Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and keep in mind the Dodgers are 29-16 despite having 12 players (11 pitchers) on the injured list.

Walker Buehler has returned to the Dodger rotation after almost two years recovering from his second Tommy John surgery. And those two starts have been a bit shaky. In his first start, May 6 against Miami, he went four innings, giving up three runs and six hits while walking none and striking out four. On May 12 against San Diego, he went 3.1 innings, giving up five hits and three runs while walking two and striking out two. He has a 7.36 ERA and threw 77 pitches in each start.

But what should we be expecting? How long does it take a pitcher coming off a second Tommy John surgery to regain his previous effectiveness? Will he regain his previous effectiveness?

We start by finding out what pitchers have had two Tommy John surgeries. Luckily, an analyst named Jon Roegele has compiled a database showing all players, including position players, who have had Tommy John surgery. You can check out his work here.

Thanks to his research, we can easily look at the numbers. We will limit our search to pitchers who had their second surgery within the last 15 years, since the science of recovery has improved from the time of the earliest Tommy John surgeries. So, here are some pitchers who have had a second surgery since 2010:

Caleb Ferguson, left-handed reliever
First surgery: May 30, 2014
Second: Sept. 22, 2020
Returned: May 16, 2022

Ferguson had a great return, giving up four hits in his first 18.2 innings of relief and finishing the season with a 1.82 ERA. He pitched 60 innings for the Dodgers in 2023, with a 3.43 ERA. He is currently with the Yankees.

ERA before second surgery: 3.93
ERA after: 3.30

Hits per 9 IP before second surgery: 7.9
Hits per 9 after: 8.3

Walks per 9 IP before second surgery: 3.4
Walks per 9 after: 4.0

K’s per 9 IP before second surgery: 11.2
K’s per 9 IP after: 10.2

Chris Paddack, right-handed starter
First surgery: Aug. 15, 2016
Second: May 18, 2022
Returned: Sept. 26, 2023

Paddack pitched in relief in three games for the Minnesota Twins at the end of the 2023 season, giving up three runs in five innings. He returned a starter this season and is 4-1 with a 4.34 ERA in seven starts, but he had an 8.36 ERA after his first three starts and a 1.93 ERA in his most recent four, which should give Buehler fans some hope.

ERA before second surgery: 4.20
ERA after: 4.46

Hits per 9 IP before second surgery: 8.4
Hits per 9 after: 11.5

Walks per 9 IP before second surgery: 1.8
Walks per 9 after: 1.9

K’s per 9 IP before second surgery: 9.0
K’s per 9 IP after: 9.6

Daniel Hudson, right-handed reliever
First surgery: July 9, 2012
Second: June 8, 2013
Returned: Sept. 3, 2014

Hudson was on a rehab start in the minors after his first surgery when he tore the ligament again, requiring a second surgery. He was a starting pitcher, but when he returned to the majors with Arizona in 2014, he became a reliever. He pitched in three games at the end of the 2014 season and had a 13.50 ERA in 2.2 innings. In 2014, he pitched in 64 games out of the bullpen, finishing with a 3.86 ERA and four saves. He has bounced around the majors since then and has been an effective reliever with the Dodgers the last three seasons when he’s not sidelined by knee injuries.

ERA before second surgery: 3.68
ERA after: 3.88

Hits per 9 IP before second surgery: 8.6
Hits per 9 after: 7.8

Walks per 9 IP before second surgery: 2.3
Walks per 9 after: 3.4

K’s per 9 IP before second surgery: 7.2
K’s per 9 IP after: 9.8

Edinson Vólquez, right-handed starter
First surgery: Aug. 3, 2009
Second: Aug. 4, 2017
Returned: March 30, 2019

Vólquez made two starts in his return and had a 7.04 ERA. He sprained his right elbow throwing between starts and was put back on the IL. He returned on Sept. 1 and pitched out of the bullpen, giving up six runs in 8.1 innings. After an equally poor 2020 (6.35 ERA) he retired. He was 33 when he had his second surgery, about six years older than Buehler and already at an age where most pitcher begin to decline.

ERA before second surgery: 4.42
ERA after: 6.65

Hits per 9 IP before second surgery: 8.7
Hits per 9 after: 10.8

Walks per 9 IP before second surgery: 4.3
Walks per 9 after: 5.8

K’s per 9 IP before second surgery: 7.7
K’s per 9 IP after: 5.4

Hyun-jin Ryu, left-handed starter
First surgery: April 30, 2004
Second: June 18, 2022
Returned: Aug. 1, 2023

The former Dodger gave up four runs in five innings of his first start in his return for Toronto, then pitched four no-hit innings in his second. He was effective after that, finishing the season with a 3.46 ERA. He is pitching in Korea this season, where he has a 5.65 ERA in eight starts.

