The case for Clay Buchholz as an A.L. All-Star

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BOSTON -- If you take a look at Clay Buchholz's 7-6 record and 3.27 ERA, you don't think All-Star.

But look a little closer and you might start to change your mind.

Buchholz had one really, really bad start this season, on April 12, when he allowed nine earned runs in 3 1/3 innings to the Yankees. If you take away that game, Buchholz's ERA is 2.63, which would be the eighth-lowest in the American League. (His 3.27 ERA is 15th). 

Obviously, you can't just pretend that game doesn't exist . . . and if you take out Buchholz's worst game, you have to take out everybody else's. But the point is that he's pitched a lot better than his ERA and record (due to poor run support) show. There have been a couple blips other than that game, but overall Buchholz has authored out ace-like performances for most of the season. As illustrated by the fact that he's in the Top 10 in some other important categories, including strikeouts (104, ninth), innings pitched (110, eighth) and  WAR (2.4, 10th).

We'll even go one step further in the analytics field and look at Buchholz's FIP, which stands for Fielding Independent Pitching. FIP, according to sportingcharts.com, attempts to better measure the performance of pitchers by looking at what they can control (strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches and home runs) and taking out the impact from fielders. Feel free to look at the formula, but otherwise just know that Buchholz's FIP is 2.56, which ranks him fifth in all of MLB, behind Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, and Chris Archer. He's ahead of sure-fire A.L. All-Stars David Price, Sonny Gray, and Dallas Kuechel.

Buchholz threw his ninth career complete game on Saturday. He's won five consecutive decisions and has pitched at least seven innings in all of them, allowing one run or less and posting a 4-0 record with an 0.87 ERA. Over his last 10 starts, his ERA is 1.99.

The key for Buchholz has simply been staying on the field. He said on Saturday that he's in the best shape of his life. The numbers will back that up. Buchholz's hot start to 2013 was halted by injury, but that occurred in mid-June. We're already into July and he's still going strong.

"Just stayed with the strength and conditioning part of it on a more consistent level anyways," Buchholz said of why he feels so good right now. "I'm getting a little older, I'm not able to go out there and throw 95-mph, 96-mph without playing catch for four days. Just one of those things that you learn by going through ups and downs and I feel like I've found a pretty good niche as far as what I need to do to be ready."

Buchholz may not have the best overall numbers heading into the All-Star break, but he's up there with the best and on a stretch that has him pitching better than almost everyone else. Many of whom will be heading to Cincinnati next week.

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