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Friday night, Walker Buehler displayed one of the many reasons why the Dodgers are going to be annoyingly incredible for the next decade. In a start against the Colorado Rockies, Buehler stuck out 16 batters, the most by a National League pitcher this year. Only Chris Sale’s 17-strikeout game performance outdid him.
In his 111-pitch outing, Buehler not only didn’t walk anyone, but he only reached a three-ball count once. Buehler’s only blemishes came on solo homers from Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, but other than that, he was utterly dominant.
Buehler induced 23 swinging strikes and got another 23 called strikes. Unsurprisingly, he led the majors in CSW on Friday. CSW, or Called Strikes plus Whiffs, is simply called strikes and whiffs divided by total pitches.
6.21 CSW Leaders:— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) June 22, 2019
1. Buehler- 41.4 ( 11)
2. Nola- 38.3 ( 6)
3. Peacock- 38.2 ( 9)
4. Darvish- 34.1 ( 5)
5. Jurado- 32.9 ( 5)
6. Sale- 32.7
7. Lauer- 31.2 ( 5)
8. Marquez- 31.2
9. Junis- 31
10. Gilmartin- 30.9
Buehler filled up the strike zone all night, and for whatever reason, the Rockies were content to let him do it. Out of 30 first pitches, the Rockies only swung at 7. If the Rockies were trying to work the count, it backfired. Having a patient approach just put them down 0-1 more often than not and all Buehler had to do was pump fastballs in the zone.
It probably wouldn’t have helped if they tried to ambush. They still had trouble catching up to his fastball which touched 98. It’s impressive when a pitcher can rack up strikeouts with a wipeout slider or a devastating curve, but Buehler didn’t need much more than the fastball last night. He threw the four seamer 70 times, and even in 0-2 counts, he preferred the four seamer to the curve or slider.
This is a feat that no Dodgers pitcher has accomplished since Hideo Nomo struck out 17 Marlins on April 13, 1996. It’s not as if the Dodgers have been trotting out rotations of scrubs over the last two decades.
Kevin Brown never did that. Zack Greinke never did that. Not even Clayton Kershaw, who has already had a Hall of Fame-worthy career, never did that. To be fair, Kershaw struck out 15 twice including once against the Giants. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Walker Buehler is better than Kershaw in 2019, and it’s suddenly not so crazy to think that Buehler could be as good as Kershaw was in his peak.
It remains to be seen what Buehler will do in the rest of his career. If he matches Kershaw’s peak, let’s hope he also inherits Kershaw’s postseason success. If not, we could be in for some dark times.