Walker Buehler hasn’t been “himself” so far in 2022, which is likely a result of his career-high workload with the Los Angeles Dodgers last year.
The right-hander very clearly ran out of gas at the end of 2021 after pitching 31 more innings (226 total between regular season and postseason) than his previous career-high (195) back in 2019. Additionally, his heavy slate in 2021 came after the pandemic-shortened 2020, during which he threw just 61.2 frames.
Now, in 2022, Buehler still has admirable numbers (6-1, 3.22 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 1.24 WHIP) across 10 starts totaling 58.2 innings, but his “stuff” isn’t quite there.
His velocity has dipped a few MPH and he has just 49 strikeouts, which isn’t characteristic of him. This would be a career-low strikeouts per nine innings for him (7.5) by a fairly significant margin of 1.7.
Additionally, his once-feared fastball is getting absolutely creamed when it’s thrown over the plate, leading Buehler to “tinker” with it through the first couple months of 2022. On Monday, it happened again, and it put the Dodgers in a three-run hole.
Walker Buehler flipped out during the Dodgers’ loss to the Pirates
After Buehler tried to sneak that fastball by rookie Tucupita Marcano and failed, he got out of the inning and then lost his cool in the dugout in what was, admittedly, pretty cool.
Yeah, baby! Next time throw it lefty, though, because we need to take care of that right arm with all the mileage it’s been enduring as of late.
What’s so awesome about this? Well, for starters, the sound the bats make after Buehler’s glove collided into them with intense force; then the glove disappearing as it fell into the bat rack; and then the casual hat toss at the end. Buehler couldn’t care less where any of his equipment ended up.
But most importantly, Buehler is this upset with himself when he’s still performing well above average, clearly suggesting he holds himself to much higher standards. Even crazier? Buehler is essentially on pace to maintain numbers from his All-Star campaign from 2019 (3.26 ERA, 3.01 FIP, 1.04 WHIP in 30 starts). All he needs to do is rediscover his fastball, limit hard contact, and register some more strikeouts — all of which he’s more than capable of doing — and he’ll easily crack the next tier of top starting pitchers.
Dodgers fans know he’s tirelessly working towards that, which is good enough at the moment. It’ll all come around in time with Buehler putting in the extra hours and dedication to his craft.