Dodgers: Formulating an Innings Plan for Walker Buehler

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 22: Walker Buehler
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 22: Walker Buehler /

The Dodgers tried to formulate an innings plan for Julio Urias and unfortunately, it backfired.  They will try to do the same thing with Walker Buehler. Will it work?

This past weekend the news came out that the Dodgers front office has a plan to let Walker Buehler throw 140-150 innings in the big leagues this season.  The front office tried to come up with a similar plan for Julio Urias but it still couldn’t prevent a catastrophic injury to Urias.  They hope to avoid the same fate with Walker Buehler this season.

Walker Buehler however, is a bit different than Julio Urias.  Buehler will be twenty-four years old later this season and has already had one Tommy John surgery.  Buehler underwent Tommy John back in 2015 right after being drafted by the Dodgers.  Although it was a temporary set back, Buehler returned last season and pitch in over 90 innings between the minor and major leagues.

If the Dodgers truly want Buehler to go 140-150 innings without periodic shutdowns, they should start him out in extended spring training.  The Dodgers can keep Buehler in extended spring training for the month of April and allow him to pitch in simulated games in small workloads of say two to three simulated innings.  Then come May they can start stretching him out in the minor leagues.

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In the minor leagues, the Dodgers can manipulate Buehler’s innings without bothering the Dodgers current pitching staff.  After Buehler works himself back into game shape in May, the club could then call him up to the big leagues at the beginning of June.  That would give Walker Buehler four full months of starting games.

Since a pitcher typically makes five to six starts a month, that would give Buehler 25-30 innings a month of he pitches five innings in each start.  Since the Dodgers usually carry an eight-man bullpen, they could afford to have Buehler go only five innings.  Even if Buehler hit 30 innings a month that would give him 120 innings after four full months of starting in the big leagues.

If the Dodgers wanted to use Buehler in their playoff rotation there would still be 20-30 innings left for him to pitch in October while staying in the Dodgers innings limit.  In all likelihood, Buehler would not make more than three starts in the post-season even if the Dodgers once again made the World Series since there is no way they would use him on short rest.  By holding Buehler down in the minors and extended spring training until June, the Dodgers would be able to unleash Walker Buehler and not have to shut him down at any point in the season.

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Normally I am not a fan of tinkering with young pitchers and limiting their innings but Walker Buehler is a different case.  Last season was barely his first full year back pitching in games since his surgery.  Since he stayed under 100 innings last year, bumping him up to 180-200 innings this season would be a pretty big leap.  The Dodgers have a solid five-man rotation without Buehler and can afford to keep him down in the minors until June without hurting the big league club.