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What’s Up With Walker Buehler

Can we just forget this nonsense that Walker Buehler’s velo is down so that he can be more effective?  If that is the strategy, it ain’t working.  His 4-seam fastball has lost its magic this year.  Not only has it lost its magic, but it is also now pretty much of a liability pitch.

With the help of MLB At Bat, I counted that he threw 29 four-seam fastballs in Monday’s game.  He did not miss any bat with that pitch.  Every swing against the four-seam fastball produced contact.

1st Inning – 4

  • Groundouts – 2
  • Foul – 1
  • Ball – 1

2nd Inning – 13

  • HR – 1
  • Ball – 6
  • Called Strike – 5
  • Foul – 1

3rd Inning – 5

  • HR – 1
  • Single – 1
  • Ball – 1
  • Called Strike – 1
  • Foul – 1

4th Inning – 3

  • Groundouts – 1
  • Ball – 2

5th Inning – 2

  • Groundouts – 1
  • Ball – 1

6th Inning – 2

  • Called Strike – 2

 

7 four-seam pitches were put in play: HR (2), Single (1), ground outs (4).

Walker has now given up 5 HRs, and all 5 have come off four-seam fastballs.

Statcast (From Baseball Savant) provides a comparison of his 2022 four-seam fastball vs his 2021 four-seamer:

Statcast Glossary

 

Walker Buehler’s Complete Baseball Savant Statcast Page 

 

His spin rate is down and the significant reduction of vertical rise is evident.  Eric Karros commented that there was no late life to the four-seam fastball.

Four-Seam Fastball Vertical Rise:

  • 2022 – 0.9
  • 2021 – 2.3
  • 2020 – 3.5
  • 2019 – 2.4
  • 2018 – 2.6
  • 2017 – 3.5

Four-Seam Fastball Run Value (Negative is good)

  • 2022: +6    (1,472 best pitch out of 1,497 MLB Pitches)
  • 2021: -19
  • 2020: -11
  • 2019: -19
  • 2018: -9

For comparison, the best pitches in MLB ha a run value of -12:  Chad Kuhl slider and Corbin Burnes cutter.

The best LAD pitches: Tyler Anderson change: run value of -8 (#12 best pitch) and Tony Gonsolin cutter: run value of -8 (#14 best pitch).

Walker throws 5 pitches other than the four-seam fastball:

 

I am not qualified to make any conclusions.  But I am quite certain that Buehler’s velo and spin rate are not down because he looks to be more effective.  Buehler said that the problem with his four-seamer is due to mechanics.  I will take him at his word.  This was his 10th start.  He is nearly 1/3 into the season.  If it is mechanical in nature, why can’t the pitching gurus in the LAD organization figure it out?

Even Eric Karros was emphatic that Buehler’s four-seamer is not working.  He seemed to implore Buehler to throw his other five pitches, and to only show the four seamer.  He stopped throwing it in the 4th, 5th, and 6th inning, and they were all scoreless.

But it isn’t just 2022 that seems to have gone awry for Buehler.  Let’s review September 2021 and the post-season in 2021.

September – 6 GS, 31.2 IP, 4.83 ERA, batting against .262/.313/.467/.780

Post-Season – 4 GS, 18.1 IP, 4.91 ERA, batting against .297/.374/.460/.833

Let’s look at Buehler’s splits by month to see where the “problem” may have emanated from.

Again, I am not qualified to draw any conclusions, but it does not stop anyone from asking questions.  The Dodgers need Walker Buehler to pitch like an Ace if they intend on getting to and winning the World Series.  I hope that someone figures it out, and his next 23 starts emulate his 2021 season.

There also seems to be some concern with Craig Kimbrel.  Kimbrel has 2 pitches, a four-seam fastball and a curve:

(Again negative run values are good)

Four-Seam Fastball

  • 2022 run value: 0
  • 2021 run value: -6

Curve

  • 2022 run value: 0
  • 2021 run value: -13

Is there reason for concern with Kimbrel?  It will not be answered.  However, just like with Walker Buehler, it is a question that you just know is being asked by the LAD brain trust.

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Fred Vogel

Last night’s game was a roller-coaster ride of early lows, late highs, but ending with a big, fat low.
Losing 3 of 4 to the Pirates so far this season is not a pretty picture.
Buehler’s fastball lacked movement.
Kimbrel really needs a shut down inning.
I am not as impressed with Smith’s catching as others.
I wish Roberts would quit pitch hitting for Lux. That is not how you build up a player’s confidence.
Mookie is a beast.

Badger

We’ve talked about Buehler for a while now, and even without the analytics I’ve seen something that I just knew wasn’t right. Many others, you know where, have disagreed but I believe it’s now clear something isn’t right. I doubt we get any clear explanation from the club but the organization knows.

Kershaw,Heaney, Kimbrel. Gulp.

This team will remain contenders all year. But I feel roster tweaks will be forthcoming.

dodgerpatch

Who is saying is velo is down because he’s trying to pitch more effectively?

His overall velocity is not that different than it was last year, but his spin rates are down, especially for his four seamer, and the effectiveness is down for all of his pitches except for maybe his curve. He throws a cutter a lot more than he did last year.

