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Clay Buchholz Proving To Be Quietly Strong Addition For D-Backs

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PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 17: Clay Buchholz #32 of the Arizona Diamondbacks delivers a first inning pitch against the New York Mets at Chase Field on June 17, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 17: Clay Buchholz #32 of the Arizona Diamondbacks delivers a first inning pitch against the New York Mets at Chase Field on June 17, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /
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The Arizona Diamondbacks have found hard luck with injuries this year, both in their lineup and in their starting rotation. At least one player, however, is making those health woes a little easier to swallow.

Clay Buchholz‘s Major League career looked essentially over. He allowed 10 runs in his only two appearances with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2017. Then, he began 2018 with the Kansas City Royals, but only pitched in Triple-A. In 2018, Buchholz made a pair of starts in Reno after being signed at the beginning of May. With injuries to Robbie Ray and Taijuan Walker, and with Shelby Miller still rehabbing, Buchholz’s six starts have been tremendous for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Through his six starts with the Snakes, Buchholz has posted a 2.93 ERA, while walking only 1.87 hitters per nine. He’s not overpowering hitters, with a 6.95 K/9, but playing in front of one of the best defensive clubs in baseball has helped him. The D-backs are fifth in MLB’s Defensive Efficiency Rating (.712). Hitters are making contact off of him nearly 50% of the time, but they’ve only gone for a .245 BABIP when they do make contact.

Despite health issues and poor performance in the last few years, Buchholz hasn’t changed his pitch usage all that much. He isn’t using his four-seamer too much, in favor of a sinker and cutter that make up a large percentage of his usage. He’s still mixing in a curve and change as well. Even if his arsenal isn’t as effective in punching out hitters, the variation still keeps opposing hitters off guard. His WHIP is down to just 1.04 and he’s stranding more baserunners (79.0%) than he has since 2011. You’d like to see more longevity in his starts, but he’s setting the bullpen up nicely.

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An interesting element here is that through six starts, Buchholz is just 1-1. At the very least, he’s keeping games close, giving the Arizona Diamondbacks five or six good innings, and giving them a chance to win. Three of his six starts have been quality starts, with another two of at least five innings and only one earned run allowed. As a fifth starter, that’s about all you can ask for. Again, going deeper into games would be helpful, but the Snakes also have the lowest bullpen ERA in all of baseball (2.57).

Given injuries, as well as some struggles (Zack Godley), Buchholz has been a godsend for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He’s provided stability to a group that sorely needed it in their situation. The coaching staff has done a great job with him, as has the defense. His start on Sunday was another example, even if they couldn’t grab the win. He’s been as much of an anchor as a fifth starter can hope to be.

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It’ll be interesting to see how he continues to progress and if he can maintain a role in the rotation moving forward. Miller and Ray aren’t too far off from returning, but Buchholz’s performance could merit inclusion in the starting five once healthy. At the very least, he’s likely shown to 29 other Major League teams that there’s still some gas in the tank for the former All-Star.

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