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Can He Repeat in 2011: Clay Buchholz

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I'll be starting a series of posts looking at some of the better performers from the past season that may or may not be considered likely to repeat their 2010 performance in 2011, starting today with Clay Buchholz of the Red Sox.

2010 Performance

17 wins, 2.33 ERA, 173 2/3 innings pitched, 120 strikeouts, 67 walks, 1.203 WHIP

ERA+ of 187, FIP of 3.61, xFIP of 4.20

Rankings

My Original Rank: #43
ESPN's Preseason Rank: #40

Yahoo's Final Rank: #18
ESPN's Player Rater Rank: #20

Clearly, he ended up being a better value for his draft rank. But was his performance real? And can he repeat it again in 2011?

My Thoughts

Let's take a look at each portion of his performance, and see what happened.

Wins - We've all established that wins aren't necessarily predictable from season to season, but two things stand out to me about Buchholz:

  1. The Red Sox are likely to have a competitive team next season, regardless of what moves they make. He's likely to have more opportunities at victories from the team than if he were a pitcher on, say, the Mariners or the Royals.
  2. He averaged over 6 innings per start. While that's also not a guarantee of the opportunity for wins, making it past the 5 inning mark consistently is obviously a good sign.

ERA - His 2.33 ERA screams fluke, but his FIP of 3.61 tells me that at least in part it is real. While his performance will probably regress somewhat in this category, he should still be reasonably between 3 and 3.50

Strikeouts - 120 strikeouts translated out to 6.22 strikeouts per 9 innings. While it's not a particularly high rate for an elite starting pitcher, it's definitely a solid rate. His previous seasons' rates and minor league numbers show a slight downward trend, but he also was very similar to his 2009 rate.

WHIP - 1.203 is a solid WHIP, but his walk rate of 3.47 per 9 innings concerns me. It is a slight improvement over his 2009 number, but only barely. His BABIP was .265 in 2010, compared to .289 in 2009. I think overall, he could see a slight regression, but probably not past around 1.25 or so in my opinion.

Summary

I think that overall, Buchholz is likely to repeat his performance from 2010. He should still be good for 15+ wins providing the remainder of his numbers stay similar. His strikeouts and WHIP should remain similar, and I think that overall he should end up right around the top 25 of starting pitchers for next year as well.