Two months after being selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the No. 24 overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, Walker Buehler underwent Tommy John surgery that cost him the remainder of that year and limited the right-hander to three abbreviated games (two starts) in 2016.
Buehler began to pitch on a more regular scheduel the following year as he skyrocketed through the Minor League ranks and made his MLB debut as a September call-up. Though, all the while he remained on an innings limit.
That was still in place last season, with Buehler beginning the 2018 campaign with Triple-A Oklahoma City and also spending time on the injured list because of microfracture in his rib.
Buehler at times last season would voice some disappointment in what he perceived to be quick hooks, but he also expressed an understanding of the franchise’s overarching goal and having his best interest in mind.
Now, the 25-year-old believes he’s benefitted from the innings limit as he’s regularly pitched deeper into games this season. “I think for me it just signifies being efficient and doing my job on pitch count and things like that,” he said.
“I kind of learned how to do that a little bit when I was on a pitch count early in my career. Having 75 or 85 pitches and wanting to get (deep) into games, it kind of teaches you that stuff.
“A lot of people want to talk about pitch counts and things like that, but when you restricted a little bit I think you can learn some stuff. I’ve tried to carry that over into this year and luckily been more efficient than in years past.”
Buehler threw his first complete game in emphatic fashion, as it also included a career-high 16 strikeouts. He threw a second complete game last week, that time recording 15 strikeouts as he dominated the San Diego Padres.
Both 15-plus strikeout performances came without Buehler issuing a single walk. That put him in elite company along with Pedro Martínez (1999 and 2000) and Dwight Gooden (1984) as the only pitchers in MLB history with multiple starts of 15 strikeouts and zero walks in a single season.
Buehler also joined Sandy Koufax (1959, 1960, 1962) in Dodgers franchise history as the lone pitchers with multiple 15-strikeout games in one season.
Of Buehler’s five career double-digit strikeout starts, four have come this season. Overall, there have been six games in which a pitcher recorded at least 15 strikeouts, and Buehler can lay claim to two of them.
Ultimately, Buehler has been clear of having a career goal to log 200 innings each season, which he should reach this year.