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Friday, May 03, 2013

SI - Verducci: Clay Buchholz has been cheating all season long

Actual headline: “The Truth About Clay Buchholz.”  Said truth?  That not only was he doctoring the ball last night, he’s been doctoring it all season long…and that the start of this behavior mysteriously coincides with his sudden effectiveness as a starter.

Thanks to accusations from Toronto broadcasters and former pitchers Dirk Hayhurst and Jack Morris, Boston pitcher Clay Buchholz has reignited an ageless debate about what constitutes “cheating” in baseball. [...]

It’s unclear exactly what Buchholz is doing, so for now let’s put aside accusations (and gullibility) and stick to the facts. At MLB Network I was able to review in close detail plenty of video of Buchholz from the past two years, including his start in question in Toronto on Wednesday [watch here]. This is what I found to be true:

• Buchholz’s left forearm glistens this year with some kind of substance that is not rosin or perspiration. As the righthander admitted, he does keep water on his uniform and in his hair and does pat the rosin bag on his left forearm—all apparently legal. But rosin is white and has a matte finish. Something wet and mostly clear glistens from Buchholz’s left wrist to his elbow, the moisture of which darkens the edge of his left undershirt sleeve.

• This is not perspiration on his left forearm. His right forearm is dry. There is no darkening on the edge of his right undershirt sleeve.

• He regularly rakes his right index and middle fingers across his left forearm, being careful to keep his other fingers raised.

• Buchholz’s two-seam fastball (thrown with the index and middle fingers on the seams) is much improved with more movement this year; I wrote about this key improvement in his game weeks ago. [...]

I looked at video from last year and found that there are no stains on his left sleeve. There is no glistening on his left forearm. Buchholz is doing something this year with his left forearm that he was not doing last year.

Case closed.

Esoteric Posted: May 03, 2013 at 02:52 PM | 51 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: blue jays, boston, red sox, toronto

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   1. Loren F. Posted: May 03, 2013 at 04:13 PM (#4433237)
But does he have backne?
   2. SG Posted: May 03, 2013 at 04:14 PM (#4433240)
Shouldn't the headline be 'Verducci Tells It Like It Is?'
   3. Esoteric Posted: May 03, 2013 at 04:17 PM (#4433243)
Verducci clearly is doctoring the video evidence.
   4. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: May 03, 2013 at 04:19 PM (#4433246)
Esoteric - Given that you called out Yaz in left for not using the actual title of an article earlier today, it seems more than just a little hypocritical to post this article with this title. The title at the SI website is; "The truth about Clay Buchholz, spitballs and how pitchers get a grip." In fact, Verducci, except in quoting Hayhurst a couple of times, never uses the word "cheating" in the piece.
   5. Esoteric Posted: May 03, 2013 at 04:21 PM (#4433250)
Esoteric - Given that you called out Yaz in left for not using the actual title of an article earlier today, it seems more than just a little disingenuous to post this article with this title. The title at the SI website is; "The truth about Clay Buchholz, spitballs and how pitchers get a grip." In fact, Verducci, except in quoting Hayhurst a couple of times, never uses the word "cheating" in the piece.
Did you not read my intro to the piece?? I actually GAVE the full title there (yes, fully in knowledge of the earlier controversy, that was the joke!), but also the real point is that the title of the post really buries the lede. The lede isn't just that Buchholz was loading up the ball last night, but that he's been doing so all season long, and that he hadn't been prior to this year.

Also, Verducci clearly comes out and says that what Buchholz is doing is a violation of the rules of the game. He is curiously silent on offering a moral judgment about it (remember: I think it's actually fine! Just don't be so blatant about it and accept the consequences if you get caught!), but he doesn't beat around the bush about whether or not it's against the rules.
   6. Nasty Nate Posted: May 03, 2013 at 04:37 PM (#4433266)
...but also the real point is that the title of the post really buries the lede. The lede isn't just that Buchholz was loading up the ball last night, but that he's been doing so all season long, and that he hadn't been prior to this year.


