40 Man Roster Review: Clay Buchholz

With Spring Training less than a month away, the Red Sox 40 Man Roster should be fairly set until the end of camp. I'll take this opportunity to review the entire roster. Lets face it, there's not much else going on.

In an up and down 2012, Buchholz's start on Fenway's 100th was a downer.
It's hard to believe it has already been five years since Clay Buchholz burst on to the scene late in the 2007 season and threw a no-hitter in his second Major League start.  Five years later we still don't know exactly what Buchholz is.  He came up right around the same time as Phil Hughes and it is ironic how two prospects who were often compared to each other have had such similar careers. 

Buchholz did show enough in the middle of last season that he still has it in him to be closer to the pitcher he was in 2012 when he had a 2.33 ERA. The only concern is that when Buchholz came up his calling card was his advanced secondary offerings, while his fastball was only average or perhaps a tick above.  Last year his 4-seam fastball velocity was 92.2 MPH, down from 94.1 MPH in his breakout 2010.  In 2010 batters put up a 230/331/335 line against his heater, while last year it was clobbered to the tune of 281/373/492.  In two years batters went from Nick Punto to JD Drew during one of his good seasons against Buchholz's 4-seamer.

Buchholz compensated by throwing the pitch only 43.8% of the time, by far the lowest percentage of his career and below his career average of 49.8%.  Like Jon Lester, he compensated for the loss in velocity by relying on his cutter.  In 2010 Buchholz didn't throw the pitch at all, last season he threw his new offering 20.5% of the time.  He also completely abandoned his slider, which was his primary out pitch in the minors before he refined his curveball.

If another year removed from the back injury that torpedoed his 2011 season, Buchholz can regain that velocity and trust his 4-seam fastball again he could regain his all-star from.  Still, the guy he was after his first ten starts was still pretty good.  If John Farrell wants to have a meritocracy, Buccholz should probably get the ball April 1 in The Bronx.

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PITCH/fx data from Fangraphs