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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

What is Clay Buchholz's Legacy With The Boston Red Sox?

It’s hard to believe but pitcher Clay Buchholz began his tenth year with the Boston Red Sox when he toed the rubber against the Cleveland Indians in the second game of the 2016 season. During that time, he has been a whirling dervish of disappointment, results and expectations. With a $13.5 million team option (or $500,000 buyout) coming up next year, it’s possible that this could be his swan song in the Hub. If that’s the case, what exactly is his legacy?

The right-handed Texan was a first-round pick of the team back in 2005 out of McNeese State University. He was in the majors by the end of the 2007 season, and even no-hit the Baltimore Orioles in his second start. Since then, he has intermittently pitched brilliantly, been injured, and posted middling results. In 169 career games (167 starts), he has gone 73-51 with a 3.85 ERA.

Pitching primarily with a fastball/cutter combo that typically sits in the 88-92 MPH range, and a curve and changeup, he possesses the arsenal of an above average starter. Yet, having reached more than 150 innings just three times in his big league career (with a high of 189.1 in 2012), it has been an exercise in frustration in seeing so much talent and no prolonged record of health. With seven trips to the disabled list to his credit (including seeing last season end in early July), every year seems to start with the hope that this will be the year that he finally breaks free from the shackles of nagging injuries. Unfortunately, now nearly a decade into his career, that refrain has become an annual part of spring training. 

Anyone that might say Buchholz is overrated would be mistaken. Despite the time on the sidelines, he has more than proven his worth on the field. In 2010 he won 17 games and finished sixth in the American League in Cy Young voting.  He was 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA in 16 2013 starts before being shut down due to injury. For some reason, he is invincible in the month of June, going a combined 16-1 with a 2.45 ERA and three shutouts in 21 career starts. 

There has also been not so great results, with his 4.56 ERA in 2012 and 5.34 ERA in 2014 being prime example. However, even now, it’s tantalizing to wonder what he could do if the team could get 200 innings out of him—in one season, not spread out over two or three.

Turning 32 later in the season, Buchholz is no longer a prospect or even a young player. It might even be argued that he is in the latter part of his career. Nevertheless, he remains one of the biggest enigmas in Red Sox history. Despite that, he still elicits the hopes of many fans who still believe his best is yet to come. Sadly, now that he may be in his contract year, it’s possible that watching him realize his full potential may never happen—at least not while he is in a Boston uniform.

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