Oh No! Clay Buchholz is Hurt
Last Friday before I attended Opening Day, I was reviewing Clay Buchholz’s start from the day before. He’d gone 5 innings, striking out 3 and walking 2 while allowing 8 hits and 4 runs. Obviously that’s not a great start. But the thing that really jumped out to me was his severely diminished velocity. His average fastball velocity was 90.2 mph, well below the 92.1 he averaged in 2015 and 2016. I wanted to write something about it, but hey, he was in and out of the bullpen last year, and last year his velocity was similarly low in his first start of the season. I figured I’d give him another start to see where his velocity was following that.
So imagine my delight when Buchholz came out hitting 91 with his first fastball of the night. Of course he walked the first hitter… then allowed a double…. then allowed a home run… then allowed several more runs… then got hurt.
All in all Buchholz lasted just 2.1 innings, striking out just 2 of the 16 hitters he faced while allowing 6 runs. He was pulled from the game due to a forearm strain and will undergo an MRI today to evaluate the damage. This early in the season, the Phillies have already lost their second-highest paid player for some amount of time.
However, referring to Buchholz by his salary disguises that he’s just not very good. It’s easy to squint and see a pitcher who posted a 2.68 FIP with a 17.8% K-BB just two years ago as an asset, but in reality he’s been a career 100 FIP- pitcher and the past two years, significantly worse than that. Despite the Phillies starting him in their third game, Buchholz is the fifth starter, and frankly, anyone from the minors could come up and allow 10 runs in 7.1 innings.
The Phillies traded very little to get him this offseason intending to trade him again in July should he prove that he’s a desirable pitcher to contenders. Buchholz has done nothing to raise his stock, and depending on the severity of his injury, he may not have much more of a chance. Most teams would stick with the highly paid veteran due to salary concerns, but for the most profitable team in baseball, I don’t think that’s much of an issue. Maybe the Phillies will return Buchholz to the bullpen when he returns from injury. I hear the team is in need of a long man.