Dodgers P Walker Buehler on Using Mustard to Improve Mechanics after Second Tommy John

Walker Buehler pitching mechanics

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler had his second Tommy John surgery in August of 2022. He had lasted just over seven years since his first, in June of 2015. As he faced another 16 to 18-month rehab, Buehler, 29, thought that perhaps this time, he should do things a bit differently. MLB offseasons are short, not enough time in which to break down and rebuild mechanics that had been habit for decades. But a year and a half? That was enough. “I think you have to look in the mirror and say, ‘Hey, maybe the foundation of what I’m doing is a little flawed,” Buehler says. “This break really gave me the ability to say, ‘Hey, let’s look at the foundational movements of my delivery and maybe clean some of them up.”

That journey began in June of 2023, when Buehler sent videos to coach Tom House and #TeamMSTRD. Over the course of that summer, Buehler was in frequent communication with House and the Mustard team about his mechanics, sending videos from his throwing sessions and often meeting over Zoom to review his Mustard Report Cards and discuss his areas of improvement. House pointed out that Walker generates a lot of power with his arm rather than his hips and sequencing. He was opening up his shoulders early (Torque Retention in the Mustard app) and losing torque too soon (Stack & Track and Swivel in the app). Then, in August, Team Mustard set Buehler up at the Titleist Performance Institute in Oceanside, CA, where he underwent a full motion-capture analysis of his pitching delivery, with reflective markers affixed all over his body. The lab analysis confirmed the issues that had been flagged by House and Mustard. TPI also noted that Buehler generated MLB elite arm speed but only MLB average hip speed. 

Through his work with House and Mustard on his mechanics, Buehler learned he could be better using his glove during his delivery, and that the dramatic, left-leaning spine angle he had always had when trying to throw hard was likely putting too much stress on his arm. He also learned that he could throw just as hard without it. “Harder, easier,” in fact, as coach Tom House would say it.

“Walker’s fixes are to keep his eyes level, stay behind the ball, keep his glove inside the width of his body and drag his back foot,” says House. “He’s very bright and very into mechanics and he understands what needs to be done. But he’s also a feel guy. Once he feels it, he’ll be all-in.”

Buehler approached his comeback from Tommy John surgery armed with a new set of goals for his pitching mechanics: To get to his energy angle more quickly and move faster and farther down the mound into foot strike, to keep his chest and shoulders square to the target, to pull his chest to his glove, rather than vice versa, and to cut down on his dramatic spine angle toward first base, therefore keeping his eyes more level at release point and keeping his momentum traveling toward home plate. And, he started using the Mustard app during every throwing session to stay on top of his mechanics and track his progress.“I’ve gone to biomechanics labs like TPI three times in my career, and it’s very helpful,” Buehler says. “But what excites me about Mustard is that you can look at everything all the time. I’m learning that this data can show me what’s real and what’s not. For me, it’s been largely important in terms of coming back and getting my delivery to a place that I like a lot more than I used to.”

Buehler has made progress in all the variables he set out to improve in the Mustard app: Stack & Track, Swivel, Torque Retention and Stride, and he’s feeling the results in his delivery. “Hip and shoulder separation is huge in the pitching world right now, and if you can keep that left shoulder from going left, you’re going to create better separation and the arm is going to get to these velocity checkpoints or performance checkpoints a lot easier and with less stress.”

Walker Buehler pitching mechanics Mustard app

He’s also using one interesting cue to help him to stay closed and get his rear end moving down the mound: Throw like Mariano Rivera. “The easiest way for me to think about shooting that knee backwards on the leg lift is to try and throw a ball like Mariano Rivera,” Buehler says. “He had that really closed move and you see where that left knee is a little bit closer to the right hip as opposed to straight up and down vertically. And that just leads to a lot of good things.”

Buehler does caution that often, in game situations, increased effort can increase variance, and sometimes, your mechanics won’t be as perfect as you’d like them to be. And, he says, that’s perfectly OK. “You want to make sure you’re checking a lot of these boxes, so that when variance does happen, it’s not catastrophic, right?” he says. “Try to make the baseline throws as crisp and clean and as sound as we can make them.”

That was Buehler’s focus as he worked his way through his rehab starts, and it served him well in his return at Dodger Stadium on May 6th, 20 months since his second Tommy John surgery. Buehler gave up three runs on six hits in four innings during the Dodgers 6-3 victory over the Miami Marlins, but he also logged four strikeouts and touched a confidence-boosting 98 mph.

“It helps a lot if I can throw 96 or 97,” Buehler says. “I’m very confident in my ability to do a lot of things with the ball. It’s just a lot easier for me to do it the way that I know how to do it. The idea that I can get pretty close to what I used to do, it makes it a little more attainable.” Watch Walker Buehler’s complete In the Kitchen session on Mustard’s YouTube channel. To access more live and on-demand content like this, register for In the Kitchen.

If you’d like more great content from Mustard, and you’d like to evaluate and improve your own pitching mechanics, download the Mustard pitching app today.

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Lindsay Berra

Lindsay Berra

Sports journalist Lindsay Berra formerly worked with, MLB Network and ESPN Magazine. She has been on #TeamMSTRD since 2020.

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