If his velocity is not significantly down compared to last year, the decline in effectiveness can be explained to be due to either spin rate, a lack of command, or a combination of both. The lack of swing and misses suggests that it’s spin rate. It’s the spin rate that generates the late movement that generates swings and misses. Because of the lack of movement of his fastball, he’s opting for the cutter more.

Now that the problem with his fastball can be safely attributed to spin rate, the question now is whether the decline is due to the crackdown on Spidertack, or if it’s a mechanical issue like Roberts says.

His two best months last year were July and August, which are after the June 21 implementation of the crackdown on foreign substances, so, at least based on that, it would not appear that it’s simply because of he cant use Spidertack anyore (if he ever even used it).

Maybe it’s the grip. He’s had blister problems before. Perhaps he doesn’t have the callouses built up and he can’t grip the ball as tightly, creating the friction to create the spin rate at a given arm speed.

Last edited 6 months ago by dodgerpatch
dodgerpatch

This response is just really confusing. I’m not sure what central point you’re trying to make. And I don’t know why you’re trying to argue points I’ve never actually made.

His four seam velocity is not statistically different this year than last year. 95.5 in 2021 vs. 95.3 in 22. His fastball Runs Above Average last year was excellent – the second best in his career. It is terrible this year. No one was complaining about his fastball velocity last year. You can’t compare him this year to his rookie year. If you want a comp, compare to last year, where the velocity was nearly identical.

He had a poor year last year? What?!!

He may be stubborn and won’t adjust …or maybe he will? He has significantly reduced his FB usage, increased the use of a cutter, and significantly increased the use of his curveball and changeup. How else is he supposed to adjust? I really don’t understand that point you were trying to make.

Your whole response seemed much more defensive than was necessary. I only included the first sentence because we both know you’re referring to Timmons, and you’re arguing with me as a proxy for arguing with him. Go argue with him.

Dodgerpatch

Good grief!!

I came here to argue with you? All I did was offer possible explanations for why Buehler’s fastball isn’t as good this year as it was last year.

What a fun and upbeat place this is!

Singing the Blue

Can someone explain to me what the difference in movement, etc is between a 4-seam and a 2-seam.

Would there be any logic in Buehler’s trying to throw a 2-seam since the 4-seam has been a disaster?

Badger

A ball always moves in direction it’s spinning. A four seamer, fingers across the four seams, rotates backwards and rises. A two seamer, with fingers in line with two seams, can move down left or right depending on placement of thumb. Put thumb under the forefinger and it breaks down arm side. Place thumb under middle finger it breaks down glove side. Typically 4 seamers are thrown with a little more velocity.

Singing the Blue

Thanks for the explanation guys. How is Buehler’s 2-seamer doing this year vs. last? Is it just the 4-seamer that he’s having huge problems with?

Harold Uhlman

https://www.milb.com/great-lakes/news/dodgers-no-1-prospect-diego-cartaya-promoted-to-great-lakes

MIDLAND, Mich. – The Los Angeles Dodgers announced the promotion of their No. 1 prospect, Diego Cartaya, to High-A Great Lakes on Tuesday. It is the first time that the current No. 1 prospect in the Dodgers’ system has appeared on the Loons roster.

Cartaya, a 20-year-old catcher from Maracay, Venezuela, began the year at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, where he hit .260 with nine home runs in 33 games. This follows a shortened 2021 campaign in Rancho Cucamonga where Cartaya batted .298 with 10 longballs in 31 games. Prior to that, he spent his age 17 season splitting time between the Rookie-level Dodgers affiliates in the Dominican Republic and the Arizona League.

Cartaya (pronounced car-TIE-uh) is ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Los Angeles system by multiple outlets, including Baseball America, The Athletic, and MLB.com. The Athletic’s Keith Law describes him as “a monster at the plate with patience and power.” MLB.com says his “combination of bat speed and strength give him legitimate power to all fields.” Baseball America calls him a “big, physical masher who is a force at the plate,” as well as “a natural-born leader who remains poised in adverse situations.”

Clayton Kershaw, Dee Strange-Gordon, Corey Seager and Walker Buehler are some of the previous No. 1 Dodger prospects to pass through Great Lakes, but were never ranked as the top prospect during their time with the Loons. Kershaw, for instance, was the top-ranked Dodgers’ prospect in 2008, after his 2007 season in Great Lakes.

05/31/22SS Leonel Valera assigned to Tulsa Drillers from Great Lakes Loons

05/31/222B Alex De Jesus assigned to Great Lakes Loons from Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.

05/31/22RHP Peter Heubeck assigned to Rancho Cucamonga Quakes from ACL Dodgers

05/31/22SS Hector Martinez assigned to Rancho Cucamonga Quakes from Dodgers Organization.

Bumsrap

I would have guessed that mechanics affected velocity than it does spin.

Badger

As far as I know, no explanation has been given regarding Buehler’s sudden inability to get swing and misses with his fastball. His curve still works, cutter is ok I think, slider, not sure. His fastball is getting hit. If he can’t locate that pitch on the edges, he’s not going to be the Buehler ace we’ve known.

Marcia

Jeff, thanks for this analysis. I thought I was losing my mind!

Badger

Those are some Big League stats you gave us. Excellent work. Thank you.

It would appear Buehler stopped using his fastball after the third inning. He knows it ain’t working.

Yes, hopefully he figures it out. Like you said, any good team needs it’s ace to win a Championship.

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