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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16 Responses to “Clay Buchholz’s Repertoire on Display Against Stanton”

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  1. Will says:

    What does it mean for a changeup to have “rise”? Especially in the case of Buchholz, whose change usually drops off the table pretty well

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    • It’s relative to a spinless ball, is how it’s characterized. Because a changeup still has some backspin on it, it’ll rise relative to a spinless ball.

      But you’re right, in that it has less rise than a fastball. That gives it the effect, as you mention, of dropping of the table — because a batter reads it as a fastball out of the hand.

      Does that help even one percent?

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  2. KyleL says:

    Buch actually developed a splitter during his recent struggles, and according to Dan Brooks (on twitter) he actually threw 11 of them last night (not the one it says he threw on BrooksBaseball). The change ranged from 76-82 and the split ranged from 83-87 (again, per Dan), so I think that last pitch might have been a slow-ish split rather than a fast change.

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  3. RealCommenterOfTheThread says:

    Buch actually developed a splitter during his recent struggles, and according to Dan Brooks (on twitter) he actually threw 11 of them last night (not the one it says he threw on BrooksBaseball). The change ranged from 76-82 and the split ranged from 83-87 (again, per Dan), so I think that last pitch might have been a slow-ish split rather than a fast change.

    Additionally, Carson Cistulli is one handsome man.

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  4. Jake says:

    I haven’t seen Buchholz look that good since 2007. Literally.

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  5. MrKnowNothing says:

    gol damn love that view.

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  6. Juan Chapa says:

    A splitter actually was called a forkball in the old days. The ball is
    placed (much deeper than a fastball) between the index and middle
    fingers, and delivered via the same motion as a fastball. The pitch
    has a significant drop, leading to groundballs and/or strikeouts,
    Depending on the grip, a lefthander can make the ball tail away
    from a left handed hitter (just the opposite for a RHP). Roy Face,
    a closer for the Pirates, won 18 games, a record for a reliever,
    with it it in 1959. Roger Craig mastered it, had a good career
    with it, and taught it to several other pitchers. Mike Scott (a
    previously mediocre pitcher of the Astros, and student of
    Craig’s) won the Cy Young in 1986, after mastering the pitch.
    When Scott no-hit Craig’s team (the Giants), Craig vowed never
    to teach the pitch to another pitcher.

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  7. michael says:

    Bucholz looks unhittable based on a few gifs. It would be scary to see him command each pitch.

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  8. RC says:

    “, Buchholz has a career xFIP that’s precisely league average.”

    Buchholz has a career BABIP significantly below average.

    Buchholz pitches in an extreme hitters park, where ERA is significantly more predictive than FIP or xFIP.

    FIP doesn’t tell you anything about Clay Buchholz. He’s the absolute worse case scenario when discussing the accuracy of FIP. Using it here is ridiculous.

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  9. Aaron says:

    Good article, I watched the game and Buch had some sort of splitter going. It ranged between 85 to 91 and it looked like a faster version of his change. In a recent article Buch talks about how he found his change when Beckett demonstrated his split grip. If you watched Buch’s starts from the beginning of the season all his changes were up in the zone and getting bashed. He blamed the grip. I like what this split has added to his repertoire. Seems like both Buch and Bard had been focusing too much on 2-seamers, groundballs and getting their 6 innings.

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  10. DD says:

    Three observations:

    1 – That’s a great CF camera view.

    2 – Salty is a pretty good pitch framer, especially on the 2-seamer.

    3 – Carson Cistulli is the man.

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  11. eric says:

    I’d like to see an article by Fangraphs on the goat pasture that they built in Mia. What is that place such a dump already?

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