Will the real Clay Buchholz please step forward? Clay Buchholz is an enigma. He dominates, see 2010 and the first half of 2013, and he flails, hello 2012 and 2014. Every year stories are run how this is the year he fulfills his potential and becomes a front of the rotation starter for the Red Sox. More often than not, he falls well short of these expectations. Are Red Sox fans asking too much from him or is he simply not producing like he is capable of?
The answer is a combination of both. But the expectations are a direct result of the flashes he has shown at times in his career. Buchholz has never pitched more than 189.1 innings, he is not a strikeout pitcher (career high 132 strikeouts in 2014), and he has never reached the 30 start mark since he entered the league. So what should Red Sox fans expect from Clay Buchholz?
Last season, as part of John Farrell's so called "five number one starters" gimmick Clay started 18 games and had a 3.26 ERA in 113.1 innings. However, like clockwork, when he went down with a sore shoulder, he missed the rest of the season. He once again showed everything that is easy to hate about him. Buchholz is not a gamer, he does not play through the pain of injury or work his tail off to try and get better, he simply sits back and makes excuses to why he is not 100%.
Fans should think of Buchholz as a number four starter. Even though he is the longest tenured starting pitcher on the Red Sox, he is better suited blending into the background. Slotting him in front of Joe Kelly or whoever wins the fifth spot in the rotation may help the Red Sox in the long run. With the questions that surround which pitcher will become the ‘ace’ of the Red Sox, having Buchholz flounder around in the middle of the rotation will make everyone else look that much better.
Clay is incapable of staying healthy, he refuses to pitch when he does not feel 100 percent, and he is built like a bean stalk. His problem may be as mental as it is physical. Clay does not really have the physical appearance of a number one or a number two pitcher and the last two years his stuff started to reflect that. He was consistently throwing in the upper 80’s and seemed to be getting away from using his breaking pitches to get outs. Buchholz can provide one thing consistently and that is frustration.
Fans should not fall back in love with him when he has five solid starts and looks like he once pitched a few years ago. The only thing that Buchholz should be relied upon to do is eventually go down with an injury that opens up a slot for one of the Sox young lefties (Henry Owens or Brian Johnson) for a chance to prove they are the Red Sox future.
I am a fan of Clay Buchholz. I am guilty of falling in love with him every year and thinking he is the solution to the front of the Red Sox rotation but those days are over. It is time to move on from Clay Buchholz as a competent pitcher and look towards the future of the Red Sox pitching staff. I understand why his option was picked up from a business standpoint but it is becoming impossible for the Red Sox to say they rely on him as a fixture to their rotation. I am done with Clay Buchholz and the Red Sox should be also; it is time to move on.