Source: Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference. Fangraphs stats accurate as of 4:54 AM ET, May 7, 2014. Baseball-Reference stats accurate as of 7:17 PM ET, May 7, 2014.
Wednesday night, Toronto Blue Jays broadcasters Dirk Hayhurst and Jack Morris started the debate that has got the baseball world talking. Buchholz pitched a good game – 7ip 2h 8k 3bb 0r – Hayhurst and Moris began questioning if Buchholz was “cheating”.
He very clearly kept going to touch his left forearm with the index and middle fingers on his pitching hand. There was also a certain shine to that left forearm that was not there on his right arm, and that shine was not on his left arm during 2012 or Spring Training this year.
This picture is a much better close-up than the best screenshot I tried to take from the video. But they are from the same start.
Buchholz has offered a response and many have speculated. My opinion is that there is a very apparent shine to that arm. But the questions “What really is it?” and “Is it cheating?” are not up to me to decide. If I were to speculate, I would most likely be wrong too. Is it baby lotion? Is it pine tar? Is sun tan lotion? Is it something else? Is it a combination of things? Or is it simply that his left arm sweats more than his right arm out of the blue this season?
Here is Buchholz’s 2012, 2013 and career statistics to compare.
No matter what is going on, cheating or not, Buchholz is pitching at a very high level. There are also a few things that need to be remembered, again cheating or not. The first thing to remember is Buchholz threw a no-hitter in his second career start, on September 1, 2007, against the Baltimore Orioles while striking out nine batters.
Buchholz was also named the No. 51 prospect in baseball at the end of the 2006 season by Baseball America. This is before he threw the no-hitter. Then at the end of 2007, coming into 2008, Baseball America ranked him as the No. 4 prospect in baseball — only behind Jay Bruce, Evan Longoria and Joba Chamberlain.
The third thing to take into account is that before an injury plagued season in 2011, he went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA in 2010. He was an All-Star and finished sixth in the American League Cy Young ballot. Which leads me to my final thing to be taken into account — he entered this 2013 season at age 28. This is about the age where many players begin to reach their peaks.
He had the potential to be a dominate pitcher all along. Then when he was just 25 he put up the above mentioned 2010 numbers. So the fact that he is really good should be no surprise to anyone. He had injury issues in 2011, only starting 14 games. Then in 2012, there was the well-publicized Boston scenario that led to their manager, Bobby Valentine, being fired after one season and them trading away star players.
Now let’s look at some interesting sabermetric differences, while keeping in mind that the sample size is pretty small – at only 44.2 innings pitched so far in 2013.
Buchholz is having a career year in terms of striking out batters. He is currently striking out 9.47 batters per nine innings. His career, which includes the 2013 numbers has him averaging 6.85 batters per nine innings.
Batters have also only hit a .176 average off of Buchholz so far in 2013. This is not just a “lucky” fluke because of the small sample size either. If you add thirty-two points to his batting average allowed, which is the difference in his career BABIP and his 2013 BABIP, hitters would still be only hitting .208 off of him on the season. That is an average allowed, that over a season most any starter would take in a heart beat.
Buchholz has also left 91.4 percent of baserunners on base so far in 2013. Fangraphs also has him speeding up his pace, taking less time between pitches than he ever has.
Buchholz has been getting more movement on his pitches this year which is where the substance really is playing into in the minds of people and leading to the above mentioned results.
Click for Full Sizes.
That’s it. I have given you all the tools. Pictures, videos and statistics. Now you should better be able to come to a conclusion about what is going on with Buchholz and the effect of recent allegations.
Met RHP Matt Harvey and Red Sox Clay Buchholz are tied for the MLB lead with 4 wins each. Astros RHP Philip Humber leads the MLB in losses with 4. Giants RHP Sergio Romo has the MLB lead with 8 saves.
Buchholz has pitched 30 innings to lead the MLB. He pitched 7 innings in each of his first two starts. Then he pitched 8 innings in each of his third and fourth starts.
Tigers RHP Max Scherzer leads all innings qualified pitchers with at a 14.21 strikeouts per nine innings rate. Twins RHP Kevin Correia, 3.38 K/9, is the lowest. Correia’s has a 2.95 earned run average. Scherzer has a 2.84 ERA.
