Clay Buchholz still isn’t picking up the strikeouts we would like to see, but at least in his 6 2/3 innings last night against the Angels he was able to limit the walks to just a pair. The ball also stayed in the yard, and he induced 14 groundballs against 10 flyballs–when 25 percent of your plate appearances end in a groundout, something is working.
That something was Buchholz’s fastball, a topic discussed at length last week. After averaging 92 mph on his heater in April, Buchholz was at 93.3 last night–that isn’t adjusted for temperature or calibration, but heading into last night’s start, that error had been very small at 0.1 mph anyways. Chances are good that is a legit 93-plus we saw.
It’s not quite where he was at the end of 2010, when his fastball routinely hit the mid-90s, but it’s a start on working his way to that stage as he did last season.
Buchholz didn’t use his slider last night according to Pitch f/x, but instead went heavy with his four- and two-seamers while mixing in his best pitch, the changeup, to induce swings-and-misses. He has been throwing the slider for strikes, so it’s a curious thing to see it missing from his repertoire–chances are good this is just Pitch f/x calling his slider a cutter for one night (the two are very similar, especially since Buchholz changed the grip to be more cutter-esque in 2010). Either way, he tossed just eight of them, as opposed to the 20 he was averaging in his previous starts.
Buchholz started Monday night rather than Sunday because he was feeling ill on his scheduled day, so Tim Wakefield stepped in for the spot start. It appears as if Daisuke Matsuzaka has turned things around enough to at least merit his latest chance to produce, so Wakefield has stayed in the bullpen. Because of the team’s strong starting pitching, he has not been called on much as of late, but he did not show much rust in his start.
Wakefield went 5 2/3 innings, striking out three while giving up just the one free pass, and scattered three hits while allowing one run.
It seems as if Wakefield is a bit of a waste of a roster spot because of how little he is utilized, but there are two things to keep in mind. For one, he can step in at a moment’s notice and start for any of the injury prone starters, and two, he isn’t going to pitch if the starters are doing their jobs. While the Red Sox record may not reflect it, they have been mostly lights out with their starting since mid-April–you don’t need to use your long man if the pitchers are healthy and the starters are going deep in to games, hence his having just two appearances between tax day and the end of the month.
Basically, what it comes down to is that not seeing Wakefield on the mound is a good sign for Boston. His presence inside the “Break Glass In Case of Emergency” box in the pen allows Alfredo Aceves and Felix Doubront to stay stretched out in Pawtucket, a goal that is worthwhile in and of itself.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was pulled from his Friday start against the Mariners due to elbow tightness, showed no complications during his regular day-after-start activities on Saturday, and is healthy enough that Boston slotted him in to start against the Twins on Friday. They are hopeful a few extra days of rest in between starts will do the trick, but if that doesn’t turn out to be the case, Wakefield could once again take the mound.
I’m glad the Sox are optimistic about Matsuzaka, but, given his extensive injury history and his habit of being coy about how much of a problem there is physically, I have a hard time being as optimistic, and am also curious if his elbow is responsible for the four walks against the Mariners in four innings (or if that was just the Mariners, who are actually leading the majors in walks with 116, four ahead of Boston’s 112) or if that was just Dice-K doing Dice-K things.
Thanks to Texas Leaguers for the Pitch f/x data.