Walker Buehler has taken over as the ace of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitching staff despite the team also employing two future Hall-of-Famers who are still both great in their own right.
While the 27-year-old has had success since joining the rotation in 2018, this season Buehler has taken another step and looks like the favorite to win the National League Cy Young Award.
His development has caught the eyes of teammates and coaches, who credit the right-hander for advancing in his development by becoming someone the Dodgers can rely on every time he is on the mound.
“I think Walker has always been a big-game pitcher. We’ve seen it year in and year out in the postseason and Game 163,” Justin Turner said. “I think where I’ve seen him grow the most is in the not big game.
“Taking the ball and competing, being efficient, getting deeper into games. I think that’s something he’s taken a lot of pride in and worked really hard on. I think you’ve seen that this year with him pitching deep into games every time he takes the ball.”
One of the things Buehler has always talked about is wanting to become a pitcher who can be relied on to give his team 200 plus innings every season. At 176 through August, he is well on his way to putting up the first 200-inning season of his career.
“I think the one thing is he’s been consistent from the get-go, he talked about his desire to go wire to wire. He’s done a lot of great things in the playoffs and I think he really wanted to put together a good regular season. Not just a postseason, but a really good and strong regular season,” Dodgers pitching coach Mark Prior said.
“Obviously, I think it speaks for itself what he’s been able to do. I think he’s shown an ability to adapt his game and pitches, his ability to set things up, not just be all power all the time. He’s looking for quick outs and weak contact, and can also still get the punch when he needs it.
“He’s learning how to manage pitching through the course of a long season as well. I think most importantly, when we’ve needed big games, he’s stepped up and given us those games. I think one of the big things that you can look at when you look at starters around the league, is what he’s done.
“If I’m not mistaken, I think he’s gone six innings almost every start; maybe there was one he didn’t. And he’s gone seven innings almost 80% of the time. I think that just shows an ability to get through lineups, to navigate and not always attack guys the same way, give them different looks and different looks during at-bats. He’s having a pretty special season and he’s carried us in a lot of ways. It’s been nice to see his evolution this year.”
Buehler not focused on Cy Young Award
While the Cy Young Award is within Buehler’s reach, winning the award is not one of his main goals.
“It’s not something that I really care about. I want us to win games, win the division, get to the playoffs and do what we did last year and what we set out to do every year,” Buehler recently said.
“If I somehow put us in a position and have that type of year to be in that conversation, that’s great. But at the end of the day it’s about winning games, and that’s my big focus.”
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