What was lost just a few weeks ago has been found. Clay Buchholz’s fastball, while still not the blistering mid-90s hell beast it is capable of being, is moving faster than it was in April, and the results have been what we want out of the young hurler.
Buchholz has dropped his ERA from 5.33 to 3.94 over his last three starts and 18 2/3 innings. He has averaged over six innings per start in that stretch–a number that would have been higher had rain not delayed his start against the Twins by two hours, holding him to 68 pitches through five frames–and has had the kind of movement on his fastball that makes him so difficult to hit.
While the average speed of his four-seamer has gone up by just one mile per hour, to 93, he has bumped his ground out rate from 18 percent to over 24 percent, a figure more reminiscent of last year’s success than his poor start. He has also given up just one homer after allowing six in April, and has 15 punch outs against four walks after giving up one more free pass (16) than batters whiffed in his first five outings.
The extra two-plus mph on his two-seamer in that stretch have helped with that, as has a far more effective cutter/slider hybrid. He has, at this point, basically ditched the slider-effects of the pitch to go for more of a straight-up cutter (as far as Pitch f/x classifications are concerned), but has seen swings-and-misses on 14.6 percent of the pitches after seeing around seven percent hacks on the cutter/slider in his first five starts, so whatever change in grip he made has been effective.
We’re talking small samples here, of course, but Buchholz looks to be back on track as the guy the Red Sox saw in 2010, and subsequently signed to an extension. If 2010 was any indication, that velocity will come with time, and Buchholz will be one less thing to worry about this year.