After starting the year off as the first pitcher in MLB history to allow at least five runs in his first six starts, Clay Buchholz has strung together some strong pitching performances. After his latest two starts in which he allowed only four runs in 15 innings, Buchholz lowered an ERA that was 9.09 on May 6 to his current figure of 6.58, with a 3.98 ERA in five starts during that span.
On NESN’s telecast during Buchholz’s most recent performance—an eight inning outing in which he allowed two runs against the Blue Jays—Jerry Remy noted that his changeup was much better than it had been in the beginning of the year.
Buchholz has also been throwing the pitch more.
In his past two starts, he threw his changeup 19.4 and 21.6 percent of the time, easily the two highest percentages of the season. Those ratios are more in line with his 2010 numbers, during which he won 17 games with a 2.33 ERA and consistently used his changeup in the 17-23 percent range.
Additionally, Buchholz’s ERA has been inflated by bad luck this season. He has an unusually high BABIP of .326, which is much higher than his .287 career average and the .294 MLB average. BABIP is a statistic that pitchers don’t have much control over, and it can vary from year to year. In Pedro Martinez’s great campaign of 1999, for example, batters hit .323 on balls in play against him, but that figure decreased to .236 the year after.
Buchholz has also been negatively affected by a 68.5 LOB percent, which measures the ratio of runners stranded on base by the pitcher. Over the past two seasons, that figure has been at 79 percent for the Red Sox starting pitcher.
Furthermore, Buchholz has an 18.8 percent home run to fly ball ratio (HR/FB)—much higher than the league average and his career average, both at 11 percent.
Buchholz’s numbers will continue to get better as these statistics regress, and as he continues to feel more confident on the mound.