Trade Value: Chamberlain and Buchholz

0 thoughts on “Trade Value: Chamberlain and Buchholz

  1. MJ

    This is where it sometimes helps to have context with statistics. While everything you wrote is correct — Chamberlain has slightly better peripherals over a slightly higher innings workload — it is worth mentioning that Buchholz’s emergence as a starter began last year at approximately the same time that Chamberlain’s horrible regression began.

    I would argue that Buchholz’s 2008 results (horrible) precipitated a need for him to return to AAA-Pawtucket where he re-discovered trust in his fastball and refined his off-speed stuff (as well as took a mental break). Buchholz earned his way back to Boston and I expect him to pitch as effectively in 2010 as he did at the end of 2009.

    On the other hand, I’ve been arguing for months that Chamberlain needed to go through the same demotion as Buchholz, going back to AAA-Scranton to work on his FB location, refine his breaking stuff and take a mental break from a steady diet of failure. The minor leagues are clearly beneath Chamberlain from a talent perspective but if he’s sent there to work on things like location, pitch pattern, stamina/efficiency, it doesn’t matter that he’s facing sub-optimal talent. It’s about the work he does and not about the numbers themselves.

    Although the numbers seem to show that Buchholz and Chamberlain are equals, I think contextually they are in slightly different places right now and that Buchholz has slightly more value given the fact that he’s had more recent success among the two young pitchers.

    • Moshe Mandel

      I knew I would get some pushback from you, MJ, and you perfectly made the case for Clay. I do think Joba’s demise has been overstated. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but his ERA was something like 3.58 when he hit his previous innings high. His peripherals were not excellent, but he was doing a solid job for a guy in his first year starting in the AL east. It was a 2 month decline. Buchholz also struggled down the stretch, although not as much. I think an argument can be made each way.

      • MJ

        I dunno if you saw it on WW.com, but I “forgave” Chamberlain after the World Series ended and decided to give him a clean slate for 2010. :-)

        I know he was at 3.58 at his previous innings high but what concerns me with him aren’t the results (although they were bad and do merit some concern). What concerns me was his approach and the fact that he went from a four-pitch pitcher to a two-pitch pitcher. Chamberlain only throws FB/SL now and his SL is now exclusively a swing-and-miss offering instead of something he can throw for a called strike. His pitch pattern became incredibly predictable, nearly always going to the slider down and away on righties with two strikes.

        Obviously these types of things can be corrected and addressed but the fact remains that as long as the process is “broken” then the odds of success are minimized. Perhaps that 3.58 ERA was partially attributable to luck (or lack of adjustment on the part of his opponents) despite the faulty process?

        My own personal project for this winter is to track all 1217 of Chamberlain’s batters faced to see exactly when he abandoned his secondary pitches and to see if he ever used to throw a version of his slider for called strikes. In my opinion, if you can’t locate your fastball for strikes then you can’t have your secondary pitches always be outside the strike zone. Every once in a while it wouldn’t hurt Chamberlain to drop a slider in for a called strike, to say nothing of the fact that Chamberlain needs to dust off his CB/CH and put them back in his arsenal.

        On the whole, yes, I do still believe Chamberlain can pitch in the big leagues. I just think he needs more MiLB seasoning to correct some of the flaws that have appeared over the past few months. I don’t think the MLB roster is the appropriate venue for him to fix these misakes…

        • Moshe Mandel

          I think that is fair. Honestly, using his other two pitches less didn’t perturb me as much as his innaccuracy with the slider. Thtas something they need to work on, although I think his results over the first 4 months tell me he can work on it in the majors.

          • MJ

            I would’ve agreed with you based on the first four months. But the last two months were so frighteningly bad that I think going to Scranton to start the year would be a good idea. He doesn’t have to be in the minors as long as Buchholz was — although I think it did Buchholz some good to have an undefined time limit to his pseudo-demotion — but I don’t think it’s in Chamberlain’s best interest to tinker with what once was a plus-plus pitch against big league hitters. There’s no harm in having him refine his slider in AAA and figure out the other parts of his game that need fixing. After all, the Yanks have plenty of in-house options for a #4 starter and, according to the schedule, the team won’t need their #5 starter until mid-May.

