Walker Buehler stepped onto the mound Sunday night at Wrigley Field for an outing against the Chicago Cubs that marked his 100th career start with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dodgers selected Buehler with the 24th overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, and they did it with a plan for the electric right-hander out of Vanderbilt.
The only issue heading into the Draft was that Buehler would require Tommy John surgery, and being able to nab him that late in the first round felt like a steal for the Dodgers. After a successful rehab and rise through farm system, he was named the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2017.
Buehler is as special as they come, and to put it plainly, he has never tried to be someone he is not when out on the mound.
He made his first career start for the Dodgers on April 23, 2018, against the Miami Marlins. Buehler went five scoreless innings and struck out five. A few weeks later when the Dodgers participated in the Mexico Series, Buehler had a no-hitter through six innings with eight strikeouts.
He was removed due to a pitch count, and the bullpen finished off what would be the first combined no-hitter in Dodgers franchise history.
Buehler’s dominant stuff put his name into the National League Rookie of the Year conversation, an award he would finish third behind Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., and Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto.
In 24 appearances for the Dodgers in 2018, Buehler was 8–5 with a 2.62 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 137.1 innings.
When the Dodgers and Colorado Rockies needed a Game 163 to decide the winner of the NL West, it was Buehler who didn’t allow a hit for the first five innings and helped guide the club to the division title and eventually a shot at the 2018 World Series.
In the 18-inning marathon that was Game 3 of the World Series, the often forgotten performance was that of Buehler. He tossed seven shutout innings against the 108-win Boston Red Sox, who had one of the greatest offensive years in MLB history.
Buehler entered 2019 as a budding star and threw his first career complete game against the Colorado Rockies on June 21, becoming the first Dodgers pitcher to notch 15 strikeouts with no walks. He did it with 16 punchouts, en route to his first career All-Star Game selection.
On Aug. 3 against the San Diego Padres, Buehler became only the third pitcher in MLB history with multiple starts with 15 strikeouts and no walks. His 3.01 FIP in 2019 ranked third in the National League and put him up there with Max Scherzer, and Jacob deGrom.
Entering the pandemic-shortened season, every team understood the year was a sprint, not a marathon, and the workhorses would have the opportunity to unload the tank in just 60 games. Buehler’s best work came in the big moments and especially in Game 3 of the World Series, when he hurled six innings of one-run baseball while striking out 10.
The season was capped with a championship, the Dodgers’ first since 1988, and trusty big right-hander once again stepped up when they needed him the most.
A goal for Buehler entering 2021 was his desire to eclipse the 200-inning mark, something he had mentioned for years as being an important benchmark for his career.
From May 17 through Aug. 31, no starter in baseball had an ERA lower than Buehler’s 1.57 mark over 131.2 innings. He was named to the All-Star Game for the second time in his career. In August, Buehler somehow stepped his game up even more as he threw 40.1 innings with a 1.56 ERA, which made him the Cy Young favorite.
But after a rough month, he fell out of the race for the award, which would eventually go to the Milwaukee Brewers’ Corbin Burnes.
Despite the rough month, Buehler finished the season as one of baseball’s best pitchers with a 2.47 ERA, 3.16 FIP and 5.5 WAR. He also reached his goal for the first time, finishing at 207.2 innings pitched.
To start off the 2022 regular season, the torch was passed from Clayton Kershaw to Buehler, as he was named the Dodgers Opening Day starter.
On April 25 of this year, he pitched his first complete-game shutout against the Arizona Diamondbacks, while striking out 10.
And on Sunday, Buehler did what Dodgers fans have become accustomed to seeing from him. Going deep into a game, inducing whiffs, and overpowering hitters with a four-seam fastball, dominant cutter and offspeed stuff.
Buehler earned a win in the 100th start of his big league career, with seven innings and only one run allowed. This was just another benchmark that will probably go unnoticed by Dodgers fans and perhaps even Buehler, but this was an important signal that he could be on his way to becoming one of L.A.’s all-time great starting pitchers.
Through 100 career starts with the Dodgers, Buehler is 43-13 with a 2.70 ERA and 0.99 WHIP across 599.2 innings. He has held opposing hitters to a .204 batting average and an on-base plus slugging percentage of .590.
Buehler’s 13 losses through his first 100 starts is the fewest in MLB history.
Buelher’s postseason stats
Buehler has logged 79.2 innings in the postseason, dating back to his rookie season in 2018. In 15 starts, has a 2.94 ERA, 3.16 FIP, a .205 batting average allowed, and a 31.1 strikeout percentage.
In his two World Series starts, one in 2018 and one in 2020, Buehler has been masterful. In 13 innings, he is 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA, 0.46 WHIP and 17 strikeouts.
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