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2021 Arizona Diamondbacks Reviews, #50: Ryan Buchter

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No matter what the stats say and what you might say, but this man is great.

San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images
  • Rating: 2.28
  • Age: 34
  • 2021 Stats: 18G, 16.1 IP, 6.61 ERA, 7.95 FIP, 1.776 WHIP, 16:13 K/BB, 66 ERA+
  • 2021 Earnings: $238,704 (via Spotrac)
  • 2022 Status: released by the Diamondbacks in August 2021, now a free agent.

Introduction

Buchter, a Pennsylvania native, was drafted a long time ago: the Nationals picked him in the 33rd round of the 2005 draft. A radical article (we’ll get to that) in May of this year stated that only 42 players that were ever drafted in the 33rd round of the MLB draft have reached the majors. He had the odds against him from the beginning, but he beat those when he reached the MLB at 27 years of age, in 2014, when he threw an inning for the Braves and got the win in an extra inning victory over the Nationals, the team that drafted him.

Wow, sweet, awesome, you’d say, but Buchter does not remember it that way.

Buchter is one of those players that have and are battling depression. In his case it mounds back to the time where he had a hard time stringing the finances together in the minor leagues and not getting a major league call-up despite a solid ERA.

Buchter seems to be one of those victims of advanced analytics. Take a look at his minor league stats and you see a pitcher that has always walked too many guys, but has always been able to keep them in check with a successful combo of a fastball and a curve.

That is in line with his advanced metrics for his seasons in the MLB, where each season he has far outplayed the league’s average BABIP due to low exit velocities off the bat.

Low ERA’s, but no team seemed to be willing to buy into it.

When he made his debut for the Braves, he had already switched three teams (Nationals-Cubs-Braves) and after being outrighted in 2014 by the Braves, he would pitch for a season in the Dodgers’ and Cubs’ minor league teams.

In 2016 he finally got a real shot. Former Padres’ skipper Andy Green told Buchter how he believed in him and he got an opportunity in San Diego. There he had success for a season and a half, which he continued in Kansas City after the Padres traded him mid-season in 2017 to the Royals.

The Royals traded him to the Oakland A’s in 2018, where he had success for two seasons until he was not tendered a contract. 2020 was a lost season as he settled for a minor league contract with the Angels where he was released after just a few innings.

Hence Buchter had to settle for another minor league contract and he ended up in Arizona, his 10th team in what has been a wild pitching career.

I hope everyone takes some time to read this eye-opening article about the man we are reviewing here: Ryan Buchter.

2021 review

Buchter signed a minor league contract in January 2021. He had no chance to impress in Spring Training, giving up 5 runs in just 4 innings of work.

The lefty did not make the Opening Day roster and was assigned to Reno early May from the alternate training camp. There he pitched for 3 weeks until the Diamondbacks selected his contract on May 27 after placing Luke Weaver on the 60-day IL, not long after the above cited article was published.

Buchter was moderately successful, giving up just two runs in his first 7 games for the D-Backs. That all ended on June 16 in a game against the Giants. Merrill Kelly and Keury Mella had already given up 8 runs in less than 4 innings of work until Buchter took the mound in his 8th relief appearance. In the 5th inning he walked 3 guys and gave up a hit and two homeruns, allowing 5 runs all together.

Buchter would then have 6 scoreless relief appearances until he gave up a run again, this time in a game against the Cardinals. 3 days later he would again find his Waterloo in the San Francisco Giants, when he gave up 2 runs and was tagged with a blown save and a loss.

We are talking June/July here: in all of those 14 appearances just one game ended in a Diamondbacks win.

After that final outing he was designated for assignment, Jordan Weems was claimed and took his place, and he was outrighted to Reno.

What then happened is not really clear. According to his transactions page, he was outrighted on July 7 and on July 9 the Aces placed him on the Development List. Was there something mechanically wrong or was Buchter battling some mental health problems again? However it may be, he finally returned to the Aces about two weeks later and pitched in 3 games until the Diamondbacks selected his contract again.

His second stint in the MLB would last just two days as he got the ungrateful task to face the Dodgers twice. In the first game he would allow two inherited runners score, in his second game he’d give up 3 runs. After that he was outrighted again to Reno and by mid August the club decided to just release him despite some very acceptable Triple A stats.

If you look at Buchter’s performance with a negative perspective, you see a pitcher that gave up 12 runs in 16.1 innings, while walking 13. If you look at his performance from a bright side you see that he gave up the majority of those runs (10) in just 3 games against the Giants and Dodgers.

On the other hand, there is some real reason for concern here: the velocity loss is real. Buchter has lost almost 2 miles (!) on both his fastball and curve. Statcast ranks his numbers as below average to poor now. In other words, that fastball-curve combo is not as valuable as it was years before and to regain success he will have to find a way to add back some velocity or find some new tricks. That will be a very difficult task.

Because of his past track record though, Buchter should have no problems to find a new minor league contract somewhere.