As we head into Spring Training there are always questions when it comes to your favorite Major League Baseball team. Today I want to begin to take a look at some pitchers that are going to be under the microscope this spring because a lot of the their ball clubs fortunes will begin and end with their performance as we preview the 2015 MLB season.
Some are going to be asked to fill the void left by a free agent like the Kansas City Royals Edison Volquez, others will be asked to carry more weight since the team did not add any fresh arms like the Boston Red Sox Clay Buchholz and Baltimore Oriole’s pitcher Bud Norris.
Others are going to have scouts picking them apart to see if they are on a downslide like Detroit Tiger Pitcher Justin Verlander, San Francisco Giant Matt Cain, and Oakland A’s lefty Scott Kazmir. If these hurlers are strong, print your playoff tickets early if not it might be a long summer for you. Today let’s take a look at Buchholz
Buchholz had a a forgettable season last finishing with a 8-11 record in 2014. While he was battling knee issues on and off last season, his numbers need to make a bounce back. His strikes per 9 innings was down almost an entire K last season, and his BABIP was inflated going from .254 in 2013 to .315 last season.
He made some adjustments according to FANGRAPHS.com he went a way from his fastball which was thrown five percent less while mixing in a touch of curves, cutters, and change ups. One more note batters had more success swinging in the strike zone last year vs Buchholz. Since he is a strike thrower hitters were more aggressive attacking pitches in the strike zone last season.
According to PitchFx hitters swung at his pitches in the strike zone five percent more often while laying off pitches off the plate just slightly. Because hitters weren’t chasing as many pitches he threw more in the strike zone just a little more often than last season throwing 49% of his pitches for strikes according to PitchFx. He throw a first pitch strike over 60 precent of the time.
The Red Sox made some great moves this off season to improve their offense which was way down last season. In 2013 on the way to winning the World Series they scored 853 runs, last season they scored just 634 runs. That is a drop of over 200 runs last year. No wonder Ben Cherington went out and scooped up Kung Fu Panda, Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. Together they will improve the 3rd base/LF production quite a bit over Will Middlebrooks and Jonny Gomes.
The question now is did they do enough to upgrade their rotation and giving Buchholz some help coming off his rough 2014 season. Even if they improve the 200 run deficit from year to year, they still have to bring down their runs allowed which was an eye popping 715. Rick Porcello is a nice addition to help Buchholz out with his 15-13 mark last year pitching for the Tigers. But is that enough?
The Red Sox will mash all season long and will play in many high scoring game. Dustin Pedroia will rebound and have a good season with so many guys that will rake in that line up and Kung Fu Panda might put more dents in the Green Monster as its seen in it’s lifetime. For me the question is, will the Red Sox be forced to play 8 and 9 runs games every night or will the top of the pitching staff be able to post numbers that can keep them from being forced to out slug everyone every night.
The off season isn’t over and James Shields doesn’t have a job and the Phillies have not moved Cole Hamels yet, so there is time for an upgrade. If not there will be a lot of pressure for Clay Buchholz in 2015.