On Friday night, the Red Sox had a catcher in left field, a shortstop at first base, a second baseman in right field, a first baseman at third base, and a disappointment on the mound.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but for Clay Buchholz, it all came down to one bad inning in his latest start. In fact, it almost always does. Let’s take a look.
April 6 @ Indians — 4 innings, 5 earned runs, 4 runs in the first inning (Jason Kipnis 2-run double, Carlos Santana 2-run home run).
April 12 vs. Orioles — 5+ innings, 5 earned runs, 3 runs in the sixth inning (Mark Trumbo 2-run home run).
April 23 @ Astros — 5.2 innings, 5 earned runs, 4 runs in the fifth inning (Colby Rasmus grand slam).
April 28 vs. Braves — 6.1 innings, 5 earned runs, 3 runs in the second inning.
May 15 vs. Astros — 6 innings, 5 earned runs, 4 runs in the second inning (George Springer grand slam).
May 20 vs. Indians — 6 innings, 4 runs (3 earned), 4 runs in the third inning (Jason Kipnis 3-run home run).
I’ve been hearing it from all three Clay Buchholz apologists to get off his back, and that it was a quality start and blah, blah, blah. A quality start is the most useless baseball statistic next to wins and losses for pitchers. When your team gives you a lead, and you immediately serve up a three-run home run to give up the lead and the game, there’s nothing “quality” about that. And I’m not even blaming the loss on Buchholz. He pitched well enough to win, especially given how the Red Sox bats have been going at Fenway Park recently. However, Boston went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, and they got beat by one hell of a pitcher on the other side. Tip your cap to Corey Kluber and move on.
But when you’re evaluating Buchholz, he’s not one of those guys that you look at his past performance and try to see if there are any trends from previous seasons that could possibly indicate future performance in another season. If you cover up the name and just show his year-to-year numbers, you’d think you were looking at ten different pitchers. So, it seems that Buchholz’s problem this year is the one big inning, as demonstrated above.
The other issue is that he’s getting shelled early in his starts. In innings 1-3, Buchholz has an ERA of 7.67, and opponents are hitting .309 with a .920 OPS against him. Once you get to innings 4-6, he has a 4.37 ERA, which still is pretty bad, but opponents are only hitting .200 with a .667 OPS against him. What that would indicate, to me, would be a little bit of bad luck. Either that, or to the main point of it being one bad inning, or even one bad pitch. It doesn’t quite make sense that opponents are hitting .200 against you, yet they’re averaging nearly four and a half runs.
And to the fans who are calling for Buchholz to be designated for assignment, it’s probably not going to happen. When you dip into that pitching pool down in Pawtucket, you’re not going to come back up with a starting pitcher who could do much better than Buchholz is right now. That says more about their pitching depth than it does about Buchholz, obviously. In addition to that, fans need to remove the fact that Buchholz was their No. 2 starter to start the year. After the first week of the season, the order of your pitchers doesn’t really matter again until the postseason, if you even make it that far. Think of him as a No. 5 starter, and maybe you’ll feel a little bit better. Probably not, but try for me.