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Sunday, April 17, 2011

FANTASY BASEBALL TREND OR MIRAGE: CLAY BUCHHOLZ' STRUGGLES EARLY IN THE SEASON


Heading into the 2011 fantasy baseball season, many were high on Boston Red Sox SP Clay Buchholz and looking at his stats from last season, its easy to see why.  Buchholz finished a Cy Young worthy season with a record of 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA and 1.20 WHIP and surely seemed to cement himself as one of the best starters in the game.  So when 2011 drafts came around, Buchholz found himself drafted among the second and third tier is starters with the full expectations that he would replicate or even do better than his 2010 line.  So that brings us to present day and through three starts of the new season, Buchholz has a scary 6.60 ERA and 1.73 WHIP with an 0-2 record.  Talk about going from one extreme to another.  Surely those fantasy baseball owners who invested here as wondering what the heck is going on and trying to determine if this is legit struggles or if its nothing more than a dry spell.  So in out latest edition of Trend or Mirage, lets break it down in order to figure out where Buchholz will go from here and if there is the likeliehood of him returning to the digits he reached last season.

Looking a bit deeper at Buchholz and his struggles, the first thing that I must address is the fact I collared him as one of the bigger fantasy baseball busts for this season and with good reason.  In fact what we are seeing right now from Buchholz is not a shock to me at all and I will explain why.  As most of you who are avid readers know, I am a big proponent of advanced stats in evaluating fantasy baseball players and especially the stat called BABIP.  BABIP measures only the things a pitcher can control such as walks, hit batters, home runs, and strikeouts.  A composite ERA , which is called a FIP ERA, is calculated based on these criteria and its used to give a more realistic portrayal of how effective a pitcher really is.  In other words it eliminates the defense that can make a starter look better or worse than he really is and Buchholz was the poster child for benefitting from this last season.  More specifically, Buchholz had a FIP ERA of 3.61 last season which was a far cry from the 2.33 mark he put up officially last season.  That signals that Buchholz got lucky with the batter ball in the sense that many line drives were hit right at defenders or that the top notch Boston defense from 2010 helped minimize any potential damage throughout.  Buchholz was more or less a slightly better than average pitcher last season based on the FIP ERA and that doesn't even take into account the fact he is not a good strikeout pitcher. 

Looking more into the K's, Buchholz only rang up 120 strikeouts last season which is a very low total.  When you factor in that Buchholz pitches in by far the toughest division in baseball, you can see where trouble would arise from the lack of missing bats.  Its a major necessity to be able to strike people out in the AL East Beast and Buchholz simply doesn't have that gift which would help lessen damage and opponents' rallies.  Throw in the fact Buchholz' control escapes him from time to time, along with the regression in luck, and you have a combustible situation of big time declining ratios for this season which we are seeing here.  Surely Buchholz is not this bad but he wont be anywhere near what he did last season as well.  Ultimately Buchholz should settle into the mid-to-high-3.00 ERA range and not have a helpful amount of strikeouts to boot.  All in all, Clay Buchholz will go down as a decent-sized bust for 2011 fantasy baseball as a result.

Verdict Clay Buchholz' Struggles:  TREND

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