The other day I did some research into Craig Kimbrel and how he often starts slow each season. It’s not a rare thing to see players struggle in the early going and pitchers especially struggle for whatever reason. It could be weather or still building strength, but many players will continually struggle out of the starting gates. This effect is no stranger to Clay Buchholz who pitched last night to mixed results against a very poor Atlanta Braves offense.
Through last night Buchholz had 27.2 innings pitched with an ERA of 6.51 and a xFIP of 5.30. He’s not been getting bad results on good stuff and his luck has only been slightly against him. His BABIP of .306 is only slightly above his .291 career Alvarez and his LOB% is only down a bit to 63 percent. The major issues are things we see often from Buchholz when he gets messed up. He’s walking 4.23 batters every nine innings and currently only drawing 40 percent ground balls.
In his career Buchholz has been at his absolute best when drawing more than 50 percent ground balls on balls put in play. He’s been down the past few years around 48 percent, but this month he’s really had issues inducing ground balls. Walking batters and allowing line drives and fly balls is going to kill any pitcher.
In his career it seems though that April is his worst month when it comes to all his numbers and he gets better as the months warm up and the season moves on. In his career in March and April Buchholz has been hit very hard by hitters in the month. His wOBA against is .340, which is the highest of any month and as if he was pitching to Justin Upton all month.
Buchholz also has a career BB/9 of 3.53 in April and 3.80 in May, which are both higher than his career BB/9 of 3.18. As you might expect I’m going to finish with ground ball rate which Buchholz has again been at his worst in April. His career rate in April is 46 percent, but peaks in the summer months above 50 percent.
There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about Buchholz and what the Red Sox might get from the pitcher this season, but struggling in the early going is just what he does and by the time May is ending his numbers should be improving. If they don’t and June is a struggle for him as well that would be the point I would think the team needs to find an alternative to having him in the rotation. That said I think even after the poor start tonight I think Buchholz can still get better if he can stay healthy.