Clay Buchholz 2012 vs. 2013

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.

Here he is during Spring Training in 2013:
Here is a screenshot I took from that video:

clay spring training 2013

Click for Full Size.

This is Clay Buchholz, again pitching in Toronto, on September 15, 2012:

Here is a screenshot I took from this video:

clay 2012

Click for Full Size.

Here is the video that started the discussion from Wednesday.

No great spot to clearly point out the shininess in a screenshot here.  So I went to Twitter and found a picture:

Clay Wednesday

Source: Twitter

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 Tom Verducci’s take on SI.com.
Here is the story by Gordon Edes on ESPN.

Here is Buchholz’s 2012, 2013 and career statistics to compare.

Year Age Tm W L ERA GS CG SHO IP R ER HBP WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 27 BOS 11 8 4.56 29 2 1 189.1 104 96 12 1.326 8.9 1.2 3.0 6.1 2.02
2013 28 BOS 6 0 1.01 6 0 0 44.2 5 5 0 0.963 5.4 0.2 3.2 9.5 2.94
7 Yrs 52 32 3.73 111 5 3 681.0 311 282 24 1.314 8.3 0.9 3.5 6.8 1.95
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/3/2013.

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.
Vertical MovementHorizaontal Movement
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.

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My 2012 MLB All-Star Ballot

The Starters:

National League:
Catcher:  Carlos Ruiz, Phillies
First Base:  Joey Votto, Reds
Second Base:  Brandon Phillips, Reds
Third Base:  David Wright, Mets
Shortstop:  Jed Lowrie, Astros
Outfield:  Ryan Braun, Brewers     Michael Bourn, Braves     Melky Cabrera, Giants
DH:  Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies

American League:
Catcher: A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox
First Base:  Paul Konerko, White Sox
Second Base:  Robinson Cano, Yankees
Third Base: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
Shortstop:  Elvis Andrus, Rangers
Outfield: Josh Hamilton, Rangers     Adam Jones, Orioles     Mike Trout, Angels
DH:  Derek Jeter, Yankees

Pitching Staffs:

National League:
R.A. Dickey, Mets (Starter)
Craig Kimbrel (Closer)
Matt Cain, Giants
Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
Johnny Cueto, Reds
Lance Lynn, Cardinals
Aroldis Chapman, Reds
Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies
Wade Miley, Diamondbacks
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Tyler Clippard, Nationals
Santiago Casilla, Giants
Joel Hanrahan, Pirates
Gio Gonzalez, Nationals
James McDonald, Pirates

American League:
Justin Verlander, Tigers (Starter)
Fernando Rodney, Rays (Closer)
Chris Sale, White Sox
C.J. Wilson, Angels
Jake Peavy, White Sox
CC Sabathia, Yankees
Ryan Cook, Athletics
Joe Nathan, Rangers
Chris Perez, Indians
Felix Hernandez, Mariners
Jim Johnson, Orioles
Scott Downs, Angels
Tim Collins, Royals

Bench:

National League:
Backup Catcher:  Yadier Molina, Cardinals
Starlin Castro, Cubs
Carlos Beltran, Cardinals
Chase Headley, Padres
Dan Uggla, Braves
Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
Andre Ethier, Dodgers
Martin Prado, Braves

American League:
Backup Catcher:  Joe Mauer, Twins
Alex Gordon, Royals
Mark Trumbo, Angels
David Ortiz, Red Sox
Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays
Mike Moustakas, Royals
Adam Dunn, White Sox
Josh Reddick, Athletics
Curtis Granderson, Yankees
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox

Final Vote: 

National League:
Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks
Jose Reyes, Marlins
Jose Altuve, Astros (My Choice)
Jay Bruce,Reds

American League:
Mark Teixeira, Yankees
Josh Willingham, Twins
Chris Davis, Orioles
Adrian Beltre, Rangers (My Choice)