Pitcher Preview: Clay Buchholz

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

He'll cut you.

Slightly under a month ago, when the Rays last faced Clay Buchholz, I wrote a pre-game scouting report that I strongly urge you to read before continuing. It gives a fuller, more insightful description of how Buchholz works than anything I'm about to write here. First the matchup (2013 stats):

Clay Buchholz (108.1 IP) Alex Cobb (143.1 IP)
K% 23.1% 23.2%
BB% 8.7% 7.8%
GB% 47.7% 55.8%
ERA 1.74 2.76
FIP 2.78 3.36
xFIP 3.41 3.02
SIERA 3.66 3.26

Buchholz has been very good this year, but Cobb has been better. Don't let anyone look at the ERAs and tell you that the Red Sox have the pitching advantage tomorrow. Buchholz's 4.5% HR/FB rate is what's distorting the numbers, and a number like that is never real, especially not when recorded over only half a season.

Finally, the issue that's grown to dominate this postseason in our particular corner of Tampa Bay. Should Delmon Young or Matt Joyce start at DH? I think the answer is pretty clear, and the last time the Rays faced Buchholz, Maddon got it right. Matt Joyce started (in the field), walked twice (once against lefty Craig Breslow), and then Delmon Young pinch hit for Luke Scott against Breslow in a high-leverage situation. While the Rays failed to capitalize, it wasn't due to inefficient decisions by their manager.

Buchholz has mild but normal platoon splits, both this year and over his career. My projections (combining ZiPS rest of season projections with regressed platoon splits) make no bones about it. Matt Joyce: .343 wOBA. Delmon Young: .277 wOBA.

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