Extrapolate Clay Buchholz’s average yearly numbers to a full, healthy season, and you’d get a 14-11 record over 200 innings – a slightly above-average starting pitcher (108 ERA+). That guy, any team would happily slot into the fourth spot of their rotation and maybe higher.
That version of Clay Buchholz, like a Rockies’ Cy Young Award winner, or a Padres’ World Series champion, is purely theoretical. It’s never happened. Never not one time. The fact that we have to extrapolate his numbers to see what a full season would look like is probably proof enough that we’ll never see one.
Since his first “full” season in the big leagues as a 23-year-old in Boston, Buchholz has averaged under 120 innings per season and only once threw more than 175 innings. That’s not a reliable rotation arm – that’s a guest star. Maybe he’ll get a couple episode run, but he’s not making the credit sequence.
Still, at times Buchholz looks like a legitimate ace. His 16-start run with the 2013 World Champion Red Sox was a masterpiece: 12-1, 1.74 ERA over 108.1 innings. Boston went 3-1 in games he started that postseason, including the critical Game 4 of the World Series when, with the Red Sox trailing the series 2-1, Buchholz went four scoreless in a 4-2 win. The Red Sox won the next two games and the rest, as they say, is history.
It’s easy to feel like Boston wins the World Series every year, but that game feels like a long time ago, doesn’t it?
After that series, Buchholz struggled through three more season in Boston before they traded him to the Phillies, who paid him $13.5MM for two starts, 7.1 innings in 2017.
When he showed up in Diamondbacks camp on a minor league deal, it felt like the last gasp of a once-promising starter whose injury troubles destined him for early retirement. He probably wouldn’t even make the Opening Day roster.
But then he did.