Clay Buchholz’s Repertoire on Display Against Stanton

On Tuesday night in Miami, Clay Buchholz had one of his best performances in recent memory, posting his highest single-game strikeout total (nine) since April of 2010 (when he struck out 10 at home against Texas) and second-lowest single-game xFIP (2.77) in over a year (box).

It’s probably not controversial to suggest that Buchholz has been somewhat mercurial in his brief-ish major-league career. Despite a no-hitter and a more or less successful 2010 campaign, Buchholz has a career xFIP that’s precisely league average.

Still, with a five-pitch repertoire, there’s always the sense that Buchholz has the potential to be something better than league average.

Not only did Buchholz utilize his entire repertoire on Tuesday — throwing a four-seamer, two-seamer, changeup, cutter, and curveball each at last 14 times, per Texas Leaguers’ PITCHf/x data — he actually threw his entire repertoire to Giancarlo Stanton alone, recording strikeouts in each of the pair’s three encounters.

What follows is footage of select pitches from each of Stanton’s three plate appearances against Buchholz, with a view, if nothing else, to documenting Buchholz’s repertoire at its best.

First Plate Appearance

Pitch Five: Curve, 80 mph
Movement: 9 inches gloveside, 2 inches of drop
Notes: Buchholz’s curveball generally has a more horizontal orientation than the “average” version of said pitch. Per our PITCHf/x data, league-average gloveside movement is ca. 5-6 inches; while drop (relative to spinless ball) is also about 6 inches. The footage below documents the significant horizontal movement on Buchholz’s curve rather well.

Pitch Six: Curve, 79 mph
Movement: 8 inches gloveside, 3 inches of drop
Notes: In terms of shape this is similar to the pitch above, although it cross the plate about a foot lower — and more than half a foot lower than the bottom of the strike zone, according to PITCHf/x

Second Plate Appearance

Pitch Five: Cutter, 89 mph
Movement: 1 inch armside, 8 inches of rise
Notes: This front-door cutter doesn’t look spectacular, but Stanton’s reaction — a quick sort of jerk backwards — suggests that there’s something effective about it. In terms of movement, it’s a pretty similar to Buchholz’s standard cut fastball. Still, it’s a pretty useful pitch to have on a 3-1 count — and well executed, in this particular case.

Pitch Six: Two-Seamer, 93 mph
Movement: 8 inches armside, 10 inches of rise
Notes: Our data show that Buchholz has used his two-seamer fewer than 5% of the time over the course of the season, but that, again, he threw 14 of them among his 103 pitches on Tuesday. This is the backdoor variety, and clearly a difficult pitch with which to do much.

Third Plate Appearance

Pitch Two: Curve, 79 mph
Movement: 10 inches gloveside, 2 inches of drop
Notes: Here we see Buchholz’s curve again, with that considerable horizontal movement. Per PITCHf/x, this pitch was two feet from the middle of the plate when it reached Stanton — or, in other words, about a foot beyond where an umpire will usually call a borderline strike.

Pitch Four: Four-Seamer, 93 mph
Movement: 5 inches armside, 8 inches of rise
Notes: Among the seven pitches here, this is the probably the least sharp. Stanton fouls it off. Were the pitch an inch higher, however, that’s not what Stanton would’ve done to it.

Pitch Six: Changeup, 84 mph
Movement: 7 inches armside, 7 inches of rise
Notes: A really cool pitch — not just because it’s a changeup to a right-handed batter for a swinging strike three, but also because Buchholz has just thrown a slightly slower changeup on the previous pitch. Upon closer inspection, that slower one (ca. 80 mph) is actually the more typical one for Buchholz.

Individual pitch data courtesy Brooks Baseball.

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