          • When you consider we have a patch work rotation at best how do you think we don’t need a 5th starter?

            Sabathia
            Burnett
            Pettitte
            Hughes
            Joba

            Now you want us to send Joba to the minors which I also am completely for and think needs to happen…

            Sabathia
            Burnett
            Pettitte
            Hughes
            Mitre/Gaudin

            I say absolutley not to that idea… First off it completely relies on Burnett and Pettitte pitching 190+ innings without any injury problems and it is based on the fact that Hughes will be healthy all year and effective.

            Sabathia
            Burnett
            Hughes
            Gaudin
            Mitre
            Or
            Sabathia
            Pettitte
            Hughes
            Gaudin
            Mitre
            or
            Sabathia
            Burnett
            Gaudin
            Mitre
            Kennedy
            or
            Sabathia
            Pettitte
            Gaudin
            Mitre
            Kennedy

            If we are going to send Chamberlain to the minors we need to sign someone to be our 4th starter so Hughes can be no more than a 5th starter to begin the year, adding another starter also helps in case of injury because I refuse to sit through Mitre as the 5th starter again.

            Sabathia
            Burnett
            Pettitte
            Sheets
            Hughes

            In this rotation your protection is built right in and if Sheets gets injured you have Joba to bring up which means you have to have at least 2 injuries in order to see Mitre in the rotation.

            I don’t consider our “in house options” very good and especially not at the start of the season…

            Zach McAllister has never been in triple A so to expect him to be able to take any rotation spot before the all star break is wishful thinking.

            Ian Kennedy pitched 1 inning after coming back from his surgery and needs at least a month in the minors before I would consider him a starting option at the major league level once again.

            Sergio Mitre… Do I even need to say why this isn’t a good starter to have in your rotation at the beginning of the season?

            Chad Gaudin is better than Mitre but not by much and would be a lot more useful out of the pen as a righty specialist to use with guys like Marte and Coke when they get lefties.

            I would much rather sign one of the inexpensive starting options than have to have anyone of these guys as my plan B backup plan, I would much rather have them as plan Cs.

          • Moshe Mandel

            He meant that due to the schedule, you only need 4 guys until May, at which point you bring Joba back.

          • Moshe Mandel

            I wouldn’t be upset if they did that. I’d like for him to stay in the majors, but if the club thinks he needs to do work he can’t do in the majors, I can live with that.

          • He just needs to develop and that is easier in the minors… At Scranton he could spend a whole game on velocity or a whole game developing his change or curve but in the majors he can’t do that… If he struggles early in the majors he has to be pulled so we can salvage the game, if he did that in Scranton he can be left in to work through it. It’s more conducive to learning, not to mention I think Joba is a little too comfortable with his job security and maybe being sent down will give him a reality check… The Joba fanhood he got so quickly might have gone to his head some because he almost refuses to admit failure.

      • MJ

        FWIW, FanGraphs addressed this question more broadly in July and ranked trade value for 50 players. They had Chamberlain at #42 and Buchholz at #38. Given how Chamberlain got worse and Buchholz got better from the time of that article to the end of the year, I can’t see any reason why Chamberlain’s trade value would be higher than Buchholz’s.

        The method employed by FanGraphs might not have been the most scientific but even if you don’t agree with it, I don’t think it’s too far off base to say that Buchholz is marginally more valuable than Chamblerlain…

        http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/2009-mlb-trade-value-45-41

        http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/2009-mlb-trade-value-40-36

        • Moshe Mandel

          That list is basically Dave Cameron’s personal preference. He’s not a scout or anything, he is numbers guy trying to make talent evaluations. Your other points were a lot more meaningful to me.

