Clay Buchholz and the Red Sox insist he’s healthy despite ERA rising from 1.74 to 6.20

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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.