ERA before second surgery: 3.27
ERA after: 3.46

Hits per 9 IP before second surgery: 8.6
Hits per 9 after: 9.2

Walks per 9 IP before second surgery: 2.0
Walks per 9 after: 2.4

K’s per 9 IP before second surgery: 8.0
K’s per 9 IP after: 6.6

Jameson Taillon, right-handed starter
First surgery: April 9, 2014
Second: Aug. 13, 2019
Returned: April 7, 2021

Taillon was with Pittsburgh when he had his second surgery, and they traded him to the Yankees while he was recovering. He had a 5.40 ERA after his first three starts after his return, but made 29 starts that season and finished with a 4.30 ERA. He went 14-5 with a 3.91 ERA in 2022 and signed a four-year, $68-million deal with the Cubs.

ERA before second surgery: 3.67
ERA after: 4.18

Hits per 9 IP before second surgery: 9.0
Hits per 9 after: 8.5

Walks per 9 IP before second surgery: 2.3
Walks per 9 after: 2.2

K’s per 9 IP before second surgery: 8.1
K’s per 9 IP after: 8.0

Joakim Soria, right-handed reliever
First surgery: Jan. 1, 2003
Second: April 2, 2012
Returned: July 7, 2013

Soria was one of the best closers in baseball before his second surgery, saving 160 games in five seasons with Kansas City. He wasn’t quite the same when he came back, saving 69 games over nine seasons with nine teams.

ERA before second surgery: 2.40
ERA after: 3.62

Hits per 9 IP before second surgery: 6.9
Hits per 9 after: 7.9

Walks per 9 IP before second surgery: 2.5
Walks per 9 after: 2.9

K’s per 9 IP before second surgery: 9.7
K’s per 9 IP after: 9.9

Joe Ross, right-handed starter
First surgery: July 19, 2017
Second: June 1, 2022
Returned: April 3, 2024

Here’s an almost direct comparison the Buehler. Ross had his second surgery two months before Buehler did, and returned to the Brewers on opening day this season. He wasn’t nearly the pitcher Buehler was before the surgery, but he was a power pitcher, striking out 11 in his third major league start.

ERA before second surgery: 4.26
ERA after: 4.75

Hits per 9 IP before second surgery: 9.1
Hits per 9 after: 9.8

Walks per 9 IP before second surgery: 2.9
Walks per 9 after: 3.5

K’s per 9 IP before second surgery: 8.2
K’s per 9 IP after: 7.3

Joel Hanrahan, right-handed reliever
First surgery: May 16, 2013

Second: March 18, 2015

Returned: Never

Hanrahan, originally drafted in the second round by the Dodgers in 2000, was a successful closer with Pittsburgh and was with Boston when he had his first surgery. He signed with Detroit before the 2014 season and spent the whole season recovering. He re-signed with the Tigers and had to have a second surgery, retiring in 2016.

Kirby Yates, right-handed reliever
First surgery: Jan. 1, 2006
Second: March 24, 2021
Returned: Aug. 10, 2022

Yates went 15 years between surgeries, having his first one while in the minors. He pitched in nine games in relief at the end of the 2002 season with Atlanta, with a 5.14 ERA. The next season he pitched in 61 games, striking out 80 in 60 innings. He signed with Texas in the offseason and has given up one run in 16 innings, striking out 17.

ERA before second surgery: 3.54
ERA after: 2.92

Hits per 9 IP before second surgery: 7.3
Hits per 9 after: 5.0

Walks per 9 IP before second surgery: 3.0
Walks per 9 after: 5.2

K’s per 9 IP before second surgery: 12.8
K’s per 9 IP after: 11.1

Kris Medlen, right-handed starter
First surgery: Aug. 18, 2010
Second: March 18, 2014
Returned: July 20, 2015

Medlen was a rising star with the Braves, going 10-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 2012 and 15-12 with a 3.11 ERA in 2013. But, after his second surgery, it was all downhill. He came back with Kansas City and had a 4.01 ERA in 58 innings, but then pitched poorly in the majors and the minors and retired during the 2018 season while pitching for the Reno Aces.

ERA before second surgery: 2.95
ERA after: 5.61

Hits per 9 IP before second surgery: 8.3
Hits per 9 after: 9.9

Walks per 9 IP before second surgery: 2.1
Walks per 9 after: 4.4

K’s per 9 IP before second surgery: 7.6
K’s per 9 IP after: 6.4

Mike Clevinger, right-handed starter
First surgery: Aug. 1, 2012
Second: Nov. 17, 2020
Returned: May 4, 2022

Here’s a pitcher who hasn’t been the same since the second surgery. He had a 3.02 ERA in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and was acquired by the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline. But he was injured late in the season and had his second TJ surgery in the offseason.

