Yes, his ERA has dropped from 7.02 — his ERA when placed on the disabled list — to 5.50. Yes, his fastball velocity has increased and been more consistent. And, yes, he’s gone to his best pitch, the changeup, more frequently. But I’m weary to say the ’13 1.74 ERA Buchholz is rejuvenated or even the volatile Clay of 2012.
The simple truth is Clay Buchholz hasn’t been tested. Of the six teams he’s faced since his return, (Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros, Toronto Blue Jays, and Kansas City Royals) only the White Sox and Blue Jays rank in the top-half in baseball with a .716 OPS and .755 OPS. In his start against the White Sox, however, Buchholz was decent, surrendering four earned runs and two long balls in seven innings of work. He was worse in his most recent start facing the Blue Jays, allowing four earned runs in six innings.
His outing versus the White Sox and Blue Jays were similar to his starts against the Mariners (7 1/3 IP, 4 ER) and Royals (6 IP, 4 ER). Buchholz was obviously not on his “A-Game” in any of those contests, and was, in actuality, mediocre.
Further, Buchholz’s run prevention total is significantly distorted by his complete-game shutout against the lowly Astros. Houston’s improved offensively this year, ranking 18th and 16th in team OPS and wRC+ respectively, but still aren’t the most formidable offense in the league.
While he’s benefited from a light-schedule, Buchholz has evidently improved since being activated off the DL. That said, it’ll be interesting to see how he’ll fare squaring off against top-tier offenses.