Dodgers: Should fans be worrying about Walker Buehler ahead of playoffs?

Thomas Carannante
CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 17: Walker Buehler #21 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on September 17, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 17: Walker Buehler #21 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on September 17, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /
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Despite the San Francisco Giants’ continued surge, many would argue the Los Angeles Dodgers have the best roster in baseball and remain the World Series favorites … since Max Scherzer will be starting the NL Wild Card Game should they end up in that position.

However, their other postseason ace-in-the-hole isn’t doing so hot right now and there’s a legitimate cause for concern.

Walker Buehler has gotten tattooed two out of his last four trips to the mound, and some might say his start against the Reds was a bit uncharacteristic.

All in all, the Dodgers are 1-3 in the right-hander’s last four outings, and Buehler’s got a troubling 7.32 ERA and 1.58 WHIP against the Giants, Padres, Reds and Rockies.

Though he’s got two quality starts baked in there, he just hasn’t looked like the usual buzzsawing power pitcher Dodgers fans have come accustomed to watching.

Should the Dodgers be concerned about Walker Buehler heading into the postseason?

Now, pitchers go through bad stretches. It’s part of the marathon season. Nobody escapes unscathed. That’s not the reason to be worried about Buehler, even if we are very close to October.

The paramount issue here is his season totals. He’s now eclipsed his career high in innings pitched by 13 and there’s plenty more work to come. His strikeout totals have gone down — his All-Star season in 2019 featured 10.6 per nine innings and now he’s down to 9.0 per nine innings.

The mileage is the most alarming aspect of it all, especially for a guy who can throw six different pitches, four of which he hurls 13% of the time or more.

Buehler’s postseason track record is nothing to doubt or question, either. That’s not the issue here. He’s an admirable 3-1 with a 2.35 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 11 playoff starts, allowing just ONE run in two World Series outings.

But can we question the workload potentially catching up to him? He’s closing in on 3,000 pitches thrown this year, which is nearly 150 more than he’s thrown in any other single campaign.

It’s hard to believe his September struggles are just a mere coincidence when you realize all the other factors that might be adversely affecting his play. Don’t forget, the shortened 2020 season saw him throw a total of only 61.2 innings, which includes the playoffs. If we are to expect another start before the regular season ends, plus another 25-ish innings in October, we’re looking at ~230 innings in totality, which would destroy his 195 total between the regular season and postseason back in 2019.

We hope it’s nothing — and it very well could be just that … but don’t say we didn’t warn you.

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