I'm sure every time someone doctors the title, they think the title buries the lede...

you JUST TODAY criticized someone for this exact thing (and no, listing the real title underneath doesn't counteract it completely).
   7. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: May 03, 2013 at 04:43 PM (#4433276)
Did you not read my intro to the piece?? I actually GAVE the full title there (yes, fully in knowledge of the earlier controversy, that was the joke!), but also the real point is that the title of the post really buries the lede. The lede isn't just that Buchholz was loading up the ball last night, but that he's been doing so all season long, and that he hadn't been prior to this year.


Heh, no I didn't. This is BTF, I jump to conclusions dammit!

You keep saying you think it's fine but you are posting a lot on the subject. Your actions suggest stronger feelings than your words.
   8. SteveF Posted: May 03, 2013 at 04:44 PM (#4433279)
Maybe Buchholz stole his laptop.
   9. boteman is not here 'til October Posted: May 03, 2013 at 04:52 PM (#4433290)
Verducci clearly is doctoring the video evidence.

The Verducci effect at work.
   10. puck Posted: May 03, 2013 at 05:01 PM (#4433300)
Looks like fried chicken is back the clubhouse menu.
   11. Steve Treder Posted: May 03, 2013 at 05:03 PM (#4433302)
You keep saying you think it's fine but you are posting a lot on the subject. Your actions suggest stronger feelings than your words.

What's the over/under on how many posts before Ray chimes in to tell everyone that he doesn't care?
   12. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: May 03, 2013 at 05:19 PM (#4433317)
What's the over/under on how many posts before Ray chimes in to tell everyone that he doesn't care?

Never saw him care.
   13. Eric Ferguson Posted: May 03, 2013 at 05:24 PM (#4433325)
I don't care if Ray cares.

BOOM.
   14. Esoteric Posted: May 03, 2013 at 05:58 PM (#4433358)
You keep saying you think it's fine but you are posting a lot on the subject. Your actions suggest stronger feelings than your words.
I'm posting a lot on the subject because I think it's fun and fascinating and definitely newsworthy. (Also, I thought Eckersley was a total dick in how he dismissed Hayhurst as a "career minor leaguer," which definitely did get my dander up a bit.) It's a window into an area of baseball strategy we rarely if ever hear anything about. Also, I'll confess there's probably a bit of typical Primer stubbornness at play here too, as I think people who are denying that Buchholz is/was loading up the ball are demonstrably wrong and (this is unfair and unjustified on my part, admittedly) I suspect some of them are motivated by team allegiances, which sticks in my craw for reasons that nobody else is required to respect in the slightest.

But no, I really DON'T have a problem with the idea of pitchers doing this sort of thing. ASmitty actually said it best and most pithily in the "Eck Tells It Like It Is" thread: this is something pitchers have been doing in baseball games for a hundred years; it's hallowed tradition of the sport even though it most certainly is "cheating," and so long as people accept that a pitcher can get called out at any time (with consequences) I positively enjoy it.
   15. Poster Nutbag Posted: May 03, 2013 at 06:09 PM (#4433366)
Sit up & take notice, tell it like it is......



.....I got a feeling you know what you did......
   16. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 03, 2013 at 06:18 PM (#4433375)
But no, I really DON'T have a problem with the idea of pitchers doing this sort of thing. ASmitty actually said it best and most pithily in the "Eck Tells It Like It Is" thread: this is something pitchers have been doing in baseball games for a hundred years; it's hallowed tradition of the sport even though it most certainly is "cheating," and so long as people accept that a pitcher can get called out at any time (with consequences) I positively enjoy it.

I agree, and more power to Buchholz if he can get away with it, since he's not stupid and obviously realizes the downside of getting caught in the act. But I know that if I were the opposing manager in Buchholz's next 500 starts I'd be checking that uniform sleeve more than a few times, and having video cameras focused up close on his pitching hand before every pitch.

And of course the best possible outcome to all this would be if these allegations are actually true, and with Buchholz now having to fall back on legal pitches, he gives up 10 runs in the first inning to the Twins on Monday, and leaves the Fenway mound to a cascade of boos, jeers, and spitballs, thereby totally demoralizing his teammates and causing them to go into a tailspin for the rest of the season, while the scrappy underdog Yankees and the lovable Orioles fight it out for the gonfalon.
   17. Dan Posted: May 03, 2013 at 06:20 PM (#4433376)
• Buchholz’s two-seam fastball (thrown with the index and middle fingers on the seams) is much improved with more movement this year; I wrote about this key improvement in his game weeks ago. [...]


