When Los Angeles Dodgers ace Walker Buehler polished off a complete-game shutout on Monday night in the Arizona desert, he became the first pitcher to accomplish the feat in 2022, a classic exhibition of dominance that’s becoming rarer by the day.
So rare, in fact, that even someone as dominant as Buehler had never been allowed to go so far before, dating all the way back to his college days.
Baseball’s (pause for elderly sighing) … just different now, and letting even your team’s best pitchers go the whole nine instead of turning things over to a lab-manufactured reliever with a robo-slider is exceptionally rare.
After all, why burden your best rotation arm with a heavier load of innings than whatever’s necessary? Why squeeze and strain to get that extra last bit of dominance out now when it might be needed later?
Hilariously, mere days after removing Clayton Kershaw from a perfect game in the name of workload, Dave Roberts let Buehler go the distance against the Diamondbacks, apparently deeming 2.5 weeks of the 2022 season a long enough leash to take restrictions off a young and healthy Buehler.
Speaking to both organizational philosophy and the sport as a whole, it was Buehler’s first complete game shutty … ever. With the Dodgers, in the minors, and at Vanderbilt.
Dodgers ace Walker Buehler threw the first complete game … of his career this week. At any level.
Stunning, but … then again, not that stunning. Again, Kershaw wasn’t the outlier here. Kershaw was the organization’s ethos operating as expected. Allowing Buehler to go all the way (on a tidy-ish 108 pitches, for what it’s worth) was the more shocking decision.
Vanderbilt, a pitching factory, hasn’t exactly been at the forefront of pitcher preservation in recent years (cough, Kumar Rocker), and Buehler himself slid in the 2015 Draft because of the Tommy John surgery he needed before beginning his pro career. That said, colleges are acutely aware of the way the wind is blowing, and bullpen arms have professional futures, too. The game is changing, and teams with financial ammo like the Dodgers utilize piggybacks, openers and patchwork rotation spots like they’re the lowly Rays.
Buehler has to be excessively dominant on any given day if he wants the reins loosened. He has to look spectacular to be preferable to a fresh reliever.
And, for the first time in his career, his right arm was convincing enough to persuade Roberts to do something he’d rather have avoided on Monday night.
So, when’s the next shutout?
We’d love to see Buehler author a Certified Playoff Moment, but as glorious as this was, we must remind you the win is always more important.