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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Clay Buchholz: Change Leads to Change

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 25: Clay Buchholz #11 ...
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 25: Clay Buchholz #11 of the Boston Red Sox hands the ball to manager Bobby Valentine #25 (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Clay Buchholz has been the Red Sox best starter over his last four starts. An ERA over 9.00 in his first 6 starts has led to a mark of 1.45 in his last four. Tuesday night, the righty put up another W against the Marlins, almost single-handedly defeating the fish with Boston's offense still struggling to score runs, allowing just an earned run over 7 innings. So why the drastic change? Clay Buchholz has rediscovered the change-up that made him a Cy Young candidate in 2010.

From April 5 until May 22, a day after Buchholz's last poor start, the righty had used his change just 12.3% of the time, getting a strike 51.9% and a whiff on 11.3%. From May 22-June 12, a period in which he has a 1.45 ERA, the righty has went to the pitch 18.8% of the time (more than any pitch not named a fastball), getting a strike on 56% and a swing-miss exactly twice as much at 22.6%.

Over these last four spectacular starts, hitters are putting Buchholz's change-up in play just 8.3% of the time compared to 19.8 over his first 10 starts. Hitters have also fouled off 17.9% of the change-ups compared to just 11.3% over the first 10 starts of the season.

The biggest thing I've noticed from looking at the pitch data via is the release point at which he's throwing the change-up.

April 5-May 22, 2012

Looking at the above photo you can see that Clay Buchholz's release point from April 5-May 22 varied from a little over one foot to close to three feet from the center of home plate.

May 22-June 12, 2012

Now looking at the release points from May 22-June 12, you can see that the release point on the majority of change-ups (purple square) is between 6 inches and 2 feet from the center of home plate.

Finding his change-up has allowed Buchholz to rely far less on his four-seam fastball and cut-fastball to get hitters out. From April 5-May 22, he threw one or the other 64.5% of the time compared to 57.6% since May 22.

The change-up is Buchholz's out pitch. Through the first 10 starts of the season he didn't have it. Why he didn't have it is open to speculation. It could have been the layoff caused by his back injury, some thought there was a physical issue. We probably won't know, but we do know is he's found it and when he has it, he's one of the best in the game.

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