So we finally have someone making a claim for what Buchholz is doing with his pitches by doctoring the ball. Let's check it out, since we have the movement and velocity and location of every pitch thrown during Buchholz's career in the Pitch F/X database.

Clay Buchholz sinker movement by Pitch F/X:

2012: HMov: -6.00, VMov: 7.95
2013: HMov: -6.46, VMov: 8.23

And for comparison:
Entire career: HMov: -7.21, VMov: 7.77

Yeah, look at that massive difference in movement, obviously created by doctoring the ball. But why bother looking at actual data when you can throw out wild accusations based on random claims?
   18. Dan Posted: May 03, 2013 at 06:36 PM (#4433388)
   19. PepTech Posted: May 03, 2013 at 06:41 PM (#4433390)
And of course the best possible outcome to all this would be if these allegations are actually true, and with Buchholz now having to fall back on legal pitches, he gives up 10 runs in the first inning to the Twins on Monday


No it's not - I have Buchholz on my fantasy team.

Leave the boy alone!
   20. Baldrick Posted: May 03, 2013 at 06:42 PM (#4433391)
So our timeline:

2012 Esoteric posts article with fake headline to push his own agenda. Is called out for it
Today: Esoteric screams at someone for doing the same. Is called on it, and says that since he had previously done this he's in a perfect position to know that it's juvenile and unacceptable.
Later today: Esoteric posts article with fake headline to push his own agenda. Claims that tongue is in cheek, it's meta, etc.

Thoughts:
If you genuinely think there's something wrong with this A) just don't do it. Everyone who does it thinks it's funny and obvious that it's not the real title. The seeming point is that it's not really very funny. B) if you're going to call people out for it, do so nicely. You don't have to yell at them. Just explain why you think it's a problem. C) Most people are not privy to whatever random spats you have had on BBTF today and so aren't going to get the meta-ness of whatever joke you're making.

And I suppose D) I actually think it's pretty funny when people post articles with fake headlines that aggressively state the truth. It's usually pretty obvious and it nicely exposes the mealy-mouthed way that people write about stuff. So I don't really have any problem with the practice.
   21. Guapo Posted: May 03, 2013 at 06:45 PM (#4433396)
   22. Esoteric Posted: May 03, 2013 at 06:48 PM (#4433398)
Thoughts:
If you genuinely think there's something wrong with this A) just don't do it. Everyone who does it thinks it's funny and obvious that it's not the real title. The seeming point is that it's not really very funny. B) if you're going to call people out for it, do so nicely. You don't have to yell at them. Just explain why you think it's a problem. C) Most people are not privy to whatever random spats you have had on BBTF today and so aren't going to get the meta-ness of whatever joke you're making.

And I suppose D) I actually think it's pretty funny when people post articles with fake headlines that aggressively state the truth. It's usually pretty obvious and it nicely exposes the mealy-mouthed way that people write about stuff. So I don't really have any problem with the practice.
Point taken and fair enough. I'm not perfect, and am fully capable of erraticism, inconsistency, misplaced preachiness, etc. Just a workaday sinner trying to improve himself one inning at a time.
   23. PreservedFish Posted: May 03, 2013 at 06:58 PM (#4433406)
Better phrase: mealy-mouthed or ham-fisted?
   24. Esoteric Posted: May 03, 2013 at 07:00 PM (#4433409)
Better phrase: mealy-mouthed or ham-fisted?
Mealy-mouthed. It reminds me of one of my favorite 'country' phrases I first heard at the foot of my ol' grandpa back in the day: "Son, you sound like a manure salesman with a mouth full of sample."
   25. Steve Treder Posted: May 03, 2013 at 07:07 PM (#4433416)
"Son, you sound like a manure salesman with a mouth full of sample."

