Last year Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz won 17 games with a 2.33 ERA. I placed him in my Top 24 starting pitchers for 2011, and have to say I was wrong for including him. Here's why.
In 28 starts last year, Buchholz went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, a .261 BABIP and an extreme strand rate of 79%. Of concern to me is the drop in K rate from 8.53 in 2008 to 6.65 in 2009 and to 6.22 in 2010. His BB rate dropped from 4.86 in 2008 to 3.47 in 2010, but is still high. Pitchers who consistently put up sub-3.00 ERAs are more dominating than Buchholz with strikeout rates closer to 9.00-think Tim Lincecum.
In addition, his HR/FB rate was just 5.6% vs a career rate over 14%. I see him giving up a few more HRs in 2011, as his 2010 FB rate is not sustainable. He has one thing going for him, as his GB rate was around 51% last year, which is what you want from a starting pitcher.Actually, in a perfect world, fantasy owners would like their starting pitchers to have a GB rate around 50% and a K/9 around 9.00. The Red Sox infield defense may not suffer from the loss of Adrian Beltre, as the addition of Adrian Gonzalez and moving Kevin Youkilis to third base may actually improve the Red Sox infield defense.
But, I don't see Buchholz repeating his terrific 2010 stats in 2011. His strand rate will drop closer to the league average of 70%, his BABIP will regress closer to league average around .300, therefore increasing his ERA as a result. Wins are very unpredictable, and counting on a pitcher to win 17 games again comes with risk.
With all that said, I think fantasy owners should not expect Buchholz to repeat the success he had in 2010, and if he is drafted before the 11th or 12th round, owners will be disappointed with his performance in 2011.