          • MJ

            Fair enough, and I even wrote that the methodology seemed vague (to the point that it probably *is* Cameron’s subjective point of view). Having said that, as an amateur (and I stress amateur) scout, Buchholz being a LHP could even be construed as the tipping point in trade value. Both pitchers have plus velocity and at least one (if not two) plus pitches in their arsenal. One pitcher (Buchholz) has had more recent success than the other (Chamberlain) and one is a lefty…

            Anyway, I’m not saying Buchholz has left Chamberlain in the dust or anything, just that I think Buchholz is a bit more advanced in his development than Chamberlain is and that the composite stats you cited above lack the context that I’m trying to bring.

          • When did Buchholz start throwing left handed? If he can throw from both sides he definitely has the edge over Chamberlain.

            I think you mean that Buchholz bats left handed but he pitches right handed,

            I also don’t consider 91-93 MPH being a plus fastball and in fact I consider it necessary to ordinary fastballs from both unless Joba can get back up to 93-96 MPH as a stater. If so he has plus velocity but Buchholz has much better movement on his 91-93 than Joba does and has a much much better 2-seam fastball.

          • If Clay could throw left handed that would make him more valuable than Chamberlain though because he would be the starting version of Pat Venditte HAHA…

          • MJ

            Correct, my mistake. I briefly confused him for Lester. He’s a RHP.

            I never specified what pitches of Buchholz’s I considered plus pitches. His changeup is a plus-plus offering, as is his curveball.

            From Baseball America’s scouting report of Boston’s top-10 prospects in 2008:

            “Buchholz has a low-90s fastball that tops out at 95 mph, and it’s his third-best pitch. His 12-to-6 curveball and his changeup both rate as 70s on the 20-80 scouting scale and are better than any on Boston’s big league staff. With terrific athleticism and hand speed, he uses an overhand delivery to launch curves that drop off the table. He’ll also mix in a handful of sliders during a game, and that’s a plus pitch for him at times.”

    • MJ: I dunno if you saw it on WW.com, but I “forgave” Chamberlain after the World Series ended and decided to give him a clean slate for 2010.
      I know he was at 3.58 at his previous innings high but what concerns me with him aren’t the results (although they were bad and do merit some concern).What concerns me was his approach and the fact that he went from a four-pitch pitcher to a two-pitch pitcher.Chamberlain only throws FB/SL now and his SL is now exclusively a swing-and-miss offering instead of something he can throw for a called strike.His pitch pattern became incredibly predictable, nearly always going to the slider down and away on righties with two strikes.Obviously these types of things can be corrected and addressed but the fact remains that as long as the process is “broken” then the odds of success are minimized.Perhaps that 3.58 ERA was partially attributable to luck (or lack of adjustment on the part of his opponents) despite the faulty process?My own personal project for this winter is to track all 1217 of Chamberlain’s batters faced to see exactly when he abandoned his secondary pitches and to see if he ever used to throw a version of his slider for called strikes.In my opinion, if you can’t locate your fastball for strikes then you can’t have your secondary pitches always be outside the strike zone.Every once in a while it wouldn’t hurt Chamberlain to drop a slider in for a called strike, to say nothing of the fact that Chamberlain needs to dust off his CB/CH and put them back in his arsenal.On the whole, yes, I do still believe Chamberlain can pitch in the big leagues.I just think he needs more MiLB seasoning to correct some of the flaws that have appeared over the past few months.I don’t think the MLB roster is the appropriate venue for him to fix these misakes…  

      The going to 2 pitches concerns me but not as much as the fact that once he went to 2 pitches they weren’t good pitches! He wasn’t throwing with any kind of good consistent velocity (for any part of the year) and as the season went along it was almost as if he had unlearned his slider because every game it became worse.