Its inverse is: "Great guy. Wouldn't say sh!t if he had a mouthful."
   26. greenback calls it soccer Posted: May 03, 2013 at 07:08 PM (#4433418)
So the Cardinals already have the NLDS locked up? Cool.
   27. Justin T., Director of Somethin Posted: May 03, 2013 at 07:11 PM (#4433422)
The lesson, as usual, is that Esoteric is an asshat who for some reason thinks he is the one who knows everything that's in BTF's unwritten rules.
   28. Esoteric Posted: May 03, 2013 at 07:15 PM (#4433425)
The lesson, as usual, is that Esoteric is an asshat who for some reason thinks he is the one who knows everything that's in BTF's unwritten rules.
I'll never understand your bizarrely one-sided grudge against me. Suffice it to say I don't feel the same way in return. But I do wonder why you drop into random threads to call me an asshat for absolutely no reason. (And it's the odd personalization of your disagreement that is so out-of-place around here...so dissonant from the spirit of this site.) Did I run over your dog or something? You've been doing this for years.
   29. silhouetted by the sea Posted: May 03, 2013 at 07:37 PM (#4433449)
I always assumed that if a pitcher was doctoring the ball, he would at least try to hide it. Why would he be this open about it if he is cheating.
   30. Sonic Youk Posted: May 03, 2013 at 08:01 PM (#4433475)
Mixed feelings about this article. On one hand, it's cool that Verducci tried to prove this with FX. On the other hand, I think his evidence is bad.

If Clay is loading the ball, it's either a placebo, or he is the only guy in history who can get consistent action on the spitter. The thing that stands out on his charts is the consistency.
   31. Drexl Spivey Posted: May 03, 2013 at 09:55 PM (#4433599)
If Clay is loading the ball, it's either a placebo, or he is the only guy in history who can get consistent action on the spitter.


The allegation isn't that the guy is throwing a spitter. It's that he's using a sticky substance to improve the break on his slider/curve.
   32. Steve Treder Posted: May 03, 2013 at 10:43 PM (#4433649)
The allegation isn't that the guy is throwing a spitter. It's that he's using a sticky substance to improve the break on his slider/curve.

That's what a spitter is.
   33. Commissioner Bud Black Beltre Hillman Posted: May 03, 2013 at 10:47 PM (#4433651)
It saddens me that here, of all places, people use 'asshat' rather than 'Aasehat'.

Re 31, and further to 32, actually that was exactly Morris' claim.
   34. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 03, 2013 at 11:07 PM (#4433682)
And of course the best possible outcome to all this would be if these allegations are actually true, and with Buchholz now having to fall back on legal pitches, he gives up 10 runs in the first inning to the Twins on Monday, and leaves the Fenway mound to a cascade of boos, jeers, and spitballs, thereby totally demoralizing his teammates and causing them to go into a tailspin for the rest of the season, while the scrappy underdog Yankees and the lovable Orioles fight it out for the gonfalon.

No it's not - I have Buchholz on my fantasy team.

Leave the boy alone!


Okay, Buchholz gets cleared, but only if Lester gets caught in flagrante delicto with the Rangers' batboy and gets tried by Judge Snapper. Deal?
   35. ellsbury my heart at wounded knee Posted: May 04, 2013 at 06:01 AM (#4433762)
That's what a spitter is.


Wait, I thought a spitter generally had sinking fastball action? From what I've heard the past day or so, the spitter can do pretty much anything, and we should start shipping them into the Middle East to solve our problems there.
   36. SteveF Posted: May 04, 2013 at 06:17 AM (#4433766)
Wait, I thought a spitter generally had sinking fastball action?


You're right. You use a spitter to actually reduce the grip on the ball, reducing the amount of backspin causing a greater drop from the reduced lift.

In this case the accusation from Verducci is he is using a substance to improve his grip and get MORE spin to improve the amount of horizontal movement on fastballs (thrown with backspin) or horizontal and vertical movement on breaking pitches (thrown with topspin). Though Verducci doesn't say that explicitly, that's my understanding regarding the physics of the pitches.

Edit: Based on what I've read, the split fingered fastball is what actually caused people to give up on the spitter. You can negate some backspin using the split fingered grip almost as effectively as you can using a spitball. With most of the incentive to cheat taken away, the art of throwing the spitter was lost.
   37. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: May 04, 2013 at 09:23 AM (#4433829)
Okay, Buchholz gets cleared, but only if Lester gets caught in flagrante delicto with the Rangers' batboy and gets tried by Judge Snapper.


