Blue Jays: Clay Buchholz doing his job in Toronto
The Blue Jays are suddenly faced with a shortage of starting pitching, which makes the late signing of Clay Buchholz look pretty good right about now.
With Ryan Borucki and Clayton Richard out until at least mid-to-late May and now Matt Shoemaker done for the season, the Blue Jays are in desperate need of some starting pitchers to step up, eat some innings and be on the mound every fifth day.
Major League veteran and long-time Red Sox pitcher, Clay Buchholz has done just that over his first three starts in Toronto.
He hasn’t been dominant or even great by any means, but he has been able to provide some relief for a pitching staff that is filled with tons of questions marks, including the Aaron Sanchez fingernail incident that forced him to exit Sunday’s game (although he is still scheduled to start on Saturday).
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Buchholz started the game strong on Wednesday, putting away the first nine Giants batters but ran into some trouble the second and third time through the order, allowing RBI doubles to Buster Posey and Brandon Belt while Pablo Sandoval hit a round-tripper.
He pitched into the sixth inning for the second time this year despite not recording an out in the inning and although he got barrelled up in the later innings, he didn’t walk a batter and has now walked just three over his 15.2 innings of work.
Control and command of his pitches have been important to Buchholz as his career wears on and his velocity drops. His average fastball last year came in around 90.2 mph compared to 87.8 so far this year. As his fastball velocity continues to drop, he’s also begun to mix his pitches more. He is using his changeup far more than he has in recent seasons and is using his curveball just about more than he ever has.
His off-speed stuff isn’t his speciality nor would any of them be considered one of his best pitches, but they complement his fastball well and allow him to keep hitters off balance. In a league that continues to depend more and more on hard-throwing pitchers, it’s impressive Buchholz has been able to make adjustments and remain a serviceable pitcher still at the age of 34.
Entering the game against the Giants, his average 4-seam fastball of 88.0 mph ranked 347th out of 359 pitchers who have thrown at least 100 pitches in 2019, according to Statcast.
Buchholz has allowed eight earned runs and 18 hits over 15.2 innings this year but his command and ability to limit his walks have made those hits manageable. With Marcus Stroman and Sanchez looking healthy and strong early on in 2019, Buchholz can do the rotation a big favour if he can carry this consistency throughout the season and provide the Jays with some steady innings.
He is definitely not the old Clay Buchholz the AL East had become accustomed to watching, but he has proved over the past year he can still get outs against a major league lineup and it will be interesting to see just how much Buchholz can provide a Blue Jays rotation that is starving for some depth.