So Who Is Billy Buckner?

It’s pretty clear that the Tigers don’t have big plans for newly acquired Billy Buckner.

Yesterday Dave Dombrowski described the right hander’s role in the organization thusly:

“He gives us depth at Toledo.”

Didn’t they say the same thing about poor Mike Hessman?

Given Buckner’s numbers — a 6.56 ERA for the Diamondbacks in 29 games (16 starts) in parts of three seasons — and a 0-3, 11.08 ERA record this season, you can’t argue with the Tigers doing nothing more than simply plugging a roster opening at Toledo with Buckner. And, because tonight’s starter, Armando Galarraga, appears set to stay in Detroit for a while the Mud Hens needed a body.

So, play along as we noodle the idea of Buckner arriving in Detroit some time this summer. Is he as bad as his stats would indicate?

Pretty much. Sorta. I think so.

Here’s what Baseball Prospectus 2010 says about him:

Buckner’s past two seasons can make your head spin. In 10 appearances during the 2008 campaign, he induced batters to swing at pitches out of the strike zone at a below-average clip, allowing more contact than the league average on those pitches to boot. His ERA? 3.21. In 16 more games in 2009, hitters chased 30 percent of those pitches in a league where batters chased only 25 percent, and he allowed far less contact, a stat amplified by the fact that he threw more pitches out of the zone than in. His ERA? 6.40.


…Buckner’s true talent level likely lies somewhere in between those two extremes, but a ground-baller with a decent repertoire and the ability to get hitters to chase is a ground-baller who deserves another chance.

Maybe a change of scenery will do Buckner, the Royals’ second-round pick in 2004, some good. He’s two years younger than Dontrelle Willis, so he might emerge as a serviceable major-league pitcher and get the chance that BP mentions.

I’ll be curious to see whether Buckner or Jay Voss, whom the Tigers received in the trade for Nate Robertson, amount to anything for the big club. Time will tell.

And I’m guessing it won’t tell us much about Buckner. Or Voss for that matter.

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