Can Clay Buchholz Rebound For The Red Sox In 2015?
Mike Newman’s piece on T.J. House emphasizes the opportunity for dynasty fantasy owners as the regular season nears completion: adding assets for 2015 on the cheap. Logging more than 20 starts this season for just the third time in his career, Clay Buchholz has been remarkably less effective than he was in 2013. On the year, the righty holds a 5.29 ERA, a sharp contrast to his 12-1 campaign with a 1.74 ERA and 7.98 K/9. Despite the warts, Buchholz is exactly the type of pitcher savvy owners acquire at the end of the season. Why is ROTOscouting suggesting a 30-year old injury-prone pitcher as a valuable acquisition for dynasty owners in 2015?
In 2013, Clay Buchholz again demonstrated issues with using ERA as a full measure of effectiveness. With a stellar win-loss record and a miniscule ERA, assuming Buchholz had finally arrived as a post-hype sleeper was a popular notion. Injuries aside, Buchholz’s xFIP was 3.41 (nearly double the ERA!) and his 83.7% left-on-base rate would have ranked second in baseball if he qualified. Still, the overall profile was impressive. With 7.98 K/9, 2.99 BB/9, and a groundball rate at 47.7%, the Texan was a few percentage points from fitting Mike’s “golden rule” for pitching success.
It’s too easy to point out the issues in Buchholz’s 2014 season. With a 5.29 ERA, fewer strikeouts, fewer wins, and yet another injury, even the most ardent Buchholz apologist could be forgiven for cutting bait. Yet something interesting is happening as the Red Sox pitcher rises from the ashes to give prudent (and forgiving) fantasy owners a chance to add a potential back-end rotation arm for next season.
Clay Buchholz looks like a different pitcher in the first and second halves of 2014. Ringing up a 5.42 ERA and .352 wOBA between April and June, a knee injury was the only respite to the Red Sox faithful. And in truth, if Buchholz’s second half stats indicated a complete turnaround, owners would not be hearing about a full-fledged recommendation to buy back in on the Boston rotation piece. But the last month of action shows Buchholz redeemed:
7.12 K/9, 1.57 BB/9, and a 51.0% groundball rate (August 12 thru September 10)
Did Buchholz magically switch back into the 2013 version? Start with pitch selection. In 2013, the righty used the four-seam fastball, cutter, and sinker (in order of frequency) 73.16% of the time. However, Buchholz used the sinker more with two strikes (28.85%), and more than either the four-seamer or the cutter. From the start of the 2014 season until the first week of August, Buchholz was predominantly a four-seam/cutter pitcher (55.97%) with sinker usage down considerably. With two strikes, he favored the four-seamer and cutter. It’s possible this change accounts for some of the difference in strikeout rate between 2013 and 2014.
Over the past month, Clay Buchholz’s pitch selection is different. His sinker usage is up (22.15%, second highest pitch frequency) and curveball usage is way up. Traditionally a positive-value pitch, Buchholz’s curveball is being thrown with similar tendency as the three other primary pitches. Perhaps most telling is Buchholz’s reliance on the sinker with two strikes, recently up to 31.64%. Based on a tangible change in the repertoire and the ensuing positive results, Buchholz may have righted the ship in time for a late season add in dynasty leagues.
Targeting Clay Buchholz for 2015
Mike Newman already pointed out House and Carlos Carrasco as owners of “sweet spot” ratios: 7+ K/9, <3 BB/9, and a 50.0%+ groundball rate. These types of pitchers fall through the cracks for plenty of reasons: perception of lesser stuff (or just pedestrian fastball velocity), no track records, or poor track records. On account of his injuries and inconsistencies, Buchholz fits into the latter category. With a poor 2014 campaign on a whole, Buchholz has been a casualty. If available in your dynasty league, use the important shift in pitch as reason to add Clay Buchholz.
12 Sep 2014 / Ben Flajole /
1-On-1 ROTO Strategy Session
The Best Of RS
- Can Alex "Chi-Chi" Gonzalez Crack the Texas Rangers Opening Day Rotation?
- Fantasy Baseball Trade Deadline 101: A Former MLB GM’s Take
- Felix Hernandez and Solo Home Run Situations: A Blueprint For Longevity
- JR Graham: Is He Still An MLB Arm For The Atlanta Braves?
- Mason Williams: Is It Time To Label Him A Bust For The Yankees?
- Mike Newman's Top-50 Fantasy Baseball Prospects Scouted in 2014
- Nick Kingham Scouting Report (2014)
- Rangers Joey Gallo, Marlins Giancarlo Stanton And Strikeouts
- The ROTOscouting Baseball Podcast
- Top-10 Fantasy Baseball Prospects By Team
- Will Mike Moustakas Finally Put It Together Next Season?