Dodgers 2021 season review: Walker Buehler

ByDonald L. Leech

Dec 30, 2021

After three playoffs filled with Game 1 starts and overall excellence, building a reputation as a big game pitcher, Walker Buehler cemented his path to acehood in 2021, finding consistency throughout his season. .

No pitcher in MLB lasted six innings longer than Buehler (29 times; two more than anyone else). Anybody allowed two points or less in a start more often than Buehler (25 times). Bühler’s 27 quality departures also punctuated the majors, four more than anyone else.

They weren’t cheap quality departures either. Only three of the 27 games have seen him allow three points.

“Walker has always been a big game pitcher. We’ve seen it year after year, starting with Game 163, he stepped up, took the ball and got some big strikeouts for us, ”said Justin Turner. “Where I saw him grow the most is not Great game. Taking the ball, competing and being efficient, and deepening the games, I think that’s something he’s very proud of. He really worked hard, and you’ve seen him this year.

Buehler finished the season with a career-high 33 starts and 207 innings, the latter 25 more than his previous record. No more light bulb problems that tormented and limited him in 2020, when he had on average less than five races per start. This year, Buehler’s 6.29 innings per start were third in the majors.

“I think I ticked a lot of boxes for myself and the goals that I set for myself for a long time, and I was finally able to achieve them and stay healthy,” Buehler said. “Making 33 starts is the most important thing for me, and I’m really proud of that. “

He finished third in the National League in ERA (2.47), fourth in xERA (3.10), and seventh in the FIP (3.16).

This earned Buehler his second place on the All-Star and his best Cy Young Award result to date, finishing fourth in the NL.

The Dodgers entered the playoffs with a starting three-pitching rotation of Max Scherzer, Buehler and Julio Urías, the latter two of which surpassed their previous career highs in innings. Add to this that 2021 was a full season right after a truncated 60-game campaign, some October fatigue was likely inevitable.

Clayton Kershaw worsened his elbow injury on the last weekend of the regular season, which reduced LA’s rotation and allowed Buehler to be used like Kershaw once was in October. Kershaw started off with three days off per year during NLDS from 2013 to 2016, his ages 25-28.

At 26, Buehler filled that role in 2021. In Game 4 against the Giants, Buehler pitched scoreless baseball in the fifth before giving up a point. Buehler didn’t dive deep into the game, but helped the Dodgers keep the NLDS alive.

When Scherzer was struck out of his start in Game 6 of the NLCS, Buehler returned to the charge, throwing for the second time after three days off, having never done so until October. Buehler broke the Braves order twice, allowing just one point. But the last two hitters on his second trip to the roster both reached, and then the 1-1 game turned in the Braves’ favor when NLCS MVP Eddie Rosario lined up a ball in the seats of the right field that served as the final blow to the Dodgers season. .

“You want to be this Herculean thing, and go out and throw and be really good, but I just wasn’t,” Buehler told reporters in Atlanta after the Dodgers elimination. “Game 6, elimination game, you get the ball, you want to be better than that, and I just wasn’t. Pill is hard to swallow.

Buehler’s playoffs in 2021 were different from his previous October. He had a 4.91 ERA and 4.81 FIP in four starts, with 18 strikeouts and nine walks in 18 innings. After allowing nine points in his first two playoff starts in 2018, Buehler has allowed a total of seven points in his next nine playoff starts, through 2020, allowing only one point more than only once during this period. This year, Buehler has allowed three points once and four points twice in October. The game he only allowed one score to was on three days off, which Buehler said repeatedly during the playoffs didn’t physically limit him.

His career playoff numbers remain strong, with a 2.94 ERA and 3.16 PIF in 15 starts.

Buehler took the ball in 2021 at the behest of the Dodgers and had a great season. Even though it didn’t end the way he and the team wanted it to.

Details 2021

Age: 26

Statistics: 16-4, 2.47 ERA, 3.10 xERA, 3.16 FIP, 207â…” IP, 212 K, 6.7 bWAR, 5.5 fWAR

Salary: $ 2.75 million, plus an additional $ 1 million from his signing bonus paid in March.

Game of the year

Buehler’s consistency makes that choice difficult, but we’ll go on May 17 against the Diamondbacks at home. After a shortstop single from Josh Rojas in the first inning, Buehler allowed no more hits in his seven scoreless innings. He fielded four batters, three in a row in the fourth inning. But with the bases loaded, pitching coach Mark Prior paid a visit to the mound, after which Buehler retired his last 11 batters.

“That genre reset it,” Roberts said after the game. “They’re an aggressive swinging team, and you’re like, ‘If he can get through the fifth inning,’ and he ends up scoring seven.”

Buehler was to be stingy, leaving only a 2-0 lead. He took out seven overnight.

List status

Buehler will earn $ 6.25 million in 2022 in the final season of a two-year contract signed last February. What started out as a base salary of $ 3.25 million grew by $ 3 million – $ 500,000 for each of the 14, 16, 18, 20, 24, and 28 starts during his 2021 season of 33. departures. Buehler’s base salary in 2022 could have increased by an additional $ 625,000 if he had finished second or third in the National League Cy Young vote, or by $ 1.125 million if he had won the award. Buehler finished fourth.

The Dodgers will also pay Buehler the last installment of $ 1 million of his $ 2 million signing bonus on January 15.

Although Buehler’s contract ends after 2022, Buehler still has two years of salary arbitration eligibility until 2024 before reaching free agency.