Scouting Clay Buchholz: What the veteran starter adds to the Phillies

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Scouting Clay Buchholz: What the veteran starter adds to the Phillies

The Phillies shrewdly bought low on Clay Buchholz on Tuesday, absorbing his contract from the Red Sox in exchange for a low-level minor league infielder.

Now that he's slated to be in a Phillies uniform, here's a more in-depth look at Clay Buchholz and what he does and does not bring to the table for the 2017 season.

Slow poke
There were times last season where Jeremy Hellickson or other Phillies pitchers drew ire for their deliberate pace on the mound. Buchholz takes that to another level.

Since Pitch F/X era started in 2008, Buchholz is tied for last in pace with 25 seconds in between pitches. His 2011 season is one of the slowest on record.

The minor leagues have a pitch clock that forces pitchers to speed up, but there is no such feature in the major leagues and the rules on time in between pitches is rarely (read: never) enforced. Buchholz received a pace of game warning from MLB in 2015 after he stepped out of the batters box after pitches while hitting against the Phillies, but he has not received any such warning for his pitching.

That can lead to some long games with Buchholz on the mound. Whether or not his deliberate pace is beneficial by throwing off hitters is tough to determine. At the very least, after 10 years in the MLB and a fair amount of success, it's tough to expect Buchholz to change that aspect of his game.

Every other year
The 32-year-old starter has had seasons where he was a bonafide Cy Young candidate and others where he has been barely passable in the rotation. There's been very little in between.

Essentially, Buchholz has fluctuated between superb and well below average results. In 2010, he went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA over 28 starts, earning an All Star appearance and a sixth-place finish in the Cy Young voting. However, he wasn't nearly as good in 2011, when his season ended early after a back injury, or 2012, when his ERA ballooned to 4.56 despite throwing a career-high 189 1/3 innings.

Buchholz returned to form in 2013, going 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA that had him as a Cy Young favorite until another injury severely shortened his season. He followed that up with a 5.34 ERA in 2014. 

He also experiences great fluctuation start-to-start. In that abysmal 2014 season, he still threw two complete game shutouts while allowing six runs or more in seven starts.

What has he done lately?
Buchholz had a down year in 2016, hence his presence on the trade market. Once the Red Sox acquired southpaw Chris Sale, the righty became expendable, particularly with his $13.5 million salary. 

His first half was especially poor, bringing an ERA over 6.00 into June. He was removed from the rotation in July.

Over the final two months, Buchholz became much more effective, particularly when a rash of injuries moved him back to the rotation. In five September starts, the veteran went 3-0 with a 3.14 ERA, tossing four quality starts. The trip to the bullpen may have been a turning point to getting him back on track.

Why fans should be excited
As Corey Seidman pointed out, Buchholz is a buy-low candidate with declining velocity. The Phillies gave up a lower level prospect and could get much more at the 2017 trade deadline if Buchholz looks like his 2010 or 2013 self. Even if he isn't used as trade bait, he can help bolster a Phillies rotation filled with young players and add a veteran presence.

If Buchholz stays healthy, the worst case scenario is that he ends up being a higly paid innings eater on a team with very few big money contracts, so absorbing his contract isn't much of an issue.

The righty also had a relatively large split between his home and road numbers last season, pitching poorly at hitter-friendly Fenway Park (5.60 ERA in 72 1/3 innings) while putting up league average numbers on the road (3.90 ERA in 67 innings). Citizens Bank Park isn't exactly a pitching haven, but it could be a better backdrop for Buchholz, who gave up twice as many home runs at home than on the road last year.

As a quirky side note, Buchholz is one of a few pitchers who throws righty but hits lefty. He has two hits in 15 career at-bats. 

What should worry fans
The pace of play could make some Buchholz starts unpleasant to watch, but his pitching itself has some red flags. The 32-year-old has an injury history and may be fragile despite making it through 2016 unscathed. There's reason to believe with his lower velocity and his inconsistent results that Buchholz can't find his former self, which is an inherent risk in a buy-low player.  

If Buchholz performs very well, the only downside is that would mean he wouldn't be long for the Phillies. He'd likely be traded in the offseason or pursue a multi-year deal next offseason.

Best of MLB: Rendon explodes for 3 homers, 10 RBIs in Nats' 23-5 win vs. Mets

Best of MLB: Rendon explodes for 3 homers, 10 RBIs in Nats' 23-5 win vs. Mets

WASHINGTON -- Anthony Rendon had 10 RBIs, three home runs and six hits as the Washington Nationals took advantage of Noah Syndergaard's injury and mauled the New York Mets 23-5 on Sunday to set a franchise scoring record.

Rendon went a career-best 6 for 6 and scored five times while setting a club mark for RBIs. He became the 13th player in major league history to drive in 10 or more in a game, and first since Garret Anderson did it for the Angels in 2007.

Matt Wieters added two homers, a single and two walks as the Nationals salvaged the finale of a three-game series. Adam Lind and Bryce Harper also homered, and Harper scored four runs.

Washington finished with a season-high 23 hits and scored the most runs in the history of the Expos/Nationals franchise. The Nationals' seven homers were their most since the team moved from Montreal to Washington in 2005 (see full recap).

