Walker Buehler

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Walker Anthony Buehler

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Biographical Information[edit]

Pitcher Walker Buehler was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 14th round of the 2012 amateur draft but did not sign, opting to attend Vanderbilt University instead. As a sophomore, he went 12-2 with a 2.64 ERA and 111 strikeouts. He was considered one of the top prospects in the 2015 amateur draft but fell to #24 overall, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, due to health concerns. He was the third Vandy player taken, after Dansby Swanson had gone first overall and fellow pitcher Carson Fulmer was taken with the 8th pick. Buehler and Swanson were the only two first rounders to wait until the official signing deadline of July 17th to ink a major league contract. In Buehler's case, the fact that he would require Tommy John surgery made the negotiations more complicated and the two sides finally agreed on a $1.78 million signing bonus.

Buehler made it to the big leagues relatively quickly. He pitched only three times in 2016, for a total of 5 innings, but was on an accelerated ramp to the bigs in 2017. He pitched 28 times, including 19 starts, for a total of 88 2/3 innings. This included 5 starts with no decisions with the Class A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. He then went 2-2, 3.49 for the AA Tulsa Drillers and 1-1, 4.63 with the AAA Oklahoma City Dodgers. On September 7th, he made his major league debut by pitching two innings of scoreless relief in a 9-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies. His first appearance came at a difficult time for the team, as that game marked their 12th loss in 13 games after a blazing hot start to the season. In his next appearance on September 10, he caught whatever infection had been ailing his teammates for two weeks, as he served up a grand slam to Mark Reynolds of the Rockies in the 8th, turning what was a close 2-0 game into an 8-1 laugher that further deepened the Dodgers' losing woes. Overall, he went 1-0, 7.71 in 8 relief appearances and was not added to the postseason roster.

Buehler started 2018 in the minors, then was called up to make his first major league start on April 23rd, after Rich Hill was placed on the disabled list. Facing the Miami Marlins, he was solid, allowing no runs in five innings before turning the ball over to the bullpen. He left with a 1-0 lead, but Miami tied it up in the 8th before Los Angeles scored the winning run in the bottom of the frame, leaving Buehler with a no-decision. The Dodgers then optioned him to Class A Rancho Cucamonga, just so that they could backfill his spot on roster while keeping him nearby if needed to start again in the coming days (the Dodgers' AAA affiliate in Oklahoma City was traveling to Round Rock and New Orleans during the period, while the AA farm team, Tulsa, was also based quite a distance from L.A.) It turned out to be a smart move as Buehler was needed to start the first game of a doubleheader against the San Francisco Giants on April 28th. This time, run support was not an issue as he recorded a 15-6 win, his first as a starter in the majors. He was added to the roster under the 26th man rule and then immediately sent back to Rancho Cucamonga, the plan still being to keep him close by for the next emergency. His next start came on May 4th and it was a historic one, as he tossed six hitless innings and was followed on the mound by Tony Cingrani, Yimi Garcia and Adam Liberatore who pitched a hitless inning each to combine on a 4-0 no-hitter against the San Diego Padres. It was the first contest of a three-game series played at Estadio de béisbol Monterrey in Monterrey, Nuevo León and the first no-hitter ever thrown outside the United States or Canada. He went 8-5, 2.62 in 24 games that season, including 23 starts, pitching 137 1/3 innings and striking out 151 batters. He made another 4 starts in the postseason, including one in the 2018 World Series against the Boston Red Sox, but was 0-1, 3.80 despite striking out 29 batters in 23 2/3 innings.

In 2019, Buehler was one of the members of a Dodgers starting rotation that was probably the best in the majors. He matched his win total from the previous year on June 21st when he recorded a complete game win over the Colorado Rockies to improve to 8-1, 2.96. In that game, he struck out 16 and did not walk anyone, the strikeouts being a career best. An All-Star for the first time, he finished the year 14-4, 3.26 in 30 games. He thoroughly dominated the Washington Nationals in the Division Series, making two starts and logging a 0.71 ERA in 12 2/3 innings, but Howie Kendrick's bat sunk the Dodgers' World Series dreams in the deciding 5th game of their set. He had another good season in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, in spite of having only one decision, going 1-0 in 8 starts with an ERA of 3.44 and 42 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings. The Dodgers posted the best record in the majors and then barrelled through the postseason, winning their first World Series title since 1988. He made 5 starts during that run, going 2-0, with an ERA of 1.80 and 31 strikeouts in 25 innings. This included a win over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 3 of the World Series on October 23rd, when he gave up 1 run in 6 innings while racking up 10 strikeouts in a 6-2 victory.

He was the Dodgers' best starting pitcher at the start of the 2021 season, winning his first seven decisions over his first 14 starts, with a 2.38 ERA. On June 19th, he took a no-hitter into the 8th-inning in defeating the struggling Arizona Diamondbacks, 9-3. David Peralta hit a lead-off single in the 8th to end the bid. He was the National League Pitcher of the Month in July when he was 3-0, 1.67 in 5 starts and was named to the All-Star team for the second time. He made a league-leading 33 starts that year, finishing at 16-4, 2.47, ending in 4th place in the Cy Young Award vote. He pitched 207 2/3 innings, a personal best, while striking out 212 opponents. In the postseason, he made two starts in both the Division Series against the San Francisco Giants and in the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, but went a combined 0-2, 4.91.

On April 25, 2022, he recorded the first shutout of his career in defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks, 4-0. It was also the first complete game by any major league pitcher that season, even as teams were in their third week of action. He needed 108 pitches to complete the game, and was working under a strict pitch count of 110, so allowing just one more batter to reach base would likely have prevented him from completing the now rare feat. He allowed just 3 hits and struck out 10 opponents. He was 6-3, 4.02 after 12 starts when he was placed on the injured list on June 10th with an elbow strain requiring 6 to 8 weeks of inactivity. He never came back that season, as on August 15th the Dodgers announced he would undergo elbow surgery in the coming days.

Buehler's fastball has been timed at 100 mph, explaining his meteoric rise to the big leagues as soon as his arm was healthy.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2018 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
  • 2-time NL All-Star (2019 & 2021)
  • NL Winning Percentage Leader (2019)
  • NL Complete Games Leader (2019)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 1 (2021)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 1 (2021)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 2 (2019 & 2021)
  • Won one World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2020

Further Reading[edit]

  • David Adler: "How Buehler is harnessing his nasty stuff", mlb.com, August 8, 2019. [1]
  • Ken Gurnick: "Buehler leads LA's combined no-no in Mexico: Feat is 12th combined no-hitter in Major League history, first by Dodgers", mlb.com, May 5, 2018. [2]
  • Juan Toribio: "Buehler to have season-ending elbow surgery", mlb.com, August 16, 2022. [3]

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