      I not only think Chamberlain should go to the minors I also don’t think it is beneath him stuff wise because he doesn’t have the same stuff as the last time he was a starter in the minors, on his way up he was a dominate starting pitcher with hard velocity and a sharp slider that could be a strike or a strikeout pitch instead of the straight down pitch it became.

      Everyone wants to argue that he dominated the minors as a starer and so he shouldn’t go back but if this is who he is now he needs to go down and learn to be a new pitcher because being a “power” guy who throws 91 with a weak slider isn’t a starting pitcher he is a reliever and since he was only throwing 93-96 in the pen he is average there as well as of the last time he pitched.

  2. Steve S.

    Good piece, Moshe. I would give Joba a slight edge because his upside is higher and he’s a year younger. But its very close

    • MJ

      I’m curious why you think Chamberlain’s upside is higher. I’m not saying you’re right or wrong, I just want to know why you see it that way.

      Personally, I view Buchholz as the one with the higher upside, given the string of consistent success he had after his call up last year and the fact that, unlike Chamberlain (at present), Buchholz uses more than two pitches.

      • If it’s this years Chamberlain it’s not even close Buchholz is the answer but if you are talking the Joba with 96 MPH heat as a starter then I would agree that Joba has better stuff and could be an Ace a lot easier but at the current moment they both throw 91.

  3. I can’t think of one person right now that can say Joba’s upside is more than that of Buchholz. I mean Joba did have great stuff as a starter once upon a time and if that ever comes back then we have a conversation but what I saw last year was Buchholz throwing harder than Chamberlain a lot of times and in much better control of secondary pitches, right now it’s easy Buchholz has way more trade value the only difference between the two teams is Montero because the Red Sox can’t counter with a position player as good.

    • Moshe Mandel

      I saw Buchholz pretty much every time he pitched this season, and there were times where he looked awful. We saw Joba struggle all year, but Buchholz had similar struggles for a lot of the season.

      • He didn’t have similar struggles to Joba because velocity didn’t mysteriously disappear, his curve didn’t just stop breaking for no reason towards the end of the season and he didn’t completely faze out his changeup, so while Buchholz did struggle at times this year they weren’t the same kind of problems as Joba… Sure they may have encountered some mechanical issues similarly or some location issues similarly at times but Chamberlain’s glaring holes and the reason he isn’t looked at with as much hope anymore is because of the stuff Buchholz didn’t deal with because it didn’t happen to him.

        Let’s also not forget Buchholz has a no hitter under his belt while Joba has finished 8 innings in his career twice…

        If Joba is throwing 89-93 MPH as a starter and 93-96 as a reliever I think we have to face facts that he is average and not going to be above that and Buchholz has the much brighter future because he can actually pitch and if Joba is throwing 89-93 MPH fastballs that doesn’t mix to well when your only other pitch is an 87-89 MPH slider that looks the same.

        • The curve is in reference to Joba’s slider but Buchholz relies on the curve more so that is why I used curve…

          Also Buchholz has much better movement on his 2-seam and 4-seam fastballs making his lower velocity a lot better than Chamberlain’s fastball at the same velocity.

  4. Moshe Mandel: He meant that due to the schedule, you only need 4 guys until May, at which point you bring Joba back.  

    I don’t trust Hughes as my number 4 starter and would much rather have a veteran for that role and allow Hughes to be the 5th starter we don’t have to use until May and we bring Joba in when he is ready and not because we have to.

    • MJ

      I’m fine with the Yanks signing a veteran-type for the #4 role (someone like Harden, Sheets or Bedard) and having Hughes as the #5, with Chamberlain in the minors until he’s called up.

      In fact, that’s my preferred scenario.

      • Good so we are in the same boat when it comes to that thinking…

        Out of those 3 (and those do seem to be the only 3 worth signing) I have to say my first choice would be Sheets… Harden apparently has a shoulder tear and anything to do with a shoulder really scares me in a pitcher and while Bedard has always had great stuff from the left side he has always been an injury waiting to happen and from what you read he has a nasty attitude and doesn’t always try his hardest to get back on the field and pitching while hurt on a losing team he’s just not the kind of guy I want in my club house.

