Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A chance for Buchholz to succeed

A quick snapshot of the first major-league inning Clay Buchholz had pitched in more than a year:
* Marco Scutaro: Groundout to shortstop.
* Aaron Hill: Groundout to shortstop.
* Adam Lind: Groundout to shortstop.

A quick snapshot of the second major-league inning Buchholz pitched:
* Scott Rolen: Groundout to third base.
* Lyle Overbay: Single to center field.
* Alex Rios: Strikeout swinging.
* Jose Bautista: Ground ball to third base. (Error.)
* Rod Barajas: Strikeout swinging.

Five ground balls. Two strikeouts. One hit.

That's a recipe for success in the major leagues.

Buchholz has had tremendous success in the minor leagues in part because he strikes hitters out and induces ground balls. So far this season, he has a 2.97 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 1.69 ground ball-to-fly ball ratio. (That would give him an Ultimate Pitcher Rating of 5.01, a number that would rank him somewhere around 15th or 20th in the major leagues.)

A fluke? Check out how he's fared in the Ultimate Pitcher Rating categories throughout his professional career:

2008 (major leagues)
K/BB: 1.76
GB/FB: 1.52
UPR: 2.68

2008 (minor leagues)
K/BB: 3.39
GB/FB: 1.40
UPR: 4.73

2007 (minor leagues)
K/BB: 4.98
GB/FB: 1.26
UPR: 6.27

2006 (minor leagues)
K/BB: 4.26
GB/FB: 1.14
UPR: 4.85

Nothing about his success in the minor leagues has been fluky. He had trouble in the major leagues last season because the fly balls he surrendered turned into home runs at a rate of 14.7 percent -- a rate that would have been worst in the American League had he qualified.

If he can keep the ball on the ground and out of the bleachers, he ought to do just fine this time around. Depending on the severity of Wakefield's injury and how the trade market for Brad Penny develops, Buchholz might not have to make another trip to Pawtucket for a long time.

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