2011 Analysis: Taylor Buchholz

Last winter, many would have been ecstatic to hear that the Mets acquired a pitcher named Buchholz — had his first name been “Clay”. Instead, the team signed Clay’s distant cousin Taylor.

It was a low-risk, low-reward signing that to me made sense. After all, Buchholz was once one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, sporting a 97 MPH fastball and a 12-6 deuce that invited swings and misses. All those curves and heaters take a beating on the elbow, however, and the Mets picked him up two years removed from Tommy John surgery. The velocity was nowhere near what it once was, but it was good enough when combined with that hard-breaking yellow hammer. Unfortunately, Buchholz suffered from a shoulder problem and then anxiety issues that knocked him out for most of the season.

When he did pitch, Buchholz showed flashes of effectiveness — though, success was inevitably tied to his ability to control his curve. His fastball velocity was in the low 90s range and had little movement, and he occasionally struggled mightily with his release point — there were brief periods during a game when he simply could not throw a strike. That may or may not have been due to the shoulder issue, or his elbow recovery. But even when he had command of the fastball, his effectiveness still was reliant on how hard the curve was biting and whether he could keep it near the strike zone.

2012 Projection

It’s difficult to know whether the Mets will re-up Buchholz, who was signed to a one-year deal. Considering that his season ended in July due to a bout with depression, I hope that the Mets at least make him a minor league offer — if he’s mentally ready to make a return to baseball in the spring. Because physically, he seemed to be OK and on the right track back toward being a reliable reliever.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. argonbunnies October 27, 2011 at 6:32 am
    Buchholz was actually the Mets reliever I felt best about this past year. No one could hit his curve, and he didn’t walk many. He struck me as a simpler and more reliable pitcher than Izzy, who’s always walked a few too many.

    A major league bullpen strikes me as a truly taxing place for someone with depression or anxiety. I have a feeling he won’t be back until those issues are fully behind him. Good luck to him!

  2. argonbunnies October 27, 2011 at 6:35 am
    Separately, and because I have nowhere else to rant about this:

    Why are we thinking of letting Pagan go? Is saving $2mil (the likely difference between Angel and his replacement) really worth losing the guy who entered 2011 as arguably the best value on the roster? Average hitter with great speed in CF = valuable.

    • Joe October 27, 2011 at 9:52 am
      His CF defense was open to question. That seems to me a major issue for those who want to get rid of the guy.
      • izzy October 27, 2011 at 10:17 am
        Open to question!!!! that is certainly very kind. His defense was horrible and his offense mediocre at best. Even at minimum salary they need to get rid of him.
      • argonbunnies October 27, 2011 at 6:28 pm
        Pagan’s got spectacular tools for CF.

        He played a fantastic CF in 2010.

        He made more than his share of embarrassing plays in 2011, and finished somewhere between average and awful (dWAR says “below average”, UZR says “awful”). A big portion of his problem was in throwing.

        If he was a pitcher with a high-90s fastball who’d shown a long stretch of being able to strike guys out, would we cut him after one bad year? Or would we blame it on the strained oblique and look for any reason we could find to be optimistic and dream of his upside?

        I’m not saying Pagan in 2012 is a safe bet. I’m just saying the risk-reward ratio is better than a LOT of players who no one THINKS about cutting.

        Personally, I think he looked too tentative out there. He used to too aggressive, he tempered it in 2010, but now he’s gone too far. I’d rather just see him do a lot of throwing drills, and go balls out after everything. An occasional wrong break or missed dive or two is better than playing gingerly. Despite his many brain farts in 2009, his overall defensive stats from that year are excellent.

        • Joe October 27, 2011 at 8:19 pm
          You asked why people want him gone. People don’t think ’10 was typical Pagan. It seemed like he might finally have hit a groove. Then, he regressed. You want to find a “blame” there though that doesn’t seem to explain bad judgment late season. And, he has to what, do “drills” like he has to relearn his position or something?

          The fact that you very well might not get a replacement that is any better is granted though a new face at the same price might please fans who were tired of Pagan and want to repay non-performance in some fashion. But, his defensive problems and not great offense is a reason why people want to get rid of him.

          One good year two years ago won’t impress too many next season.

      • argonbunnies October 27, 2011 at 6:33 pm
        As for the bat: compared to 2010, his line-drive rate went up 4.5%, his pop-up rate went down 3%, but his BABIP dropped 46 points. That, my friends, is called rotten luck.
        • izzy October 28, 2011 at 4:49 pm
          Sorry to tell you this but its not called rotten luck. Its telling you that 2010 was his lucky season.