Despite some tough outings this season, believe it or not, Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz has been one of the best hurlers in the game. Yep, I said Clay Buchholz. That’s the same Clay Buchholz who is 3-6 with a 4.22 ERA. The same Clay Buchholz that gave up nine runs in 3 1/3 innings on April 12th against the Yankees.
But, it is also the same Clay Buchholz whom has helped the Red Sox win two World Series winning. The Clay Buchholz who threw a no hitter in his home debut his rookie season. The same Clay Buchholz that has been to two All-Star games. And it’s the same Clay Buchholz who was expected to be the Red Sox ace this year following Jon Lester‘s departure.
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As everyone around baseball has been surprised at the Red Sox’ woes this season, sitting 7 games back in the AL East after spending almost $200 million dollars in the free-agent market, they almost expected it. Okay, maybe they didn’t expect that they would be that many games back in mid-June, but they did expect them to have troubles. Their troubles were expected mostly because of their lack of starting pitching. Their lack of an ace was a very troubling topic all spring training and still is.
But the Boston Red Sox have an ace. Oh, yes they do. Despite contrary beliefs Clay Buchholz is their ace. No, he’s not a flamethrower like Garrett Richards or Gerrit Cole, or an innings horse like James Sheilds or David Price, but he’s a player. Buchholz can pitch like an ace, and that’s exactly what he’s been doing this season. He’s been pitching.
He doesn’t have a 100 MPH fastball or a Chris Sale slider. He spots his fastball and his two-seam shows a ton of movement. He can miss bats with his changeup and prevents runs. The Texan has allowed four runs or less in eleven of his thirteen starts while going at least six innings in ten of those starts.
Buchholz ranks 22nd among qualified pitchers with a 33.9% O-swing%, the highest of his career, showing that his pitches move in and out of the zone missing bats more often than they ever had. Striking out 24% of batters faced this year is another career high for Buchholz. He ranks 20th in K/9 striking out just above 9 batters.
The pitch that’s really helping Buchholz this year is his changeup. According to Brooks Baseball, opponents are hitting .130 off of his changeup while lefty handers hit a mere .079. He is inducing swings 58.38% of the time when he throws it. His FIP and xFIP this season have been outstanding. At 2.79 and 3.15 they are good for the 11th and 17th best marks among starters.
So, if you look deep into the numbers like we just did, we can conclude that Buchholz could be a valuable trade piece. His 1.9 WAR matches that of Johnny Cueto, the “ace” that the Red Sox were looking at in the offseason. They both bring the same value to their teams, but, Buchholz has two option years left on his contract. I’m sure the Red Sox won’t trade Buchholz, but his value is high, and if they do, it’s very possible that they could get a decent return crop for his services.