Though he didn’t take home Rookie of the Year honors, no rookie pitcher had a better season than 24-year-old Walker Buehler.
What went right
Buehler spent the first few weeks in Oklahoma City before getting called up to the big leagues. He immediately made an impact, allowing only two runs in his first 16 innings. He had 19 strikeouts, including an eight-strikeout performance in only six innings.
That performance came in only his third career start on May 4. Not only did he throw six shutout innings, he threw six hitless innings. He was one of four pitchers used in LA’s first ever combined no-hitter.
Though the rookie had an all-around superb season, his last 10 games are what truly what helped establish him as one of the best young pitchers in all of baseball.
From August 11 until the end of the season, Buehler was arguably the best pitcher in the majors. Among pitchers with 63 innings pitched, Buehler led the MLB in ERA (1.43) and opponents average (.147). During his dominant stretch, the right-hander had 72 strikeouts.
In half of his starts, Buehler had at least eight strikeouts, including a career-high 12 strikeout performance on September 19 versus Colorado.
At home, he was practically un-hittable. In four starts, he allowed only one run. Opponents hit only .103 off him, and he had 33 strikeouts.
Buehler’s two-month dominance carried over into October, as he took the mound for a game 163 to determine the division. The stage was not too big for the rookie, as he threw 6 2⁄3 innings of one-hit ball, shutting out the Rockies. Buehler’s stellar performance helped the Dodgers clinch their sixth consecutive division title.
Overall, it was an impressive season around the board for Buehler. He finished with an ERA of 2.62, 151 strikeouts, and eight wins. He’s the first rookie pitcher with those numbers since Jose Fernandez in 2013. He’s the ninth pitcher in the last 50 years to finish with those numbers.
What went wrong
Though he was lighting it up, Buehler did go through a three-month “rough-patch”. Well, rough by his standards.
From May 10 until August 5, Buehler had an ERA of 4.32. He allowed a run in all 11 starts during the stretch. A right rib microfracture landed him on the 10-day DL, sidelining him for most of June. Though he only made three starts, it’s a month he’d like to forget. He allowed 10 runs in just 11 1⁄3 innings of action.
After being activated for one game, Buehler was optioned to single-A. He spent over a week there, before pitching in the big leagues again. After one appearance, Buehler was optioned to triple-A. Yet again, he spent over a week there, before being recalled back to the big leagues.
It was a rough first outing back, as he allowed five runs. For Buehler, these would be the most runs he’d allow in a start the remainder of the season.
Buehler struggled in his first ever postseason, allowing nine runs in his first two starts.
Stats: 8-5, 2.62 ERA, 151 SO, 137 1⁄3 IP, 0.961 WHIP, 148 ERA+, 3.04 FIP, 3.5 WAR
Game of the year
Mentioned earlier, Buehler saved his best performance for LA’s most important game of the year. Instead of their longtime ace Clayton Kershaw, Buehler got the start in game 163 of the season to determine the division.
Buehler was lights out, allowing only one hit in 6 2⁄3 innings. The Dodgers won their sixth consecutive division title.
Buehler has 168 days of service time. He has two options remaining.