Giants RHP Tim Lincecum so far has walked 5.56 batters per nine innings, the highest rate in the MLB. Cardinals RHP Adam Wainwright (29ip) and Athletics RHP Bartolo Colon (19ip) each have not walked a batter in 2013.
Twins RHP Vance Worley has allowed the worst batting average on balls in play, .403, among innings qualified pitchers. He has a career .316 BABIP allowed. Mariners RHP Hisashi Iwakuma has allowed a MLB low .119 BABIP, so far in 2013.
Athletics LHP Brett Anderson has generated the highest ground ball rate, 65.5 percent, among innings qualified pitchers. Orioles LHP Wei-Yin Chen, 29.7 percent, has the lowest rate.
Clay Buchholz and Nationals LHP Ross Detwiler each have a 0.90 ERA, tied for the lowest among innings qualified pitchers. Padres RHP Edinson Volquez’s 8.84 ERA is the highest.
Adam Wainwright has the highest wins above replacement, 1.5, for a pitcher so far in 2013.
In 18.2 innings in 2013 Rays RHP Roberto Hernandez (Formerly Fausto Carmona) has intentionally walked 3 hitters to lead the MLB. He only intentionally walked 3 hitters in 659.1 innings pitched, 114 games, between 2008 and 2012.
Edinson Volquez has leads the MLB with 5 wild pitches.
Tigers RHP Justin Verlander has thrown 439 pitches, the most so far in 2013.
Ross Detwiler has thrown a fastball 92.5 percent of the time so far in 2013, to lead innings qualified pitchers. Outside of Blue Jays knuckleballer, R.A. Dickey, Rangers RHP Yu Darvish has thrown the fewest percentage of fastballs, 30.6 percent.
Among innings qualified pitchers Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg has averaged the fastest fastball, 95.7 miles per hour. When you include relievers, basically anyone who’s pitched in 2013, Cardinals RHP Trevor Rosenthal has the highest average fastball velocity at 97.7mph.
Reds LHP Aroldis Chapman’s average fastball has dipped year of his career so far and the trend has continued into 2013.
- 2010: 99.6 mph. 15 games.
- 2011: 98.1 mph. 54 games.
- 2012: 98.0 mph. 68 games.
- 2013: 97.1 mph. 10 games.
The two lowest average fastball velocities in the MLB among innings qualified pitchers, are both on the Blue Jays. R.A. Dickey’s fastball has averaged 82.2 mph and LHP Mark Buehrle’s has averaged 84.7 mph.
Batters have swung at 39.3 percent of Adam Wainwright’s pitches outside the zone so far in 2013, to lead all innings qualified pitchers. Also among innings qualified pitchers, hitters have been most patient hitting off of Diamondbacks RHP Trevor Cahill, swinging at only 37.1 percent of his total pitches.
Hitters have only made contact on 61.7 percent of Red Sox RHP Ryan Dempster’s pitches so far in 2013, the lowest rate among innings qualified pitchers.
Cardinals rookie RHP Shelby Miller has thrown a first pitch strike 73.2 percent of the time, to lead the MLB. Batters have a .768 On-base plus slugging after Miller starts a plate appearance with a ball so far in 2013. When he starts the count with a first pitch strike batters only have a .404 OPS. Padres RHP Jason Marquis has started with a first pitch strike only 46.3 percent of the time, the lowest percentage in the MLB.
Source: Fangraphs & Baseball-Reference. Stats as of Sun. April 21, 2013 4:18 AM ET
Two Tigers outfielders, Tori Hunter and Austin Jackson lead the MLB with 24 hits each.
Braves OF, Justin Upton leads the MLB with 8 home runs. He didn’t hit his first home run of the season in 2012, until April 23. It took him 365 plate appearances and until July 20, to hit his eighth home run in 2012. He currently sits at 57 PA for the 2013 season.
Mets catcher, John Buck is doing his best to try to keep prospect Travis d’Arnaud in the minors. Buck is tied for MLB lead with 19 runs batted in. He had 18 RBI last season through June 26. So in terms of batting runners home he is about 41 games ahead of his 2012 pace in Miami. Buck also already has 6 home runs, a plateau he did not reach until June 24 last season.