Be careful what you wish for, Judge Snapper will likely rule that the batboy seduced Lester, or at worst transfer Lester to another fantasy team.
   38. Drexl Spivey Posted: May 04, 2013 at 09:42 AM (#4433857)
Edit: Based on what I've read, the split fingered fastball is what actually caused people to give up on the spitter. You can negate some backspin using the split fingered grip almost as effectively as you can using a spitball. With most of the incentive to cheat taken away, the art of throwing the spitter was lost.


This is correct.

It was addressed in Joe Posnanski's book about Buck O'Neil (both Buck and Willie Mays believed that the splitter was actually a well hidden spitter).

A loaded up baseball (aka a "spitter") will sink with unpredictable movement. The use of a sticky substance allows a pitcher to spin a ball more effectively.
   39. Rough Carrigan Posted: May 04, 2013 at 11:23 AM (#4433893)
I had the misfortune of watching MLB network as Verdouchy and Mitch Williams blundered around on this subject the other night. They both thought they had some kind of "Aha!" moment from the fact that one picture showed Buchholz having more moisture on his non pitching forearm. It never seemed to have occurred to either of them that perhaps Buchholz would wipe sweat off his pitching arm's forearm so that it didn't get on his hand.
   40. McCoy Posted: May 04, 2013 at 11:28 AM (#4433896)
It is times like these that one can always discover which team is a poster's "home team".
   41. ellsbury my heart at wounded knee Posted: May 04, 2013 at 01:30 PM (#4433979)
It is times like these that one can always discover which team is a poster's "home team".


I find it's pretty easy in most threads. Buchholz could certainly be using something on the ball, but I'm frustrated by the quality of the evidence when there is clearly tons of video available and lots of people with too much spare time. Get me more convincing images one way or the other, dorks of the internet!
   42. villageidiom Posted: May 04, 2013 at 02:05 PM (#4434001)

It is times like these that one can always discover which team is a poster's "home team".
To this point the evidence assembled on Buchholz is like the evidence of a witch in The Holy Grail. It might turn out he is cheating, but there is NO reason to believe the "evidence" presented to date.

Red Sox fans want to believe he's not cheating. Others want to believe he is. I'm not shocked at either group, but those are the people who are driving the discussion right now.
   43. smileyy Posted: May 04, 2013 at 02:38 PM (#4434021)
Red Sox fans want to believe he's not cheating. Others want to believe he is.


Cheating is really a continuum, and what we need to take into account here is whether Buchholz self-identifies as a cheater or not.
   44. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 04, 2013 at 03:18 PM (#4434054)
Red Sox fans want to believe he's not cheating. Others want to believe he is.

All I care about is that the opposing managers try to get into his head. If he's as good as Gaylord Perry he won't let it bother him a bit, but it's worth the effort to try to break his rhythm every once in a while.
   45. Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: May 04, 2013 at 03:36 PM (#4434067)
Cheating is really a continuum, and what we need to take into account here is whether Buchholz self-identifies as a cheater or not.


Nice work.
   46. Steve Treder Posted: May 04, 2013 at 03:43 PM (#4434069)
Nice work.

Seconded.
   47. Joe Bivens, Minor Genius Posted: May 04, 2013 at 04:28 PM (#4434093)
I'm pretty sure if he's cheating, he's a closeted cheater.
   48. Joe Bivens, Minor Genius Posted: May 04, 2013 at 04:34 PM (#4434097)
First of all, pitchers who use vaseline or something like that hide it, they don't put it somewhere any ump can walk over to him and see/touch it easily. Sheesh.

And second of all, see "first of all".
   49. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 04, 2013 at 06:47 PM (#4434177)
Red Sox fans want to believe he's not cheating. Others want to believe he is. I'm not shocked at either group, but those are the people who are driving the discussion right now.


Who else is there besides "Red Sox fans" and "others"?
   50. Esoteric Posted: May 04, 2013 at 07:20 PM (#4434206)
Who else is there besides "Red Sox fans" and "others"?
I read "Morlocks" and "Eloi" respectively there, dunno 'bout you. :-)
   51. villageidiom Posted: May 04, 2013 at 08:36 PM (#4434232)
Who else is there besides "Red Sox fans" and "others"?
I don't mean to imply that "others" meant "all others". I meant "other people who aren't Red Sox fans who seem to be stretching the evidence for whatever reason". Besides those two groups there are like 7 billion people.

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