Clay Buchholz has been so bad this season, going 5-7 with a 6.20 ERA after going 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA last year, that the 29-year-old right-hander and Red Sox manager John Farrell are both being asked if he’s healthy or pitching through an injury.
Buchholz previously insisted that he’s healthy and here’s what Farrell told Ian Browne of MLB.com yesterday:
There’s nothing physical here. And by his own admission and [his] answers to that question repetitively, and every test that we do following a start, leading into a start, all those objective measures are fine.
If he’s not hurt, then what explains Buchholz’s terrible performance, especially on the heels on last season’s excellence?
Last season Buchholz allowed 75 hits and 23 runs in 108 innings.
This season Buchholz has allowed 126 hits and 75 runs in 102 innings.
Well, first of all last season’s dominance was a fluke, if only in that most pitchers posting a 1.74 ERA is at least somewhat a fluke and his secondary numbers were nowhere near that strong. And based on those same secondary numbers–strikeouts, walks, ground-ball rate–Buchholz has pitched more like a 4.50 ERA guy than a 6.20 ERA guy this year.
His career Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) is 4.13 and his xFIP this year is 4.43. If you trust those numbers then last season was a massive fluke and this season is merely a mediocre, 4.50 ERA-caliber pitcher who’s also been terribly unlucky on balls in play.
No surprise here: The Astros are headed back to the postseason to defend their title following a landslide 11-3 win over the Angels on Friday. This figures to be their third playoff run since 2015, though they have yet to wrap up the AL West with a division title.
First baseman Yuli Gurriel led the charge on Friday, smashing a grand slam in the first inning and tacking on a two-run homer in the second and RBI single in the fifth to help the Astros to a seven-run lead. The Angels eventually returned fire, first with Mike Trout‘s 418-foot homer in the sixth, then with an RBI hit from Francisco Arcia in the seventh, but they couldn’t close the gap in time to overtake the Astros.
On the mound, right-hander Gerrit Cole clinched his 15th win of the year after holding the Angels to seven innings of three-run, 12-strikeout ball. His sixth strikeout of the night — delivered on an 83.1-MPH knuckle curveball to Kaleb Cowart — also marked the 1,000th strikeout of his career to date. He was backed by flawless performances by lefty reliever Tony Sipp and rookie right-hander Dean Deetz, both of whom turned in scoreless innings as the offense barreled toward an 11-3 finish with Jake Marisnick‘s sac bunt and George Springer‘s three-run shot in the eighth.
Despite having qualified for the playoffs, the Astros still carry a magic number of 6 as they look to clinch a third straight division title. They’re currently up against the Athletics, who entered Friday’s contest against the Twins just four games back of first place in the AL West.