After a dominant 2018 campaign in which he finished third in National League Rookie of the Year voting, Walker Buehler has continued making his mark in the Los Angeles Dodgers starting rotation.
Despite being limited in Spring Training, Buehler was excellent during the first half of the regular season and pitched his way onto the NL All-Star team. It was the 24-year-old’s first career selection to the Midsummer Classic, an honor he shared with fellow rotation mates Hyun-Jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw.
But as the second half progressed, Buehler fell victim to some of the inconsistency that’s also plagued Kershaw and Ryu. Pitching on 13 days rest, he was a bit rusty coming out of the All-Star break, yielding three home runs in a start against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Buehler quickly bounced back with one of his best outings all season against the Miami Marlins, tossing seven shutout innings while accumulating 11 strikeouts. The win improved Buehler’s record to a stellar 9-1 at the time, though he was less focused on that and more on quality starts.
Dave Roberts pointed out that while Buehler has garnered mixed results in the second half, the quality of his pitches have been consistent. “His last few outings, the stuff has been really good,” Roberts recently said.
“Obviously the whole body of work this year he’s been throwing a lot more strikes. When he gets ahead, with his stuff, he can wipe guys out pretty effectively.”
Buehler has shown signs of maturity in his second full year at the Major League level. Roberts has taken notice, pointing out his ability to make faster adjustments.
“I think last year he was in such a roll toward the end of the season that he didn’t really need to make adjustments,” Roberts said. “But I’ve seen that when he can’t find his fastball, or his slider, his cutter, he adapts or make an adjustment a lot quicker than he did last year.”
Buehler has made his living with a high fastball velocity that occasionally tops out in the triple digits. He has deployed it more often as of late and continues keeping hitters in check with a well-balanced pitch arsenal.
“I know that he has the four-seamer, two-seamer, the cutter, slurve-breaking-ball type thing, changeup,” Roberts said. “It’s probably game planning and what he and Honey feel is best.
“His feel for the baseball and ability to manipulate the baseball is very good. I guess I look at it as you have more weapons. The simplification comes to each individual hitter and how you can attack their weaknesses.
“How good Walker’s stuff is, he doesn’t need to be so fine. I think sometimes when you have such good command and expectations, you try to be too fine. That might cause you to get behind in the count when you don’t really need to.”