Buchholz’s changeup is kind of a microcosm of his whole body of work. He’s been kind of solid at times, and so has his changeup, but there’s just not a lot to be excited about here. He tends to be much better when the pitch is working for him.
A decent pitch early in his career, the deuce has had a negative pVAL in each of the last four seasons. During that time, opposing hitters have maintained a wOBA no less than .334 and all the way up to .527.
Buchholz throws a fairly even mix of a four-seamer and a sinker, neither of which has yielded positive results throughout his career. His sinker, in particular, was a disaster last season, allowing a .460 wOBA from opposing hitters.
The cut fastball was not good last season in Buchholz’s limited innings, but it’s been a historically positive pitch for him throughout his career.
Always a high-contact pitch, Buchholz’s four-seamer improved in many ways from 2017—but in actuality most of the improvements were about regressing back to his career norms. So why did it leap up to a 5.0 pVal in 2018, the pitch’s second-highest mark ever? It was vastly better at limiting the quality of contact made against it, holding batters to a .195 BAA, .169 ISO, and a 75 wRC+ over 64 balls in play.
Buchholz’s cutter was a Money Pitch (46.6 O-swing%, 49.0 zone%, 17.2 SwStr%) worth a 7.1 pVal in 2018. It has really great gloveside movement away from righties and in on lefties, which helped generate a 19.4 K-BB% and limited hitters to a .244 BAA with a .056 ISO and a 73 wRC+. Unleashing this pitch, especially with its increased chase rate and whiffs, was key to Buchholz’s rebirth.
Buchholz’s curveball had a rough 2018, as it was worth a -2.9 pVal. The pitch has good movement that dives away from righties but doesn’t generate the swinging strikes you would normally expect for a curve. It did generate an elite level of infield fly balls, with a 45.5 IFFB%. Unfortunately, when hitters squared it up, they hit it well—putting up a .327 BAA, .192 ISO, 138 wRC+, and an 18.2 HR/FB%
A great complement to his four-seamer and cutter, Buchholz’s changeup also shared in their success, generating a 5.7 pVal in 2018. Checking two of the three Money Pitch boxes (19.2 SwStr%, 48.8 zone%), it also demonstrated a great ability to generate poor fly-ball contact (31.6 FB%, 41.7 IFFB%), and to strike batters out (28.3 K-BB%). Thanks in a large part to movement that runs down and in on righties and dives away from lefties, it helped hold batters to a .129 average with a .065 ISO and a 17 wRC+.
Buchholz’s sinker did what sinkers do best: It utilized great downward movement that ran in on righties to generate ground-ball outs (62.3 GB%). While it did a great job of limiting hitters to a .217 BAA and a 79 wRC+, it struggled a bit with the home run ball (30.8 HR/FB%) and power in general (.193 ISO).