2012 Red Sox Player Preview: Clay Buchholz
I wrote earlier in the off-season that Clay Buccholz was the forgotten man in the Red Sox rotation. I suppose that it is easy to forget that Buchholz was absent during the biggest collapse in Red Sox history but if he is recovered from the stress fracture in his back he should be in for a bounce back season. Again it is easy to forget the strides that he had made in 2010 and early in 2011. Buchholz was becoming a more complete and confident pitcher. If he has his health this year then Buchholz may turn into one of the better #3 starters in the American League.
Here’s a look at Buchholz’ 2011 stats (with career highs in parentheses)
Games Started: 14 (28, 2010)
Innings Pitched: 82.2 (173.2, 2010)
Win-Loss Record: 6-3 (17-7, 2010)
ERA: 3.48 (2.33, 2010)
WHIP: 1.294 (1.203, 2010)
Batting Average Against: .241 (.226, 2010)
Strikeouts/9 Innings: 6.5 (8.5, 2008)
Walks/9 Innings: 3.4 (3.4, 2011)
2012 Season Outlook:
Buchholz had a phenomenal year in 2010. His 2.33 ERA was a top of the rotation stat. He wasn’t as good in the early going last year but he also wasn’t that far off either. He was also likely trying to pitch around the effects of the stress fracture in the early going last season. The stress fracture in his back was an unfortunate injury that came at an inopportune time for Buchholz but he is still only 28 years old. If Buchholz is truly recovered from the stress fracture I would expect him to get back to close to the pitcher that he was in 2010.
We’ve known what Buchholz was capable of since the very beginning of his career. That’s what throwing a no-hitter in one of your first MLB starts will do to you. Buchholz may have been hampered by the huge expectations that followed that impressive feat. All pitchers have to mature and Buchholz was no exception. He was rough around the edges early on but after working with former pitching coach John Farrell and catcher Jason Varitek he seemed to finally hit his stride. He still has the occasional bout with control troubles but he has become better at pitching to contact and allowing his fielders to make the outs for him rather than nibble for strikes and pile up free passes. He is one of those guys that can go on stretches where he can carry a rotation on his back. Guys like that are very valuable, especially when they are the #3 guy in your rotation.
Buchholz will be going on to his third different pitching coach in as many seasons. Buchholz seemed to have been fond of former pitching coach John Farrell but lukewarm towards his replacement Curt Young. New pitching coach Bob McClure seems to be more Farrell than Young so here’s hoping that the relationship works out. Buchholz will also, like the rest of the Sox veteran staff, be without catcher Jason Varitek for the first time in his career. Buchholz worked with Jarrod Saltalamacchia last year and Kelly Shoppach has never had a problem working with a pitching staff so Buchholz should be fine in that regard. It would be nice if he could break his nervous habit of throwing over to first base for the sake of throwing over but I won’t get my hopes up on that one.
A stress fracture is a tough injury to overcome but it may have been a blessing in disguise for Buchholz that the Sox didn’t make the playoffs and press him into action for the post season. The extra rest with Buchholz may prove key as he gets back to 100%. The injury has been treated and Buch has looked fine during spring training. You can only assume that the problems stemming from the back injury are behind him (no pun intended) and he will look to regain the form that made him one of the better young starters in the league in 2010. If he pitches close to what he did in 2010 then you take a lot of pressure off of the guys in the back end of the rotation.
In a lot of ways Buccholz is the key to this team’s success in 2012. He is the bridge between the front end of the rotation and the back end. If the bridge holds strong than it will support the back end that much easier. If it is weak then the back end will have to step up and help carry the load. As long as that back is healthy I say that Buchholz should be able to hold that bridge up pretty strongly.
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