Top 5: ‘Ace’ Pitchers in 2015 AL East

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Jul 10, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz (11) pitches during the first inning against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

3) Clay Buchholz – Boston Red Sox

Bio: 31 y/o, 6’3”, 190 lbs

2015 Record – 7 Wins, 7 Losses

ERA – 3.26

FIP – 2.68

WAR – 3.2

K/9 – 8.50

IP – 113.1

“It Factor” – Brilliance perennially marred by injuries

You guys may remember at the start of the 2015 season that the Red Sox rotation were all walking around wearing special “He’s the ace” shirts, with their names on the back. Had Joe Kelly not made the ill-advised prophecy on live radio that he would get the 2015 AL Cy Young award, we’d probably be looking back and laughing about the shirts thing instead.

If there was an ace though, and the whole thing is debatable, it was probably Clay Buchholz. Buchholz started the year with his second game seeing a ghastly line of 3.1 IP, 9 hits, 10 runs and 9 earned runs against, who else, the New York Yankees.

April seemed up and down, one minute decent the next absolutely dreadful, then May happened. By May Buchholz began, silently, to settle down and assert his authority. It was silent because the bats were still more silent than the opponent’s, so Boston continued to drop games that at least Buchholz was making winnable. Meanwhile, Red Sox pitchers had been so dire (one of the worst in the Majors) that Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves was given the heave-ho and replaced with Carl Willis.

Even so, Buccholz continued to provide something of a respite pitching a 3.31 ERA in May, 2.21 in June and a remarkable 1.46 in July before, you guessed it, missing the rest of the season through injury. Certainly the highlight was coming within one out of a complete game shutout on July 4th. Incredibly, Buchholz would be the first Red Sox pitcher to finish the job and one of only three (Wade Miley and Rich Hill would later follow suit) in the year.

It’s difficult to argue that Clay Buchholz can be a true ace, he hasn’t finished a season once in his career. Even so, the numbers he puts up are compelling. His 2.68 FIP is good for being the third best in all of baseball. Even when he was pitching, he was in the top ten on FIP surrounded by names like Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale.  His 3.2 WAR is ultimately the testimony to how much even half a season of Clay Buchholz can contribute, and it’s enough even on its own to guarantee his spot on this list and perhaps in the 2016 rotation too.

Next: 2 - Chris Archer