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.
According to Dodgers LA Times beat writer, Dylan Hernandez, the trade sending Adrian Gonzalez to the Dodgers from the Red Sox is official. I am not going into the winners or losers of the trade, what the trade might mean for Bobby Valentine’s future with the Red Sox, money, etc. I am just going to give a little information on the players involved, according to MLB Trade Rumors, in the trade.
The Red Sox Receive:
RHP Rubby De La Rosa
RHP Allen Webster
INF Ivan De Jesus
OF/1B Jerry Sands
1B James Loney
Rubby De La Rosa was the Dodgers minor league pitcher of the year in 2010. He was their third highest rated prospect in the Dodgers organization in the Baseball America Prospect Handbook in 2011. He did not qualify as a prospect in the 2012 edition. De La Rosa started 10 games and appeared out of the bullpen 3 times for the Dodgers in 2011 pitching to a 3.71 ERA. Coming off Tommy John he has pitched 12 minor league innings in 2012 and 0.2 innings in the majors. He has not allowed a minor league earned run in 2012. He allowed 2 earned runs in his 0.2 innings with the Dodgers. The Baseball America Prospect Handbook in 2011 his fastball sits at 95-96 mph and has registered as high as 102 mph. He is able to hold the velocity deep into games & can find an extra gear when needed. He has two promising secondary pitches in his changeup and slider. The changeup sits at 85-89 mph with late fade. The slider has sharp, late break when he stays on top of it. Baseball America says he has the potential to become a No. 2 starter or a closer.
Allen Webster is a converted shortstop. The Baseball America Prospect Handbook 2012 has Webster as the second highest rated Dodger prospect with a 55-Medium grade. According to them his repertoire includes a 90-95 mph fastball that peaks at 97 mph with plenty of sink. He also throws a slider and a curveball that are plus pitches at times, but he can get caught between the two because he has trouble staying on top of his curveball. A changeup that features sink and fade at 79-83 mph might be his best pitch. Some scouts argue that he tips it by slowing his arm speed however. He compares to Derek Lowe and has the potential to become a No. 2 starter according to one Dodgers official in the Prospect Handbook. So far in 2012, Webster has pitched all season at Double-A Chattanooga and over 121.2 innings he has a 6-8 record with a 3.55 ERA.
Ivan De Jesus is ranked as the 26th best prospect in the Dodgers organization according to the Baseball America Prospect Handbook 2012. They graded him as a 40-Low. De Jesus has spent time in 2012 between AAA Albuquerque and the Dodgers. According to the Prospect Handbook he has an inside-out swing producing line drives from gap to gap with solid bat speed and he fits best at second base. He has gone 9-33 (.273) with 3 walks in his limited plate appearances with the Dodgers in 2012 scoring 5 runs and knocking in 4 RBI.
Jerry Sands lost his prospect title for the 2012 edition of the Baseball America Prospect Handbook. In the 2011 edition he was ranked as the sixth best prospect in the Dodgers system. He set multiple school records for NCAA Division II Catawba before being drafted in the 25th-round of the 2008 draft. He hit 35 homers between Low A Great Lakes and AA Chattanooga in 2010 on his way to being named as the Dodgers’ minor league player of the year. The 2011 Prospect Handbook says he has had some trouble laying off high fastballs at times, but he shows an aptitude for handling breaking pitches so he shouldn’t just be a one-dimensional slugger. He has spent time in the majors in 2012, but has spent the majority of his time at AAA Albuquerque batting .303/.380/.531 with 24 homers.
James Loney being sent to Red Sox has by far spent the most time in the majors of any player being sent the Red Sox way. He has never been a big time power threat at first base, but had a respectable .346 OBP from 2006-2011 for the Dodgers. But he has struggled in 2012 at the plate with a .646 OPS. From 2006-2011 he had a .778 OPS.
The Dodgers Receive:
RHP Josh Beckett
1B Adrian Gonzalez
OF Carl Crawford
INF Nick Punto
Josh Beckett has taken the mound for the Red Sox since 2006. He went 89-58 with a 4.17 ERA in his Boston career. In 2012, however he has gone 5-11 with a 5.23 ERA in 127.1 innings. When looking at his PitchFx (Fangraphs) you can notice a sharp drop in his average fastball velocity between 2011 and 2012. In 2011 his fastball averaged 93.1 mph, which has dropped to 91.6 mph in 2012. He also has gone away from throwing his fastball as much as he has done over his career. Over his career he has thrown his fastball 62.1 percent of the time, and in 2012 he has gone under 50 percent for the first time at 47.6 percent. Given, he has developed a cutter and has begun throwing it more. I just point it out because I think the drop in velocity has contributed a more prominent role for his cutter.
Adrian Gonzalez has had a productive and respectable 2012 season, but it has not been up to his standards set the past few years. His batting line from 2009-2011 was .306/.403/.536. In 2012, it has dropped to .300/.343/.469. This has led to a Fangraphs WAR drop from 6.6 in 2011 to 2.7 in 2012. He still offers possible gold glove defense at first base when healthy.
Carl Crawford was not the same player with the Red Sox that he was in Tampa Bay. That has been well documented. Part of that is injury, some say Boston was not a good fit for him, but for whatever the real reason the result has been a lower performance with the Red Sox. Crawford had a 7.6 Fangraphs WAR in 2010, his final year with the Tampa Bay Rays. But he had a combined 0.6 WAR in his year and a half in Boston. When playing a full season with the Rays he never stole less than 46 bases. He only totaled 23 stolen bases in his time with the Red Sox. I like sabermetrics in general, but one I do not completely side with are the defensive sabermetics. That being said it is worth noting his UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) saw him lose a great deal of range in the outfield. His UZR was never lower than 15.8 from 2008-2010. His UZR in 2011 was -2.2 and -1.7 in 2012. I question what role the Green Monster played in this, but either way I am just throwing the stat out there for you.
Nick Punto can play multiple defensive positions, but his hitting skills have never really stood out. He has a career .649 OPS. In 2011, he had a nice stink with the Cardinals on his way to a .809 OPS in 63 games. But in a comparable amount of plate appearances so far in 2012 he has seen his current .573 OPS. He has proved to be a nice utility player to have on a roster. He will fill in to the role Jerry Hariston Jr. had before getting injured.
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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
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
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
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
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
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
Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks
Jose Reyes, Marlins
Jose Altuve, Astros (My Choice)
Mark Teixeira, Yankees
Josh Willingham, Twins
Chris Davis, Orioles
Adrian Beltre, Rangers (My Choice)