Buehler VS. Kershaw

We all know Buehler is an incredible pitcher, but the question is how incredible? Who better to compare his performance to than future HOF teammate Kershaw. Kershaw is still only 32 and already an MVP, Gold Glove, 8x All Star, 3x Cy Young winner, and much much more. You can check out our full deep dive on the King Kershaw here. So how does Buehler’s career so far compare to what we know now was the beginning of a generational career.

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Highlights:

  • Buehler’s Numbers
  • Kershaw’s First 2 years
  • Comparing Them
  • Simulated Seasons So Far

Buehler’s Numbers

https://www.mlb.com/player/walker-buehler-621111

Right out of the gate, Buehler’s counting stats scream elite starter at any age. He was already 14th in ERA last year in the MLB while expanding his workload beyond anything he’s ever done before. He has a 5 pitch arsenal and rarely throws a 6th pitch changeup.

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/buehlwa01.shtml

His 2017 wasn’t a large enough sample size to be judged on its own, but Buehler’s 2018 speaks for itself. Most years he’d be the clear ROY. However, this was the year of Acuna and Soto who placed 1st and 2nd respectively. Plus the Dodgers were relatively protective of their young ace.

That’s the first difference between himself and Kersh. Buehler came in to the league after Tommy John. A surgery Kershaw has never had. Because of that and the Dodger’s dominant position at the time of Buehler’s debut, they were much more careful with Buehler. However, Buetane was pretty much released in 2019.

His spin rate and xERA were elite. He’s almost elite in every category except for exit velocity and hard hit %. But this can easily be explained away by the power behind his pitches. His elite velocity also gives players an extra boost of power when they do barrel him up. But lucky for him, Buehler has a very good barrel %.

And even though his ERA went up from his stellar rookie season, he arguably improved in some important stats. For starters, his FIP actually went down this last year. So after getting incredibly lucky in 2018, he was actually unlucky in 2019.

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He pitched a full season for the first time in his career. Something he is really putting emphasis on for the years to come is being a 200 inning workhorse ace. In fact, He and Jack Flaherty are right now considered the future aces of the 2020’s by MLB.

https://www.mlb.com/news/walker-buehler-jack-flaherty-are-rising-aces

His strikeout rate went up while his walk rate went down. Great signs for a pitchers growth and control. He was the only bright spot in a disappointing 2019 postseason for the Dodgers. In his last 3 postseason appearances he has a sub 0.70 ERA. That may be his second difference from Kershaw.

Kersh’s First 2 years

Again we all know what Kershaw became, but he started as most top prospects who stay in the Show do. With a lot of hype, and a good start to his career to back it up. But how did Kershaw do in about the same amount of time as Buehler so far.

As we mentioned, Kershaw was not eased into the league. This means they did not care as much about using him in his sub-Kersh rookie season and at a younger age. Not too mention the 2009 Dodgers were not as successful as the recent teams. That’s important as far as giving Kersh a little leeway in his production.

Also, adding in the next 50 innings of Kershaw’s production would lower all of his stats. However, not enough to regain the edge over Buehler. Kershaw was worse against opposing teams and didn’t show the control or strikeout stuff that we know he developed. He was only 20-21 years of age though.

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Kershaw’s prime, so far, was his age 23-27 seasons. He lead the league in ERA 4 times in a row, hit his career high in 21 Wins twice, and won his MVP. Not too mention the most unforgettable No-hitter in recent Dodger memory. Still, considering he’s only entering his age 32 season, Kershaw could go on another accolade run before eventually retiring. The Hall of Fame almost all but certain already.

Comparison

Kershaw was 20-21 for his first 2 seasons. Buehler was 23-25 for the majority of his. This is a big difference in time to develop. Kershaw took his major leap forward at the age of 23 when he won his first Cy Young. But no experience or stats are more important than the initial reaction to the Show. We compared Kershaw’s first 483 IP to Walker’s 329 IP so far.


And to no one’s surprise, the stats are very close. the W/L advantage that Buehler have is meaningless because the teams he has been on have been Division Champions. But Buehler is showing better control and stuff than Kersh initially did.


However, Kershaw has always been more important as far as team success. This may change for Buehler in the future, but Kershaw was a team ace on a bad Dodgers team from the moment he stepped on the mound. He can be argued as the turning point for the organization.

But Buehler has seen a tiny bit more success in his career against batters so far. Still the differences are almost statistically nothing.

But this is where Buehler can possibly leapfrog Kershaw in Dodger fans’ eyes. He’s had incredible postseason success in his young career. Kershaw has always been plagued by a destructive playoff performance. Even though several have been caused by sign stealing, it’s a headline that won’t go away until he has a ring. But even then, it may be more because of Buehler, than himself.

Simulated Seasons So Far

The simulated Dodgers are 35-14 and sitting 7 games up in the NL West over the Rockies. They actually have the best record in all of baseball. Largely because of these two pitchers.

Walker Buehler

Matrix Buehler is looking for his first Cy Young. It’s a 4 man race between himself, Kershaw, Degrom, and, currently leading, Scherzer.

Buehler is leading this sim league in ERA, WHIP, H/9, Win Probability Added (WPA). He’s also 5th in WAR, 3rd in W’s, 4th in FIP, 2nd in K/BB rate, and leads in almost all important categories.

Clayton Kershaw

Kershaw actually has compiled more WAR than Buehler in what would be a comeback season for the still young ace. The ERA of 2.54 is much more in the range of what we’re used to from him. His WHIP of about .91 is back down to elite Kersh days. And his SO to Walk rate is as good as ever. He would be in the Cy Young discussion in this season and would definitely be a 9 time All Star.

If you want to read more about Buehlers potential check out our Buetane deep dive here.

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