Nearly seven years after a 22-year-old Clay Buchholz no-hit the Baltimore Orioles in just his second major league start, we really still have no idea who he is. At times, Buchholz has been the Red Sox’ ace. This year, he broke camp as their No. 5 starter. Along the way, he has seemingly spent time at every stop in between.
Forget yesterday’s performance against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park. Here are Buchholz’ yearly totals:
Get the picture? Minus the won-lost record – which is partly a product of run support – what we have here is a major league version of Sybil, a human roulette wheel with a ball made of cowhide. Sometimes Buchholz lands on red. Sometimes he lands on black. In the end, his career is filled with gray.
Remember that Buchholz and Jon Lester are effectively contemporaries and that the Red Sox essentially gave them similar contracts a few years back. Here are Lester’s year-by-year totals:
Now, say what you will about Lester. Some of you think he’s worthy of being called an ace and some don’t. Fine. But Lester’s track record has been nothing if not consistent, especially when you consider that most every pitcher has some inconsistency at the beginning of his career and that almost every pitcher has a bad year (2012). In Lester’s case, we have the additional variable of cancer, with which Lester was diagnosed at the end of 2006 and which kept out of the big leagues for much of 2007.
At the highest levels of sports, consistency makes all the difference. Most any player can have a good year or two. But the ability to repeat it, year in and year out, is what separates the good players from the mediocre ones over the longer term, particularly in baseball.
The point: Can we please stop with the notion that Buchholz is a good pitcher? What he is, quite simply, is unpredictable. And he’s proving that again now.