Buchhing the Trend?

There’s a bit of debate brewing among Red Sox-affiliated statheads over the performance of Clay Buchholz — well, not so much the performance as the causes.

One school of thought — and I think I agree with this one because, in part, it’s a lot better than believing the alternative, and I believe in hope and change and a future where Clay Buchholz is a good pitcher. Yes. We. Can. — says that Buchholz has been mediocre and unluckly, leading to terrible results. The other says Buchholz has been terrible, and that has led to terrible results.

In case, we’ve forgotten, Buchholz is sporting a decidedly unpretty 6.38 ERA and 1.74 WHIP in 15 games this season, never minding the 2-8 record and the facts that he’s winless in his last eight starts, and that the Sox have lost seven of those games (during which he has an 8.61 ERA and a .974 OPS against).

The arguments for the "unlucky!" side break down like so:

  • Buchholz’s BABIP is extraordinarily high (.368 versus an average of .300).
  • His BABIP is still very high even when accounting for all the line drives he gives up (.368 versus a LD% + .110 of .328).
  • In actuality, his line drive percentage is lower than Mike Mussina’s, Roy Oswalt’s and a bunch of other good or better pitchers.
  • His home run rate, while high at 1.34, is no worse than that of Paul Byrd, Vicente Padillia and Ted Lilly — not good pitchers, but all of whom have ERAs below 5.
  • His high walk rate is troublesome, and it — combined with bad luck — winds up leading to big trouble when the high home run rate comes into play. His Fielding-Independent Pitching ERA is a much-better 4.65
  • Anecdotally (of course!), Buchholz has allowed a lot of cheapie hits right before giving up home runs (as in his last start, when both two-run homers were preceded by bad-luck hits).

The arguments for the "terrible!" break down like so:

  • Buchholz walks a ton of guys (BB/9 would rank fifth among qualified pitchers).
  • Buchholz gives up a lot of home runs (HR/9 would tie for 13th among qualified pitchers).
  • Therefore, a lot of men are on base when he gives up his frequent home runs.
  • He has developed his own Derek Lowe Face, leading to concerns about his makeup.
  • He pitches much worse with runners on, leading to concerns about both makeup and ability to pitch from the stretch.

A good excerpt of the debate is here. MGL of The Book blog, in an unnecessarily pedantic post (it is The Book, after all), says Buchholz has a better chance of piching well going forward than Paul Byrd does.

I don’t know the answer. It may be a little of both sides. Bad luck combined with poor performance leading to even worse performance. The good news is the Sox don’t need Buchholz to be a great pitcher right now. They just need him to be a mediocre one. That, the stats seem to show, is certainly doable.

17 comments… add one
  • Clay and Phil, the no-hit wonderkids: look where they are now. Reminds me of this piece from February:
    http://yanksfansoxfan.typepad.com/ysfs/2008/02/the-new-math.html

    YF August 20, 2008, 1:17 pm
  • Phil has a no-hitter in the record books?

    SF August 20, 2008, 1:27 pm
  • You forgot IPK, YF ;-)

    Atheose August 20, 2008, 1:41 pm
  • Hughes took a no-no into the 7th in his 2nd ML start before being pulled for the hamstring injury that killed most of his 07 season.

    YF August 20, 2008, 2:26 pm
  • here’s one from january ’07 (back when john was trisk). i attempted to start the first masterson bandwagon while he was still in single A lancaster. the hughes hype machine was in full effect.
    http://www.yfsf.org/2007/01/going_out_stron.html

    sf rod August 20, 2008, 2:31 pm
  • I didn’t realize almost no-hitters counted now. ;-)

    LocklandSF August 20, 2008, 2:31 pm
  • if we’re calling the hughes 7 inning affair a no hitter….don’t forget devern hansack’s 5 inning rainout no no on the last game of the ’06 season.

    sf rod August 20, 2008, 2:39 pm
  • Hughes took a no-no into the 7th in his 2nd ML start before being pulled for the hamstring injury that killed most of his 07 season.
    Yeah, I know. Don’t think that qualifies.
    But we all grab onto what we want to in these uncertain times, right?
    ;-)

    SF August 20, 2008, 2:41 pm
  • Haha, that thread is great Rod, so much Phranchise hype!!

    LocklandSF August 20, 2008, 2:43 pm
  • That thread is pretty funny. I like this:
    I predict Philip Hughes will have a better first five seasons than Kyle Snyder.
    Posted by: Paul SF | Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 04:22 PM

    There’s still time, Phil!!

    SF August 20, 2008, 3:07 pm
  • It’s Clay’s armslot.
    Jesus. Don’t you guys know anything?

    I'm Bill McNeal August 20, 2008, 5:55 pm
  • Can we at least agree now that if there is a hype-machine for yankee prospects the same thing exists for Sox prospects?
    Buchholz was the second coming for some SFs…

    Sam-YF August 20, 2008, 10:20 pm
  • That thread was fucking hysterical. It would serve this blog to pull up all of that aged nonsense and feature it.

    Dirty Water August 20, 2008, 11:27 pm
  • Top 100 Prospects 2007
    1. Delmon Young (OF, TAM) 10D
    2. Alex Gordon (3B, KC) 9A
    3. Daisuke Matsuzaka (RHP, BOS) 9B
    4. Justin Upton (OF, ARI) 10E
    5. Homer Bailiey (RHP, CIN) 9B
    6. Philip Hughes (RHP, NYY) 9B
    7. Brandon Wood (SS, LAA) 9B
    8. Jay Bruce (OF, CIN) 9B
    9. Billy Butler (OF, KC) 9B
    10. Cameron Maybin (OF, DET) 9C
    Of those top 10 how many are certified stars? Bruce is on his way. Upton maybe. Daisuke is in the running for the AL Cy Young. With the exception of Maybin, all of those guys (except Daisuke, Upton and Bruce) have played and severely underachieved. It’s amazing that even the scouts be so far off. (That top 10 was courtesy of Ron Shandler and BaseballHQ.)
    As for Hughes he is still far too young to write him off.

    John - YF August 21, 2008, 8:52 am
  • There is a hype machine for every team’s prospects. There is more than one machine, although it’s fun (for some, not me of course) to say it’s just the Yankees.

    John - YF August 21, 2008, 8:56 am
  • The whole idea that there is a hype machine for Yanks/Sox prospects is way overstated, especially during this period of baseball fandom when Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus have all become more or less mainstream. There is a relatively new recognition of the importance of young, talented and cheap players to the success of any franchise. Fans of every team know this. Mainstream writers know this (for the most part) and so there’s a lot more ink spilled now about prospects such as Hughes, Clay, Alex Gordon, Jay Bruce, Homer Bailey (remember him?).That thread that sf-rod referenced just shows the excitement for rising prospects felt by a lot of fans these days, no matter the team. It doesn’t demonstrate the Yanks hype machine. It reveals one aspect of human nature.

    Nick-YF August 21, 2008, 9:11 am
  • Even more to the point. It wasn’t just Yanks execs and New York media types hyping Hughes. Just as it wasn’t Boston people solely touting Buccholz. These guys topped lists in BA, BP and countless other impartial prospect lists. There was/is reason to be excited about these players, just as there was a reason to be excited about Jon Lester two years ago. And hey, Jon Lester is pretty good these days, ya think?

    Nick-YF August 21, 2008, 9:16 am

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