Rant Sports MLB Top 50 Players of 2014: No. 34 Clay Buchholz

Clay Buchholz

Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

It hasn’t even been a full year, but it feels like it has been forever since Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz had the controversy surrounding the unknown shiny substance on his arm. That’s what pitching like a Cy Young award candidate and winning a World Series will do.

Prior to 2013, it had been a while since we had last seen the dominant Buchholz. His most recent great season other than 2013 came in 2010 when he went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA in 173.2 innings pitched. In 2013, the Red Sox’ ace went 12-1 with a 1.73 ERA in 108.1 innings over 16 games started. A trip to the disabled list crushed any chance he had of winning the Cy Young award — which he was clearly on a path to winning.

His 8.0 K/9 was the third-best strikeout rate he has had in his career, and he walked less batters than he ever has in his career with just 3.0 BB/9. He allowed fewer home runs than he has in his career, except for 2007 when he only pitched 22.2 innings. Allowing just 0.3 HR/9 is outstanding. In his 108.1 innings, Buchholz allowed just 75 hits and 21 earned runs.

Buchholz was very average in the postseason, but that’s a very small sample size. In the ALDS, Buchholz made one start, allowing two earned runs in five innings. In two starts in the ALCS, Buchholz gave up seven earned runs in 10.2 innings pitched. His best start came in the most important series, the World Series. He pitched only four innings, but he didn’t allow an earned run despite giving up three walks and three hits.

In 2013, Buchholz was just as nasty as he has ever been in his career. His pitches had insane movement — he seemingly doesn’t throw a pitch that doesn’t move a ton. He doesn’t necessarily blow hitters away with speed, but he does know how to locate his pitches and generate swing-and-misses by starting pitches in the strike-zone and having them break out of the zone. His ability to prevent runs from being scored against him makes him very worthy of being on anyone’s top 50 players list.

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