Photo credit: Kelly O'Connor

Photo credit: Kelly O’Connor

Ever since the offseason, fans and media alike have wondered how the Red Sox staff would survive without a bona fide ace at the top of the staff. Subsequently, the calls for Boston to make a trade for a top tier veteran arm like Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto have resonated throughout the start of the season. But while both of the aforementioned aces carry impressive resumes to their own credit, Red Sox right hander Clay Buchholz’ performance so far this season has made it tough to question whether or not Boston holds an ace in their hand.

Consider this note from a terrific twitter follow, and leader of the Clay Buchholz fan club, @Eich_AJ: Over his last 4 trips to the hill, Buchholz has amassed 30.2 innings pitched with a tidy 1.47 ERA and 0.75 WHIP. In that same span, Hamels holds a 1.75 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP, in 30.1 innings of work. While Hamels has struck out 30 to Buchholz’s 27, and walked 4 to the Buchholz’s 5, the underlying point here is that both starters are performing on the same plane. Meanwhile, the likes of Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts remain on the Red Sox 25-man roster, and guys like Rafael Deavers and Manuel Margot continue to develop in Boston’s system.

Over his last 5 starts, Buchholz’ ERA has sunk like a led balloon from 6.03 to 3.83. This improving mark, however, is still not representative of his performance this season. Instead, if you look at the right-hander’s fielding independent pitching mark of 2.94 — currently 8th best in the American League — you will find him ahead of arms like David Price, Chris Sale and Felix Hernandez. Moreover, Buchholz is enjoying his highest ground ball percentage and lowest fly ball percentage since 2010 and 2009 respectively.

Clay Buchholz’ injury wrap sheet will almost always have some fans wondering how long his stellar performance will last before an injury derails him. We saw such a thing happen in 2013, when Buchholz was pitching his way into the American League Cy Young discussion before he missed 82 games with a shoulder injury. In a much less successful 2014 season, Buchholz spent 28 games on the disabled list with a left knee hyper extension. Thus, the notion that the 30-year old is made of glass bones and paper skin isn’t an overblown theory.

For now, the right arm of Clay Buchholz seems to represent a beacon of hope in an albeit shaky rotation. So far this season, the highly sought after “ace” that some considered crucial to Boston’s success hasn’t worn a Phillies jersey or a Red’s uniform. Instead, Buchholz has gone toe-to-toe with some of the most highly regarded starters in the game, and continues to ascend up the major league leader boards.

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