leaves as a free agent after 2014 the spotlight and pressure is going to shift to Buchholz, who is only 28, to assume the role of staff leader.
Oct 27, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz (11) throws against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning of game four of the MLB baseball World Series at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
The talent, as we said, is there. In the two seasons in which Buchholz was able to make more than 25 starts (2010 and 2012) he is a combined 28-15 with a serviceable 3.50 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. The way baseball is played today those numbers are more than enough to get the job done.
It would be nice to see a repeat of last season’s 12-1 record, 1.74 ERA and 1.025 WHIP over the course of 30-32 starts. If Buchholz can come close to those numbers, management can feel confident that they have a top of the rotation guy for years to come whether Lester stays or goes.
A big season for Buchholz and a chance to silence the doubters is right in front of him. Let’s see if he is able to take advantage. The Red Sox will need it to have hope of repeating in 2014.