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.