Buehler’s changeup was his worst pitch in 2018, and he almost entirely eliminated it in 2019. In the 14 times he threw it last year, it generated two swings, two singles, and one called strike, all entirely against lefties.
Buehler’s curveball boasts an elite spin rate (96th percentile, according to Statcast), and the Dodgers’ ace-in-the-making excelled with a sterling 36.1% K-BB rate. Still, the curve returned a -2.1 pVAL due to batting results partially inflated by an unlucky .429 BABIP and a ground-ball rate (51.8%) that fell back to earth from 2018’s gaudy 73.3%.
Buehler leans on his fastball more than half the time when he’s toeing the rubber, and for good reason: his heater is a Statcast darling, boasting an 87th-percentile velocity (maxing out in triple-digits and hovering around 96 mph) and an excellent 93rd-percentile spin rate. His four-seamer generated a 30.8% strikeout rate despite a middling 10.4% swinging-strike rate, and earned a prodigious 21.6 pVAL last season.
Averaging 92.3 mph with 3.8 more inches of arm-side break than average, Buehler’s cutter generated a 13.8% SwStr% while being thrown in the zone 51.4% of the time. Out of the zone, its contact dropped more than 10% to 52.8%, but hard contact when thrown in the zone did limit its pVAL to a 3.4 mark.
Thanks to a 2867 spin rate, Buehler’s slider managed 6.7 more inches of break than average. He also excelled at placing the pitch on the outside corner, giving up just four walks on the slide piece in 2019. It racked up an 18.2% SwStr% thanks in large part to an 46.4% O-Swing%, but just barely missed being a Money Pitch with a 39% zone rate.
Averaging 96.2 mph this past season, the four-seam fastball was a dominant pitch for Buehler—his best according to pVal with a 9.6 mark. It surrendered just a 74.2% contact rate to opponents, which is excellent for a fastball, and the ridiculous 37.5% strikeout rate for the pitch highlights how effective it was as a strikeout offering. Do note, though, that the pitch did have a 20% HR/FB rate, but Buehler still managed to limit opposing hitters to a .181 batting average and .350 slugging percentage against.
Thrown roughly 19.6% of the time in 2018, the two-seam fastball was yet another quality pitch for Buehler, as it held opponents to .221/.333/.273 batting line. A strong 55% ground-ball rate helped him manage contact in spite of an 84.6% contact rate against the pitch. It was worth a 4.1 pVal
The slider averaged 87.5 mph in 2018 and finished as his second-best pitch in terms of pVal, with a dominant 7.7 mark. It featured a 14.6% swinging-strike rate and allowed just two home runs all season. Opponents managed to hit just .167/.176/.250 against the pitch.
The curveball limited opponents to a .196/.245/.217 slash line. That was supported by a 71.8% contact rate against along with a highly impressive 73.3% ground-ball rate. The result was a 1.5 pVal.
The cutter was also highly effective for Buehler in 2018, limiting opposing batters to a .219/.288/.313 slash line, which was worth a 4.2 pVal. A solid 78.9% contact rate against along with a 50.9% ground-ball rate highlights its ability to both miss bats and manage contact.
Buehler’s 90.1 mph changeup is thrown at the same velocity as some other starting pitchers’ fastballs, and yet it was clearly his least effective offering in terms of pVal with a -3.4 mark. A 3.4% swinging-strike rate highlights its inability to miss bats, and thanks to a .348 BABIP, opponents crushed it to the tune of a .346 batting average against.