Home > MLB > 40 Guys in 30 Days: Clay Buchholz

40 Guys in 30 Days: Clay Buchholz

True fact: Back around 2007, when they were both still really good prospects, I wanted to trade Clay Buchholz for Jarrod Saltalamacchia. I wouldn’t do that trade now, of course, but that’s more because Salty’s turned out to be terrible than anything good Clay’s done.

Clay Buchholz
2012 stats: 159 IP, 110 K, 50 BB, 21 HR
4.47 ERA, 4.62 FIP, 4.38 xFIP; 1.4 fWAR, 1.1 bWAR
2013 contract status: $5.5 million (signed through ’15 with club options for ’16 and ’17)

It’s been really frustrating to watch Clay Buchholz over his Red Sox career, for a number of reasons. After he burst onto the scene in 2007 with a great September that of course included his no-hitter, many people, myself included, thought that his ceiling was that of a number one starter. With his arsenal of three really good pitches and memories of Pedro Martinez fresh on everyone’s mind, it was easy to look at Clay and see someone who would lead the Red Sox’ rotation for many years to come.

That, obviously, has not turned out to be the case. With the exception of a 2010 season in which nearly everything that could have gone right for him did, Clay has been a mediocre pitcher who can’t stay healthy for the life of him. If he makes every scheduled start the rest of the way, he’ll set a new career high for games started; still, he missed a month this year after making just 14 starts in 2011.

Perhaps owing to the fact that he is seemingly always dealing with one injury or another, Clay has yet to really show the kind of excellence that was expected of him as a prospect. His best year, 2010, was also the only season in which he posted a FIP below 4.34; of course, before this year it was also the only one in which he had thrown even 100 innings in a season.

Assessing Clay’s true talent, as well as his value to the Red Sox going forward, is made even more difficult by the fact that he is a completely different pitcher now from the guy who threw that no-hitter in September of 2007. He’s slashed his strikeouts, cut down on the walks, and tried (albeit not always successfully) to limit the number of home runs against him by inducing a lot of ground balls. The theory is that this will allow him to consistently outpitch his peripheral stats, and it is worth noting that his ERA has been lower than his FIP every year since 2009; the question that whether that’s really what’s happening, or if it’s just noise over a sample of just over 500 innings.

Even if Clay performs closer to his FIP than his ERA going forward, he’s signed so cheaply that he should provide solid value as a back-end starter. Of course, if there’s someone out there who still sees the potential that I thought was there in 2007, and is willing to pay top dollar for him, I wouldn’t hesitate to make the trade. Clay’s a nice piece to have, but his injury history and iffy performance mean that he should be considered very far from untouchable. Hopefully we don’t trade him for the next Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Next time: An elaborate practical joke, played by the universe at the Red Sox’ expense.

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