Keuchel improves to 5-0 with dominant start vs. Astros
HOUSTON -- Dallas Keuchel threw 7 2/3 solid innings, Marwin Gonzalez hit a three-run home run and the Houston Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 7-2 on Sunday.

Keuchel (5-0) struck out nine, while allowing one run on three hits and two walks. The left-hander has thrown at least seven innings in every outing this season. He became the second pitcher in Astros history to get five wins in April, joining Rogers Clemens, who went 5-0 in 2004.

After Trevor Plouffe doubled with one out in the first, Keuchel retired ten straight and 13 of the next 14 batters he faced.

Ken Giles earned his sixth save after getting Yonder Alonso to fly out with the bases loaded.

Jesse Hahn (1-2) gave up four runs on eight hits with six strikeouts in six innings.

Gonzalez hit his home run off the right field foul pole in eighth (see full recap).

Miguel Sano's 5 RBIs help hand Royals 9th-straight loss
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Miguel Sano homered and drove in five runs, helping the Minnesota Twins beat slumping Kansas City 7-5 on Sunday for the Royals' ninth straight loss.

Sano posted his fourth consecutive multihit game. He has 11 hits in his last 16 at-bats. He drove in nine runs in the two-game, rain-abbreviated series.

Sano connected in the third after Jason Hammel (0-3) walked Byron Buxton and Max Kepler. He added run-producing singles in the fourth and sixth innings.

It's the longest slide for Kansas City since a 12-game skid in April 2012 (see full recap).

Instant Replay: Dodgers 5, Phillies 3

Instant Replay: Dodgers 5, Phillies 3

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers hit two more home runs in beating the Phillies, 5-3, on Sunday afternoon.

The Dodgers swept the three-game series from the Phils, hitting seven homers in the final two games, including five on Saturday night. Three of those homers Saturday night came in the ninth inning, as the Dodgers rallied back from a three-run deficit to hang an excruciating loss on the Phils.
 
Sunday's loss was not as painful. The Phils got a leadoff triple from Cesar Hernandez and an RBI single from Freddy Galvis in the first inning then did not score again until the ninth.
 
The Dodgers out-hit the Phillies, 13-4, over the first eight innings.
 
The Phillies are 11-12 heading into Chicago to play the defending World Series champion Cubs.
 
Starting pitching report
Nick Pivetta allowed 10 baserunners in his big-league debut but managed to limit the damage to just two runs thanks to a couple of double plays, a couple of big strikeouts and a fortuitous bounce that turned a double into a ground-rule double, which meant a runner had to hold at third.
 
Four of the nine hits that Piverta allowed were for extra bases, including a homer by Chris Taylor that gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead in the second. He walked one and struck out five.
 
Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu held the Phillies to three hits and a run over 5 1/3 innings. He walked three and struck out nine. He is 1-4.
 
Bullpen report
Jeanmar Gomez entered the game with the Phils trailing just 2-1 in the sixth. He allowed a leadoff single, a two-out walk to pinch-hitter Chase Utley and a three-run homer to Andrew Toles as the Dodgers put the game away.
 
With Hector Neris unavailable after throwing 19 pitches in Saturday night's disaster, Mackanin was likely holding back right-handers Edubray Ramos and Pat Neshek for the late innings in case the Phils got a lead.
 
Gomez has a 9.64 ERA.
 
Kenley Jansen got the final out and the save for the Dodgers after Grant Dayton gave up a two-run, two-out homer in the ninth. Jansen struck out Hernandez on three pitches.

At the plate
Maikel Franco struck out three times, snapping a career-best streak of 32 straight plate appearances without a strikeout.

Galvis has hit in 12 straight games.

Odubel Herrera smacked a two-run homer in the ninth to make it a two-run game.
 
Justin Turner had seven hits in the series, and he didn't even start the second game. (He had a game-tying, pinch-hit homer in that one.) He had three hits Sunday, including an RBI single in the first inning.
 
Toles had two homers in the series.
 
On the bases
Cameron Rupp, who entered the day hitting .180, had a pair of doubles and a single but short-circuited a potential rally when he was picked off second by rival catcher Yasmani Grandal on a no-outs bunt play with the Phils down a run in the fifth.
 
In the field
Not only did Turner have a big series at the plate, he robbed Tommy Joseph of a hit in the seventh inning with a fabulous pick of a hot smash to third. Joseph needed the hit as he is slumping badly. He went hitless with two strikeouts and is hitting .179.
 
Up next
The Phillies move on to Chicago for four games against the defending World Series champion Cubs. Here are the pitching matchups:
 
Monday night -- RHP Vince Velasquez (1-2, 6.33) vs. LHP Brett Anderson (2-0, 3.54)
 
Tuesday night -- RHP Jeremy Hellickson (4-0, 1.80) vs. LHP Jon Lester (0-1, 3.68)
 
Wednesday night -- RHP Jerad Eickhoff (0-2, 3.56) vs. RHP Jake Arrieta (3-1, 4.66)
 
Thursday afternoon -- RHP Zach Eflin (0-0, 1.89) vs. RHP John Lackey (2-3, 5.10)