  5. MJ: Correct, my mistake. I briefly confused him for Lester. He’s a RHP.

    I never specified what pitches of Buchholz’s I considered plus pitches. His changeup is a plus-plus offering, as is his curveball.

    From Baseball America’s scouting report of Boston’s top-10 prospects in 2008:

    “Buchholz has a low-90s fastball that tops out at 95 mph, and it’s his third-best pitch. His 12-to-6 curveball and his changeup both rate as 70s on the 20-80 scouting scale and are better than any on Boston’s big league staff. With terrific athleticism and hand speed, he uses an overhand delivery to launch curves that drop off the table. He’ll also mix in a handful of sliders during a game, and that’s a plus pitch for him at times.”

    Actually you did

    MJ:Both pitchers have plus velocity

    As I stated above I don’t consider a fastball that is average 90-93 MPH to be of “plus velocity” and in face I believe it to be pedestrian from the right side… If Chamberlain can’t get his velocity up he is an average starter at best, Clay doesn’t need the plus velocity because he has such good movement and his 2-seam fastball is great. Joba on the other hand does need to the plus velocity (93-96+ MPH) in order to make his stuff special.

    I didn’t say that you said his fastball was a plus pitch I was simply remarking on the fact you said his fastball has “plus velocity” which he doesn’t and at the current moment neither does Joba.

    I agree that Clay has a very good change and his curve is very nasty but that doesn’t mean he has plus velocity he doesn’t… but he doesn’t need it to be good like Joba does.

    • MJ

      According to FanGraphs PitchFX, Buchholz’s FB averaged 93.6 with a range of 88-98. I don’t know about you, but anyone that sits at 94 and can get up to 98 has plus-velocity and that’s not even his best pitch.

      • I have never seen the 98 once in my times watching him… I’m not saying it hasn’t been done but lets not say he can hit 98 if he has done it once in his career… That is my only real problems with scouting reports, you can hit a number once but how many times and on how many different guns.

        I think once he gets a full year in the majors you will see his average velocity go down towards 91 a little more, he only had 90 innings in the big leagues this year and I doubt those velocity numbers carry the 90 innings he pitched in the minors so I don’t know what his average velocity was over the whole year… He could have been really pumped up in the first few starts because of his first opportunity in a while to actually stick in the majors and he wanted to make a good impression.

        Just watching Clay with my own eyes he was sitting 91-93 for the most part in his starts and I don’t consider that top velocity, he isn’t going to be hitting 95 back to back to back pitches anytime soon, but by the looks of it neither will Joba.

        It’s really sad that at 93.6 MPH Buchholz is over a full MPH higher on average than the “power pitcher” Joba Chamberlain with an average fastball of 92.5… That’s awful!

        If I were to ask you to assign the MPH with the pitcher you would reverse those most likely in your mind.

    • The difference in the 2 pitchers really boils down to something said in that scouting report (even though it’s not new news)…

      Clay Buchholz has a great change and a great curve and he mixes in the 4 and 2-seam fastballs to keep the hitters honest and stay off the offspeed and breaking stuff and even though he isn’t throwing much harder than 91 a good majority of the time it’s ok because his other pitches make the fastball look that much better.

      Joba Chamberlain is a power pitcher who had a plus fastball with premo velocity and he used his slider and curve and change to keep the hitters honest and off of his fastball all the time.

      Without plus velocity on his fastball Joba’s pitching plan breaks down, his slider loses some of the bite it had and the difference in velocity is no longer there so hitters can sit back on wait on the fastball or a hanging slider. When he doesn’t have the good velocity on the fastball his other pitches look worse.

      Joba doesn’t even bring his changeup out in a game until the 4th inning or later he just doesn’t pitch he throws and because of that his lack in velocity is all the more scary…