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Entries in Clay Buchholz (11)

Wednesday
May152013

The Red Sox Regression

Take a look at the AL East standings on April 19 and the Red Sox results since.

On April 19:

April 19 - May 15, 2013:

Nobody could have expected the Sox to have maintained their torrid start, so a regression was expected and occurred.

Let's examine some reasons for the Sox return to Earth 

  • The Red Sox team ERA through April 19 was 2.69; since, 4.82.
  • Starters ERA through April 19 was 2.23; since, 4.67.
  • Relievers ERA through April 19 was 3.43; since, 5.16. 

Take a look at some individual differences

The Sox are heavily reliant upon their top three starters in their rotation and they have regressed:

  • Up to April 19, Clay Buchholz had a 0.41 ERA, after, a still very good, 2.45 
  • Up to April 19, Jon Lester had a 1.73 ERA, after a fair, 3.71 
  • Up to April 19, Ryan Dempster had a 2.65 ERA, after, a very shaky, 4.35

The Bullpen

Their bullpen has been hit with a season-ending injury to Joel Hanrahan and a DL-inducing injury to Andrew Bailey.

However:

  • Up to April 19, Junichi Tazawa had a 1.12 ERA, after, a not very good, 5.40 
  • Up to April 19, Koji Uehara had a 0.00 ERA, after, a not very good, 4.50

Let's move to the offense, which has improved

  • Up to April 19, the team was hitting .257, with an OBP of .333, and slugging .411. 
  • Since April 19, the team is hitting .270, with an OBP of .345, and slugging .459.

The individual batting averages have been a mixed bag before and after April 19

So, where's the rub?

  • Up to April 19, the team was hitting .305 with runners in scoring position.
  • Since April 19, the team is hitting .255 w/RISP.

  • With runners in scoring position both Dustin Pedroia and Daniel Nava have been consistently good with numbers over .300 before and after April 19. 
  •  Since April 19, Stephen Drew has gone from .000 to .368 w/RISP and Jonny Gomes has gone from .000 to .286. 
  •  But it has hurt that the red-hot Mike Napoli has dropped from .333 to .258 since April 19. 
  • Jacoby Ellsbury has gone from .400 to .118 since April 19. 
  • And Saltalamacchia and Middlebrooks have both been ineffective all season long with runners in scoring position.

Perhaps you are wondering why I chose April 19th as my cutoff date

You see, on April 20 David Ortiz made his season's debut.

And while you certainly can't complain about Big Papi's .329 average with five homers and 20 RBI or his .321 average w/RISP, you do have to wonder if the team let down after his return or it was simply an expected regression to the mean.

We'll learn a ot more about this team over the next 25 games.

Sunday
May052013

The Buchholz enigma - Strikeouts: Looking vs. Swinging and Missing

As I was reading David Golebiewski's dive into the Clay Buchholz controversy, it got me wondering about strikeouts - what does a swinging strikeout tell us versus a looking at a called third strike strikeout?

A pair of positives come to mind: 

  • A pitcher who is getting swings and misses obviously has nasty stuff that is often in the strike zone, but too difficult to hit.
  • A pitcher who is getting batters to take a third strike is obviously throwing a good mix of stuff, changing locations and speed, and working the black. 

And a pair of negatives come to mind: 

  • A pitcher who is getting misses is inducing swings and anytime a swing happens, well as the expression goes "other things" can happen as well.
  • A pitcher who is getting batters to take pitches, you are umpire dependent and control dependent, meaning if the control is off, as the expression goes other things can happen as well. 

2012 AL Starters (minimum 30 starts)

As I looked at the AL strikeout elite last season, I found that the top pitchers had significantly more whiffs swinging than looking. 

It's interesting to note that two Rays pitchers had the most called third strikes and among the smallest differentials: Cy Young Award winner David Price had just 37 and Jamies Shields, now of the Royals, had 95.

Among pitchers with with at least 100 swings and miss whiffs, Ricky Romero had the fewest call third strikes with just 18. Based on his lack of success it obvious that batters wanted to swing at Romero's pitches.

Take a look at the the 2012 totals

2013 AL Starters (minimum 5 starts entering action on May 5)

 

  • Yu Darvish is dazzling batters who are unable to make contact with his pitches.
  • Scherzer and Felix are dominating once again.
  • Anibal Sanchez as we all know has been dominant.
  • Maybe under appreciated are Ryan Dempster and Hisashi Iwakuma.
  • David Price is doing what he did last season in strikeouts but is his minimal differential a reflection of his 6.25 ERA?

 

The Buchholz enigma

That brings us to the case of Clay Buchholz, who is way down on the swing and miss list, but through the roof on called third strikes.

 

  • Conspiracists in the Jack Morris camp would say, Buchholz' pitches are moving funny and are not being read well by batters.
  • Red Sox Nation would say, Buchholz' mix of pitches and sharp control are simply freezing batters as he replicates the success of Price last season.

 

After all is said and done, the numbers indicate the efficacy of pitchers getting batters to swing and miss versus take a called third strike. But you can't argue with success of the outliers: Price and Buchholz.

Time will tell, but I look forward to hearing what you think of the Buchholz enigma.

Saturday
May042013

Buchholz to Batters: Made You Look

After a mediocre, low-strikeout 2012 season, Clay Buchholz is missing lots of bats while emerging as first-place Boston's ace. Buchholz has struck out 47 hitters in 44.2 innings pitched (9.5 K/9), a marked improvement over the 6.1 batters per nine he put down last season. A certain mustachioed color commentator thinks Buchholz is taking a page out of Gaylord Perry's playbook by throwing a spitter, a charge that Buchholz vehemently denies:

"Loading up with what, rosin?" Buchholz said. "I get wet from my hair. Are they talking about the stains on my shirt? There probably are stains on my shirt, because I've been wearing the same shirt for the last three years." (ESPNBoston.com)

Whatever the truth value of Jack Morris' spitball claim, can we all at least agree it's time for Clay to do some laundry? Ick. Whether by spitball or sheer smell of his uni, Buchholz has induced plenty of Ks this season by freezing hitters. Overall, about a quarter of the strikeouts registered by pitchers this season have been called strike threes. But more than half of Buchholz's strikeouts been of the looking variety:

Most looking strikeouts among MLB starters, 2013

The vast majority of Buchholz's looking Ks (18) have been on fastballs, with just a few curves and cutters sprinkled in. He's catching righties and lefties alike with glove-side pitches thrown just off the corner of the rule book-defined strike zone:

Location of Buchholz's looking strikeouts

Maybe he's throwing a spitter. Or, maybe his well-worn shirt is offending hitters' olfactory senses enough that it's hard for them to swing. Either way, Buchholz's big increase in Ks means his breakout passes the smell test.