Has Taylor Buchholz been a good reliever?

Monday I made a big deal about Tim Byrdak and the difference in his effectiveness versus RHB and LHB. But the truth is that Byrdak does not have the biggest L/R platoon split among the team’s relievers. That distinction belongs to Taylor Buchholz, who has been murder against RHB and nearly as bad against LHB as Byrdak is versus RHB.

It’s hard to determine at this point if Buchholz has been a good reliever for the Mets. On the surface that seems ridiculous, as he sports a 1.66 ERA and a career-high 9.97 K/9. Additionally, Buchholz has tamed the walks that plagued him upon his return to the majors last year. After posting a 4.50 BB/9 in 2010, that number is down to 2.91 so far this year.

But the flip side of that is that Buchholz has allowed six of his 11 inherited runners to score. Heading into Tuesday’s games, 105 relievers had inherited at least seven runners this season and Buchholz had the 15th-highest percentage of his inherited runners score.

And while Buchholz has a shiny ERA, he’s been quite fortunate in that regard. He has an unsustainable .216 BABIP and he has stranded every single runner that he has put on base. His xFIP checks in at 3.08. Combine that with his IR scored numbers and it paints a picture of a much more ordinary reliever.

As implied earlier, each of the four runs allowed by Buchholz has come via a HR, three of those to LHB. Lefties have a .988 OPS against him. But he has faced more RHB (47) than LHB (39) and he has been 1968-vintage Bob Gibson when a righty steps up to the plate. RHB have just a .357 OPS against Buchholz and have just 1 BB compared to 17 Ks.

The big difference is his curve ball, which has been nearly unhittable for righties this year. According to Joe Lefkowitz’ Pitch F/X tool, Buchholz throws his curve 50.3 percent of the time to RHB, who swing and miss 25.6 percent of the time versus his hook. And when they do connect against his curve, righties hit fly balls 70 percent of the time. Since fly balls are the batted ball least likely to produce a hit, the result has been a lot of outs with his deuce.

However, the curve is less effective versus lefties. Buchholz still uses the pitch extensively, as he throws it 28.6 percent of the time to LHB. But lefties do not pop the pitch up. Instead they have an 83.3 ground ball rate against his curve.

The pitch that Buchholz throws the most to lefties is his two-seam fastball, which he throws 35 percent of the time. He features a four-seamer 21.4 percent and a change-up, typically the pitch that righties try to neutralize lefties with, 15 percent of the time.

The two-seamer is the one he has allowed the three HR with and it also carries a 22.2 LD%. Overall, Buchholz has had good luck with his change-up, but he has only thrown it 8.8 percent of the time, usually when he is behind in the count.

In his career, Buchholz does not have an extreme L/R split. RHB have a .688 OPS against him lifetime, while LHB check in with a .735 mark.

While the evidence against Byrdak is compelling that he should not face a RHB, the case for management to avoid sending Buchholz versus LHB is simply not there. While it would be nice if he threw fewer two-seamers and more off-speed pitches, it also seems likely that he will have better success against lefties in the months ahead simply by regression, even if he keeps his current pitch breakdown.

While he has not pitched as well as his ERA indicates, Buchholz is still an important part of the team’s bullpen. When Pedro Beato returns from the disabled list, perhaps Terry Collins can use the Rule 5 pick in situations with runners on base and utilize Buchholz in more situations where he starts an inning fresh.

5 comments for “Has Taylor Buchholz been a good reliever?

  1. mchael
    May 18, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Buchholz has been a good reliever. End of story

    • Brian Joura
      May 18, 2011 at 9:37 am

      As a team, the Mets’ relievers have allowed 28% of their inherited runners to score. Without Buchholz in the equation, Mets relievers have allowed 23% of inherited runners to score. Buchholz has allowed 55% of his inherited runners to score. You just can’t sweep that under the rug.

      • mchael
        May 18, 2011 at 10:39 am

        As a Met fan , I believe the team has a good chance of holding onto a one run lead going into the 7th inning knowing that Buchholz will pitch the 7th followed by isringhausen and then Krod. If Beato can continue to pitch well, then maybe the Mets can stay in it. I haven’t felt this way about the Mets pen since 2006.

        Many bullpens look really good early on, which in turn, inflates people’s opinion of overall team. I.e the Marlins. By mid summer many of these relievers come back to earth as the innings pile up and the opposing teams become more familiar with them. When that happens, teams can go south really fast.

        Buchholz’s last full season was 2008 when he was one of the better setup men in the National League. I think that his experience over the course of the season will allow him be a consistent performer.

      • May 18, 2011 at 1:11 pm

        I don’t know Brian, I agree with Michael. Whenever Buchholz enters a game, I feel pretty confident we’re in it to win it. Beato, Buchholz, Izzy and K-Rod make a solid core for the bullpen; now if only we could get a few more dependable arms to support them.

        • Brian Joura
          May 18, 2011 at 1:20 pm

          His results have been outstanding. However, he’s doing a lousy job allowing inherited runners to score and there’s no way he’s going to go an entire season stranding every runner of his who gets on base.

          Is he a good reliever for the 6th and 7th innings? Absolutely. But there’s more to the picture than meets the eye right now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: