Fantasy Baseball

2020 Fantasy Baseball Player Profile: Walker Buehler

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Hello, fantasy baseball fans! In the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, my thoughts and prayers go out to those affected. We will get through this tragedy together and come out of it stronger and better prepared for the future.

On a brighter note, I am able to bring you a post that will hopefully distract you from shut-downs and quarantines. Let’s shift our minds to America’s past time! Baseball is way more fun to think about than N-95 masks or techniques for hand-washing.

I know, it is hard to ignore the likes of Gerrit Cole, the consensus number one starter. A guy who struck out 326 batters and had a WHIP under 0.90 in 2019. But this 2020 Fantasy Baseball Player Profile: Walker Buehler article is my argument for Buehler to finish as the top starting pitcher this season!

Let’s get to it!

2020 Fantasy Baseball Player Profile: Walker Buehler

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Ball Park

Some say that Dodger Stadium is a pitcher’s paradise. In 2019, according to Park Factors, the ballpark ranked in the bottom ten at 0.905. Anything more than 1.00 is hitter-friendly and anything less than 1.00 is pitcher-friendly. This, in theory, should help keep ERA low and ratios enticing. Something to keep in mind when choosing a top starter for Fantasy purposes.

Dodger stadium is 330′ to right and left field and 385′ to right and left-center, making it a pretty even diamond shape and one of the deeper parks in baseball. To compare, Yankee Stadium’s dimensions are 314’ down the left and right field lines. 408′ to deep center. This skews the field and fields the shortest right-field wall in the majors, something Cole will have to deal with.

WHIP (Walks + Hits/Innings Pitched)

This is a measurement of how often a pitcher allows hitters to reach base without errors. To me, this is an important statistic because there is an underlying command component built into this. We all want pitchers to throw strikes, but I feel as though this stat truly highlights what pitchers have done over a long period of time. Some hit calls are tough to make, so there is a level of subjectivity here, but I think overall this stat is a valuable one in terms of determining a pitcher’s value.

Buehler had a WHIP of 0.77 over 12.2 innings pitched in the 2019 playoffs.  He had a 1.042 overall WHIP for 2019, ranking him tied for eigth among qualified starting pitchers.

Looking at his walks per nine innings pitched totals in 2019, Buehler was tenth in the league with 1.826.

His K-BB% was seventh best in the league at 24..2%, highlighting how effective he can be over a long period of time.

His playoff success, to me, added a level of grit and confidence to a starting pitcher that helps separate the boys from the men of the league.

Pitch Selection and Adjustments

Buehler’s changeup in 2018 was awful. So awful that in 2019 he only threw it 0.5% of the time. He then shifted his attention to five other pitches in his repertoire, anchored by his four-seam fastball, which he used more than half the time in 2019.

His first-pitch strike rate with his fastball is over 75%. His four-seam lead to a 37.5% strikeout rate with two-strikes and a .181 batting average against in 2019.

Other pitches include his slider (thrown 14.2% of the time), his cutter (13%), and his curve (12%) in 2019.

With this mix, his strikeout percentage was up in 2019 and his walk rate was down almost 2%!

For his three-year career, Buehler throws just 97.5 pitches per game, averaging over six innings per start.

Given the shortened season, Buehler can afford to take more risks with pitch selection and targets outside the zone to elevate his 10.6 K/9 (18th in MLB) from 2019.

His put-away rate was top 10 in the league at 24.9%. This is a measure of two-strike efficiency, where one-out-of-four pitches in a two-strike count, resulting in an out. This translated to 215 strikeouts in 2019 and helped to keep his pitch count down allowing him to go deeper into games.

Bullpen

The Dodgers relievers had the second best opponent batting average last season, at .218, trailling only the Cardinals. They also owned a league best 1.16 WHIP!

With one of the most dominant closer in the league in recent memory, Kenley Jansen will look to bounceback after a down 2019 campaign.

Blake Treinen is a good addition, and should also benefit from more time off as he recovers from an injury-plagued 2019.

Adam Kolarek is another guy who faces righties with the best of them and will be up to the challenge in the late innings for the Dodgers.

Wins

It is hard to ignore the power rankings to begin this season. With great acquisitions of the likes of Mookie Betts & David Price and the emergence of Cody Bellinger & Max Muncy, along with a mix of young talent, this team is going to score runs early and often.

Coming off a 14-4 season in 2019, Buehler was 4-2 in his last eight starts of the season.

His 2019 postseason was strong as well, posting a 1-0 record while allowing only five hits and one earned run in 12.2 innings against the World Series Champions Washington Nationals. This to me highlights how well he conducts himself in pressure situations and speaks to a true leader of a great team.

Final Thoughts

I want to highlight that Dodger manager Dave Roberts does not like to have guys throw over 200 innings. Given the situation, however, we don’t have to worry about that in 2020.

The shortened season should actually help Buehler’s value as he will not be limited in appearances in a pitcher-friendly park and should be in line for as many wins as possible.

At 3.37 the Dodgers had the lowest team ERA in baseball last season and return most of the pieces of the puzzle.

Run support, command, plus a strong bullpen is a recipe for success for any starter, but a recipe for greatness for Buehler.



I have faith in this team to score runs, I have faith in this team to close games, and I have faith that Walker Buehler is my rock atop the starting pitcher leaderboard!


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About Christopher T. Luft

Christopher Luft is from Connecticut and graduated from Providence College with a BS degree in Biology. He went to Optometry school at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry and completed an ocular disease residency at the Wilmington, Delaware VA. Chris loves to cook, spend time with his wife, practice and study jiu-jitsu, and of course, fantasy sports.

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