ERA before second surgery: 3.19
ERA after: 4.07

Hits per 9 IP before second surgery: 7.2
Hits per 9 after: 8.3

Walks per 9 IP before second surgery: 3.4
Walks per 9 after: 2.8

K’s per 9 IP before second surgery: 10.0
K’s per 9 IP after: 7.3

Nathan Eovaldi, right-handed starter
First surgery: May 27, 2007
Second: Aug. 19, 2016
Returned: May 30, 2018

Eovaldi pitched six hitless innings in his first start back, but then was erratic the rest of the season, with a good outing followed by a bad outing. This appears to be the trend for most starters their first seasons back. Good outing, bad outing, good outing, etc. He is one of the few pitchers whose numbers have noticeably improved since his second surgery.

ERA before second surgery: 4.21
ERA after: 3.90

Hits per 9 IP before second surgery: 9.5
Hits per 9 after: 8.6

Walks per 9 IP before second surgery: 2.9
Walks per 9 after: 2.3

K’s per 9 IP before second surgery: 6.6
K’s per 9 IP after: 8.94

We could keep going, but will stop there. Looking at all pitchers who fit the criteria for our study (including pitchers not listed above), we get the following:

Average ERA after the second surgery is up 0.68 compared to before.
Average hits per 9 innings is up 0.71 compared to before.
Average walks per 9 innings is up 0.93 compared to before.
Average strikeouts per 9 innings is down 0.98.

The odds that Buehler will be the same pitcher as before are against him, particularly in this first season, which is usually good outing, bad outing, good outing, bad outing. And it appears that returning pitchers striking out fewer batters is a big culprit. Some of those strikeouts turn into batted balls, and some of those drop in for hits. The overall loss of command also increases walks. But if he can go a couple of seasons without getting reinjured, his numbers will start to pick up again. Patience will be needed here, but the Dodgers and the fans. Which coincides nicely with some quotes in a recent Dylan Hernández story about Buehler:

“I think that we just can’t lose sight of the fact he hasn’t pitched in two years,” manager Dave Roberts said.

How much longer will they continue to pitch Buehler if he remains shaky? “I think given what he’s gone through, what we’re hoping he can be, expecting him to be, he’s going to get as much as he needs,” Roberts said. “Anyone is going to deserve — certainly with his track record — a handful, five, six starts.”

Buehler, after his first two starts: “Listen, man, like throwing games in the minor leagues, you’re never gonna learn how to get big leaguers out. I think that’s kind of where we’re at. I’ve got to get reacclimated to being here. I was probably 94-95 [mph] with my best throws in triple A. Now, it’s a little above that. There’s times and deliveries and at-bats that I feel like, ‘Oh, I can still run through people if I want.’ And then people show me that’s not the case.”

So, take a deep breath and let’s see what happens the next few starts.

Gavin Lux rebounds

In his last 12 games before Wednesday, Gavin Lux is hitting .279/.326/.442, which is very similar to his 2022 numbers of .276/.346/.399, trading some walks for more power. A good sign for a player who missed a full season.

Book recommendation

If you buy only one Dodgers-related book this year, you of course should make it mine (“If These Walls Could Talk: Los Angeles Dodgers”), but if you buy only two, make the second one the new book on Clayton Kershaw by former Times reporter Andy McCullough, titled “The Last of His Kind.” A good look at Kershaw and his entire career.

Up next

Thursday: Cincinnati (TBD) at Dodgers (Tyler Glasnow, 6-1, 2.53 ERA), 7:10 p.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570, 1020 KTNQ

Friday: Cincinnati (Frankie Montas, 2-3, 4.20 ERA) at Dodgers (*James Paxton, 5-0, 2.58 ERA), 7:10 p.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570, 1020 KTNQ

Saturday: Cincinnati (Graham Ashcraft, 3-2, 4.12 ERA) at Dodgers (Walker Buehler, 0-1, 7.36 ERA), 6:10 p.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570, 1020 KTNQ

Sunday: Cincinnati (Hunter Greene, 2-2, 3.27 ERA) at Dodgers (TBA), 1:10 p.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570, 1020 KTNQ

*-left-handed

In case you missed it

‘It’s tough’: Slumping Chris Taylor’s playing time cut as Dodgers face roster questions

Bat speed, blasts, swing length: Where do Ohtani, Betts, Freeman rank in MLB’s new measurables?

Hernández: The Dodgers have good reasons to be patient, believe Walker Buehler can still dominate

Hernández: Dave Roberts does his job: Protecting Shohei Ohtani from himself

Two years (and broken ribs) later, Blake Treinen returns at key time for Dodgers bullpen

And finally

Don Sutton appears on the game show “Match Game.” Watch and listen here.

Fuente