Generally, fans shouldn’t care much at all about spring training unless they’re paying close attention to position battles or players looking to make a statement.
That’s why most of the time the focus is hardly on starters whose roster spot is set in stone.
Unless, of course, they’re performing really badly. Like, really, really badly.
Unfortunately, that’s been the case with Los Angeles Dodgers star Walker Buehler, who’s been abused for most of the team’s time in Arizona.
Should we ignore Dodgers starter Walker Buehler’s spring start?
What’s to make of this? Hopefully nothing! But it’s impossible to ignore what’s been going on. Buehler has made five starts (17 innings) and has allowed 16 runs on 26 hits and two walks. That’s good for a 7.94 ERA, 1.65 WHIP and .351 batting average against.
Though he looked absolutely filthy against the Chicago White Sox last week, he followed that up by getting battered by the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday.
Perhaps he’s working to get his velocity back? He’s averaged 96.6 MPH on his fastball for his career and has been sitting 94-95 in most of his outings, while touching 96 at times. Could that explain the struggles?
If Buehler’s trademark heater he uses to blow by hitters isn’t pumping upper 90s, it’s surely a bit more difficult for him to differentiate it from his 92 MPH cutter. Thankfully, his curveball is looking healthy as ever, so this seems to be a single-issue roadblock.
Looking back on Buehler’s 2020, it’s reasonable to understand why he might be behind with his velocity. He made just eight regular season starts (36.2 innings) due to blister issues before making five playoff starts (25 innings). He didn’t pitch more than six innings in a single start out of those 13.
With his workload limited in 2020 and now facing a 162-game 2021, Buehler’s efforts to stretch himself back out could be what’s holding him back a bit. Not to worry, though. He’s been candid about his struggles, so at least that will likely help with diagnosing the problem.
It won’t be long before he’s rocking those tight pants and bailing on reporters for asking dumb postgame questions.