Name: Matt Buschmann
DOB: February 13, 1984
After being selected in the 15th-round of the 2006 draft, Buschmann was shipped to Eugene and the Northwest League. He went 3-4 across 15 games, including 10 starts, with a 3.12 ERA. He allowed fewer hits than innings pitched and struck out better than a batter a frame.
The Padres thought so highly of him that they moved him up to Lake Elsinore for the California League playoffs. He went 1-0 with a 3.55 ERA across two regular season starts before winning his lone postseason appearance.
Buschmann stayed in the California League throughout the '07 season. He went 12-6 with a 2.89 ERA in a hitter's league. In 149.1 innings he surrendered 153 hits and struck out 115 while walking just 26.
The Missouri native was sent to Double-A San Antonio this past year and rebounded after a sluggish start – the second year in a row he began the year slowly.
"Last year in Elsinore at the beginning it was a max effort," Padres pitching coordinator Mike Couchee said. "It was a lot of moving parts and a lot of odd moving parts. I think half way through the year last year he and Steve Webber, they just simplified everything. I think that's when he really took off.
"I think over the wintertime, again, this kid, he's a workaholic, sometimes to an extent to where it's not beneficial. He over does things; he over thinks things and all of a sudden, instead of keeping it very, very simple like he did the last half of last year, he starts trying to tinker with this and tinker with that and the next thing you know, you've got a bunch of adjustments you've got to make again. Then, when he gets back to not thinking so much and keeping everything simple, that's when you see him pitch as efficiently as anybody out there."
Buschmann went 10-6 with a 2.98 ERA across 27 starts. In 148 innings, he allowed 137 hits but saw his walk totals climb to 58. His ground ball ratio also fell.
"First of all in ‘07: he skipped a level, really he pitched a little bit at Eugene, he pitched a little bit at Elsinore, he jumped right into the Cal league, and I think he was just kind of finding his way," San Antonio pitching coach Steve Webber, who had Buschmann in '07, said. "This year I didn't see that kind of a struggle. Obviously, he got better as the year went along, but he really made the transition from High-A to Double-A smoothly."
After carrying a 4.04 ERA through the first two months of the season, Buschmann went on to post a 2.34 ERA over his final 16 starts. He allowed two runs or less in 16 starts overall, including 11 of the final 16.
Buschmann held right-handed hitters to a .212 average while lefties notched a healthy .323 mark off him. He did, however, hold the opposition to a .215 average with runners in scoring position.
"Matt Buschmann is the epitome of a gamer," former San Antonio manager Bill Masse said. "This kid loves to pitch, loves to have the ball. If you grade out his pitches, on the scout scale, you're not going to find anything that's probably above average. You're looking at average stuff."
The Vanderbilt alumnus works off a two-seam fastball from a deceptive delivery that hides the ball well. His heater sits in the high-80s and can touch 90-92. Its late tailing action makes it an effective pitch versus right-handers and something he can throw in on the hands to a left-hander. He also has a four-seamer but rarely uses that pitch.
Coupled with his cross-body motion, his sweeping slider is very effective – particularly to right-handed hitters. It is a pitch that has plus tendencies and has solid separation from his fastball velocity. His ability to command the slider in and out of the zone is just as important as fastball command.
"What he does give you, too, is he gives you some deception," Masse said. "He throws across his body big time. That 88-89 mph fastball looks like 91-92 sometimes when you're throwing that far across your body. It's very difficult to pick up; you don't pick it up until late, so it's on you a little bit quicker than most guys."
Buschmann eyes efficiency as a trait to aspire to and ground balls are part of that effort of sustained success. He felt he was throwing too many pitches early in the year and cut out the changeup – and its ineffectiveness – to produce more consistent results. What he didn't see, however, was the cost in development.
His changeup is a developing pitch but was lost in the commotion during the second half. His ability to throw it and nip the outside corner against left-handers will be crucial to his ultimate success.
"What you are looking at above-average is his mentality and his confidence level that he feels like nobody can hit him," Masse said. "When you've got that kind of a mentality, your fastball you tend to locate a little better; you tend to throw strikes. He just has that mentality that no one is going to hit him. Stuff-wise across the board, you're not going to see really an above-average pitch. Don't get me wrong, there are flashes of It."
"He had a solid year," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "Matt was in the top three or four in the league in ERA. He has a very deceptive delivery but kind of got away from using his change.
"Both he and [Stephen] Faris got caught up in trying to perform without it, and he knows he's going to need it to be successful at higher levels. It probably cost him about a half a year of development."
A very focused and driven individual, Buschmann tracks his array of pitches against the opposition. He notes where they hit the ball, on what pitch, and uses the information to better prepare himself for future outings. With his desire to win, he does not let the information cloud what he is trying to accomplish on the hill.
Buschmann does a solid job of keeping runners close by varying looks to first and being quick to the plate. He and his catchers were successful on 10-of-29 attempts to catch base runners stealing.
Conclusion: Buschmann is a competitor that knows how to win. He doesn't have that plus pitch to go to in order to get an out but uses guile and a deceptive delivery to net positive results.
While he has been able to skate by on a two-pitch repertoire, Buschmann needs to effectively mix in his changeup to see sustained success. Hitters keying in on his fastball/slider combination will eventually breakthrough and the changeup has to be in their mind as another pitch that can get them out.
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