If you take away five hits and a walk from last night's game, Clay Buchholz pitched a perfect game. It was almost like what Armando Galarraga did the other night. Or, almost like what Armando Galarraga almost did.
Buchholz's start won't go into the record books, but it will go down as one of his best this season.
Buchholz has been very good over his last five starts. As Logan pointed out, Buchh has a 5-0 record and a 0.99 ERA over the last five starts. Wins are useless, of course, but just seeing a number and a "-0" is nice.
The most impressive stat to me over his last five games is his WHIP. In 36.1 innings, he has allowed 23 hits and 12 walks, good for a 0.97 WHIP. This wasn't the Buchholz we saw in April, one that would give up the hits and walks and somehow strand those runners. His ERA has been pretty tidy all year long, but the WHIP has always been a problem. Not now.
Here's a closer look at Buchh's last five starts:
Over the course of these five starts, Buchholz has become more efficient. One-hundred and one pitches has been his lowest pitch count, but it came in Friday's complete-game shutout. He averaged 11.2 pitches per inning in the shutout. In the 5/14 start against Detroit, he was averaging 17.6 pitches per game.
The interesting thing about Buchholz's starts is that he really hasn't followed a clear trend. In three of the five games, he walked just one batter per game. But in the other two he walked five and four, which are two high numbers. Then, in two games, Buchh struck out seven and eight -- good totals no matter how many innings are pitched. But in three of the other games, he has struck out four or less, including two Friday night.
What makes it even more interesting is that the two high strikeout games came against two good teams: Minnesota (seven strikeouts) and Tampa Bay (eight strikeouts). What does this mean? Is Buchholz purposely trying for the strikeouts against better opponents?
Maybe, because it seemed pretty obvious he was pitching to contact against the Orioles' weak lineup on Friday night. Buchh induced 13 ground balls and 11 fly balls. He didn't have to be a shutdown starting pitcher because he allowed his defense to do the work behind him. Against the Twins it seems like everything was clicking, because with the seven strikeouts, he also induced 13 ground balls.
It seems like there is no real reason why Buchholz has been very good as of late. There are no trends to his performances, except one: he gets the job done. One game it might be striking people out and avoiding the contact. The next it might be pitching to contact to let his defense do the work.
This is exactly what the Red Sox need, though. They don't need a pitcher that goes out there and gets 10 strikeouts a game and lives and dies by that. They need a pitcher that can go out and pitch in whatever way gets a win. Buchholz has been that kind of guy and the Red Sox are a better team because of it.
Perhaps we have finally seen the true Clay Buchholz we have been waiting to see for years.