Monday, May 4, 2009

Clay Buchholz and bad luck

The discussion about how bad luck has affected Jon Lester so far this season sparked some thoughts about Clay Buchholz. We all know the story; the gangly righty threw a no-hitter as a rookie two years ago but ran into big-time trouble a year ago when he opened the season in the Red Sox rotation.

His final line for the season included a 2-9 record and a 6.75 ERA. If not for that disaster, he'd likely be pitching in the Red Sox rotation right now.

Instead, he's four starts into his season at Triple-A Pawtucket; he earned his first win of the season with 5 1/3 scoreless innings on Sunday, and he now has a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings pitched and has twice as many strikeouts as walks.

Confidence, clearly, has much to do with how the Red Sox are handling Buchholz. A couple of rough early outings -- he allowed seven earned runs in 3 2/3 innings at Yankee Stadium in mid-April -- messed badly with the young pitcher's psyche, and another disaster might finish off his self-belief for good.

But is another disaster likely?

No, it's not.

* Buchholz saw hitters hit .299 against him in his 76 innings pitched a year ago; his BAPIP (batting average on balls put in play) was .355. That's bound to come down.

* He struck out 71 and walked 40 in his 16 starts -- and that came after he struck out 98 and walked 30 in two Triple-A stints and struck out 134 and walked 23 in two Double-A stints. That's a promising ratio.

* He allowed 11 home runs in 76 innings pitched -- approximately a home run every seven innings -- despite allowing 24 home runs in 344 1/3 innings in the minor leagues. He's not a home-run-prone pitcher.

Buchholz had a really rough debut a year ago. A lot of that, though, had to do with bad breaks -- and when he gets another shot, likely later this season, he's got the law of averages on his side.

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