Monday, April 18, 2016
Clay Buchholz Lacks the Passion, Will and Desire to be Great
Clay Buchholz is now 31-years-old (32 in August) and in his 10th season with the Red Sox (though he pitched in just four games in 2007).
During his time in Boston, Buchholz has shown flashes of brilliance, but has mostly confounded all observers. How can a guy with so much potential never fully realize it?
It’s rather stunning that after a decade in the majors, Buchholz has never made 30 starts or thrown 200 innings in a season. He has spent too much time on a a trainer’s table, and not enough on he mound.
The righty was on the disabled list seven times in his first nine years. Yes, he’s fragile, and that’s well established.
Here's a look at Buchholz's injury history:
15-day DL: Right fingernail tear (blister)
Games missed: 16
15-day DL: Left hamstring strain
Games missed: 18
60-day DL: Low back stress fracture
Games missed: 93
15-day DL: Esophagitis
Games missed: 20
60-day DL: Right shoulder bursitis (neck strain)
Games missed: 82
15-day DL: Left knee hyperextension
Games missed: 28
Yet, I think there’s more to Buchholz’s struggles than just the physical ailments. I think he is mentally weak and totally dispassionate, and I’m not alone.
In 2014, Buchholz went 8-11 with a 5.34 ERA in 28 starts, logging only 170 1/3 innings.
The following spring, his former teammate, Curt Schilling, said the problem is that Buchholz lacks a true competitive spirit and a passion for the game.
“I don’t think he wants to be (an ace),” Schilling told reporters. “I think there’s a level of commitment mentally and physically you have to have, and there’s a ‑‑ you have to have a little bit of a dark side, I think, in the sense that losing has to hurt so bad, that you do whatever you can do to make sure it never happens again. I’ve never felt like that was... Clay is just kind of, hey, I’m going to pitch today.”
Schilling also said he sees mental weakness in Buchholz.
“He’s unbelievably talented, obviously, physically. But there’s another level to the game, and I think that's the reason he’s been inconsistent. Cy Young potential in numbers one year to what-the-hell-happened next year is upstairs,” Schilling continued. “I think it’s all above his shoulders.”
Perhaps the expectations were too high for Buchholz after he no-hit the Orioles in 2007, in what was just his second career big-league start.
But he’s been an All Star twice: in 2010, when he posted a 2.33 ERA over 28 starts, and in 2013, when he posted a 1.74 ERA over 16 starts.
Schilling recently added to his April 2014 critique of his former teammate.
“We need to move on from an expectations perspective,” Schilling said on WEEI. “Here is the thing: sometimes you are what you are. Clay Buchholz was not going to come out of the gates this year and throw 222 innings, win 19 games and make 33 starts. He’s never done it. I am convinced — and this is not a personal thing. I like Clay. It’s just, he’s not the guy. That no-hitter skewed it all. We go back to one game and a couple stretches where he was as good as anyone in the game, but that is something he ended up not wanting bad enough to make it happen.”
And there’s the heart of the matter: Buchholz simply doesn’t want it badly enough. That’s the sort of thing that will always eat at those with less aptitude, but more passion. How can a guy with so much raw talent be so cool and emotionless about the game?
Ask yourself this: have you ever seen Buchholz get excited? It’s that lack of passion and commitment which has kept him from achieving his full potential and becoming a truly great pitcher — rather than a mediocre, unpredictable one.
As much as Buchholz has shown flashes of brilliance, and even dominance, he has at other times looked completely overmatched and way out of his league for entire seasons.
2008: 6.75 ERA and 1.76 WHIP over 15 starts
2012: 4.56 ERA and 1.33 WHIP over 29 starts
2014: 5.34 ERA and 1.39 WHIP over 28 starts
Some fans are still waiting for Buchholz to blossom, realize his full potential and become a Cy Young winner. That ship has sailed.
It’s long since time accept that Buchholz is a No. 3 starter who will at times look like an ace, yet at other times will look like a guy who is lucky to be in the majors.
The frustration of fans, scouts and executives will continue because Buchholz simply lacks the will and desire to be truly great on a consistent basis.