Walker Buehler hasn’t been Walker Buehler dating back to the 2021 NLCS and it’s been a big talking point among Los Angeles Dodgers fans throughout the first two months of the 2022 season.
At first, we didn’t see a reason to worry. Buehler has been tinkering with his fastball and likely dealing with some fatigue as a result of throwing a career-high 226 innings last year between the regular season and postseason. That blew past his previous career-high of 195 back in 2019 and was exponentially higher than his 61.2 in the shortened 2020.
This time around, the strikeouts aren’t there (58 in 65 innings), which could’ve been a symptom of his declining velocity. Additionally, his elevated WHIP up until this point (1.292) was not characteristic of his pitching style. Prior to his last 12 starts, Buehler was hovering near the sub-1.00 range for his career.
And it seemingly all came to a head on Friday night against the San Francisco Giants when the right-hander left the game after just 70 pitches due to right elbow discomfort.
Dodgers fans’ worries may have been validated, and now everyone will wait with bated breath until his MRI results come back.
Dodgers’ Walker Buehler left Friday’s game with a concerning injury
Something has been off with Buehler, but he’s still largely been good. He maintained a 3.22 ERA on the season up until his last two blowups, which featured 6.1 total innings and eight earned runs against the Mets and Giants. Before that was a less than stellar outing (six innings, four earned runs) against the Pirates that inflated his numbers.
The problem has been the opposition pounding Buehler’s fastball, which he seemingly no longer blow by hitters. He’s witnessed a near 2 MPH decrease on his four seamer and slider as well as a one MPH decrease on his curveball and changeup. He’s increased the use of his cutter, but to little success.
So, without assuming the worst, the optimistic belief was that Buehler was navigating unknown waters building off an extended workload and searching for a mechanical adjustment to get his velocity back.
However, it seems as if a potential injury has been brewing for a little while, which would more accurately explain his mini-regression. Fans will be hoping for good news, but you usually know what right elbow discomfort means. At the very least, Buehler will be on the shelf for a few weeks to take a breather. At the very worst? Fans might not see him again until the end of the 2023 season.