Are the Red Sox better off without Clay Buchholz?


A Red Sox season with Clay Buchholz is a roller coaster ride in frustration, exhilaration, confusion and usually ending with disappointment. A talented right-hander who occasionally flashes incredible levels of pitching brilliance that may be for a few starts or half a season.

More from Red Sox News

Statistically Buchholz is a career checkerboard with stats that drift all over the place like a tipsy driver on a snow-covered street at midnight. The one thing that does jump out is the Buchholz has never managed 30 starts.

In 2010 Buchholz was in serious contention for the prestigious Cy Young Award pitching honors until he attempted to emulate Usain Bolt on the base paths in San Francisco. That base path bravado result in a hamstring injury and several missed starts. That is Buchholz’ history. Injuries that are questionable, strange and dramatic. The latest injury being an elbow and that could portend more serious complications in the future.

When 100% physically and mentally Buchholz can be as valuable as just about any pitcher in the game. Even with his statistics degraded by “injury” his 162 game average is impressive. Start with 15-10 and an ERA of 3.85. That is an attention getter. As recent as 2013, Buchholz was 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA in half a season. That clearly was ace territory, but Ability, Consistency and Endurance is my ACE. Buchholz fails.

Ability is without question since RSN has been witness to it. But consistency and endurance are long gone and have never been visible in the Buchholz pitching resume.

Buchholz is a solid citizen and you see that with his charitable endeavors and generally keeping a low profile. The beer and chicken being one – if not the only – significant blemish on his Boston stay. But decisions have to be made since Buchholz now has his first option available for the Red Sox to reject or exercise – 13M for a pitcher that delivered seven wins and seven losses.

The options are clear with Buchholz and there are three that are available. (1) Is you simply pay the buyout of $245,000 and wish him well. (2) You pony up the money and consider it a sign and trade. With pitching at a premium there will be possible takers. (3) Is (again) you have Buchholz in your rotation for 2016.

The third option is where the frustration sets in. Based on past performance Buchholz will not get 30 starts and may not even reach 20 starts. This exerts pressure on the bullpen, the farm system, and management that may be forced to overpay to shore up a rotation. Do you go through yet another season of false hope? Do you have some type of contest attempting to guess the over/under for starts?

Maybe you are one and maybe not? My family is divided into two segments: I happen to be in segment one where I am punctual. The second segment is just the opposite. Dinner at six can mean show up at eight. You get the idea. Buchholz is in that second segment. Totally unreliable and unpredictable. Which Buchholz will show up for a month, half-season or the entire season? A baseball version of the Riemann Hypothesis or an unsolvable problem.

I will venture out onto an opinionated limb and select the Buchholz that is behind door number three. Clearly I have either had my brain pan removed or have acquired some type of baseball amnesia that has allowed me to actually go down a path that is well-worn with failure. And, the reasoning?

In 2015 Buchholz was simply excellent. His record was 7-7, but his 3.26 ERA and 1.21 WHIP were commendable for the 18 starts he presented to us. Buchholz was unquestionably the most notably positive performer on a staff that resembled very slim baseball pitching pickings.

Buchholz has also performed reasonably well in the AL East during his career with the only real blemish (5-9, 6.24) being New York. The Red Sox also have some young pitchers that have question marks, a Joe Kelly with a dead arm and Rick Porcello and Wade Miley showing why they are considered lower end rotation guys.

The money is also reasonable. The Red Sox have clearly shown the ability to spend rashly – insert any number of contracts – and based on that even a half season of Buchholz could be considered a bargain.

So I double-down on Buchholz. Give it a go and see what happens. Hopefully the elbow is in one piece. Buchholz always has been one that apparently – unlike a few others on the team – maintains a reasonable physical appearance. Buchholz also likes to pitch. His willingness to attempt to come back this year, even for an inning, is either risk taking, foolishness or a desire to start a new page.

The final assessment with Buchholz is the famed Dear Abby equation: “Are you better off with him or without him?” To me – even with the plethora of negatives – the answer is with him. If you expect Buchholz to be reliable, dependable and an anchor you will most certainly be disappointed.

Stats via baseball-reference

More from BoSox Injection