Clay Buchholz has had some trouble with either staying healthy or being able to consistently pitch at a high level his entire MLB career with the Boston Red Sox, but the 2015 season might be the last straw for the upper management if he can’t pitch like the top of the rotation starter that he has shown glimpses of in the past.
Buchholz Recent Health
The 30-year-old battled through injuries and lack of fastball control in 2014 that ended with a 5.34 ERA in 28 starts and an 8-11 record. The 1.39 ERA was his highest since 2008 while his 132 strikeouts were his career-high. He did show signs of being elite with two complete-game shutouts, but that was just an aberration to the awful season he produced.
In 2013, Buchholz pitched to the tune of a 12-1 record with a 1.74 ERA, but missed over half the season with a shoulder injury that was caused by holding his infant child the wrong way while they were napping. The injury derailed the rest of a great campaign as he was the front runner for the Cy Young in the American League at the time of his injury. When he came back in late September, his fastball lost some speed and the rest of his pitches lost the crispness they had earlier in the season.
Over the previous six seasons, Buchholz has modeled inconsistency with injuries and his ability to pitch effectively with no season with over 189 innings pitch or 30 starts. From a no-hitter to a 17-7 season in 2010 to injury after injury in recent memory, Buchholz has not been the veteran the Red Sox can rely on, but could that change?
The 2015 Buchholz
The one thing that Buchholz has going for him is that no one really expects too much from him this season. Sure, he will be started the first game of the season against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday and struck out nine batters against one of the worst lineups in MLB without allowing a run, but he is the veteran on the staff currently.
The right-hander has shown through the spring that he can still pitch at an effective level with a 2.84 ERA in five games started with a 22:4 K:B ratio. Sure, he posted similar numbers with the ERA in 2014 and spring stats are not really indicative of how the season could go for any player, but pitching as the lead guy in the rotation might be just the kick in the pants Buchholz needs to get off to a hot start.
Also, 2015 is technically a contract year for the 30-year-old as the Red Sox hold a $13 million option for the 2016 season along with a $13.5 million team option for 2017. Most players play well for that final contract and, if Buchholz can pitch to his abilities without worrying about being hurt or being ridiculed for not being mentally tough, then 2015 should be another season that he pitches well enough to be a frontline starter in this Red Sox rotation.
If everything goes well with Buchholz’ changeup and fastball, then maybe he can pitch well enough to earn another year or two with the Red Sox. However, if he struggles, then it might be time to actually add an “ace” who can get the job done in 2016.