Reds 1B, Joey Votto has walked in 1/3 of his 63 plate appearances in 2013. Votto did not qualify for the batting title in 2012 due to injuries, but among players with at least 450 PA in 2012 Joey Votto led the MLB with a 19.3 percent walk rate.
Starlin Castro has had 58 plate appearances in 2013 and walked ZERO times.
Braves 3B, Chris Johnson leads the MLB with a .500 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play). Braves OF, Jason Heyward has the second worst BABIP among qualified players sitting at .091.
Two players in the MLB currently have a .500 On-base percentage, or better. They are Joey Voto with a .556 OBP and Lance Berkman with a .500 OBP.
The best fielder in the MLB thus far has been Matt Dominguez according to the fielding leaderboard on Fangraphs. For what it’s worth, I will say that defensive sabermetrics are something I do not completely buy into. However it is hard to argue against the fact that the same leader board rates Ryan Zimmerman and Shin-Soo Choo as the worst two fielders in the majors thus far in 2013.
Speaking of Reds outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, he has been hit by seven pitches already in 2013. No team, other than Choo’s team the Reds, has been hit more than seven times as a whole.
Royals 2B Chris Getz, has seen the highest percentage of pitches being fastballs, 76.1 percent, in the MLB. Pirates 3B Pedro Alvarez, has seen the lowest percentage of pitches being fastballs, 39.9 percent, in the MLB.
Reds 1B Joey Votto, has swung the bat on pitches outside of the zone 13 percent of the time, the lowest rate in the MLB. Giants 3B Pablo Sandoval, has swung at 46.9 percent of pitches outside the zone, the highest rate in the MLB. Overall Sandoval is swinging the bat at 60.6 percent of the pitches he has seen, also the highest rate in the MLB. Mets OF Lucas Duda, beats Voto here, in terms of swinging at the least percentage of pitches seen – 29.9 percent.
Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons and Brewers OF Carlos Gomez each have been in a 0-1 count at the highest rate in the MLB, each seeing a first pitch strike 76.1 percent of the time.
Pirates 3B Pedro Alvarez has a 19.7 percent swinging strike percentage to lead the MLB. And maybe the statistic that sticks out to me most in this whole post is the fact that in 51 plate appearances in 2013 Marlins 3B, Placido Polanco, has a swinging strike percentage of 0.0 percent, according to Fangraphs. This is just phenomenal bat control, and even though it really sticks out to me I am going to trust Fangraphs is right, like usual. I mean that is just crazy to think about, he has seen 176 pitches in 2013 against some of the best pitchers on the planet and he has not swung and missed at any of those pitches.
Source: Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference. Stats through April 17, 2013 games.
Since the beginning of the 2010 season nobody has more hits than Robinson Cano. The Yankees second baseman has 540 hits since the beginning of the decade.
Joey Votto’s 19.08 Fangraphs WAR is the highest over this time period. Chone Figgin’s -1.0 WAR is the lowest.
Austin Jackson’s .374 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) is the best of qualifying players. Vernon Wells is on the opposite side of the with a .242 BABIP.
Derek Jeter has hit the lowest percentage of fly balls hit at 17.2%.
Ichiro has the most infield hits, 113, since 2010. Second place Derek Jeter, has 76 infield hits.
Since the beginning of 2010 Brett Gardner has only swung the bat at 33.2% of pitches he has seen.
Joey Votto has the highest OPS, 1.034, in road games since 2010. Nobody else has a OPS over 0.988 in this time frame.
Since the beginning of 2010 Carlos Gonzalez has a home 1.087 OPS but only a 0.749 OPS in road games.
Roy Halladay’s 17 complete games are the most since the start of 2010. Cliff Lee has 7 shutouts leading Major League Baseball.
Bronson Arroyo has allowed the most home runs, 98.
A.J. Burnett has hit the most batters, 34, and wild pitches, 46.
Justin Verlander has thrown 10,771 pitches since the start of 2010 to lead the MLB.
Cliff Lee has the best first pitch for strike percentage at 68.4 percent. Edinson Volquez has the worst percentage at 53.6 percent.
Follow @DavidCoatsII on Twitter.
*Statistics from Fangraphs and are through August 28, 2012.