Mark Buehrle made his debut on the Hall of Fame ballot and got 11 percent of the votes. He dipped down to 5.8 percent in his second year and got back up to 10.8 percent last year. Now on his fourth try, Buehrle will try to gain some ground before he gets to the back end of his candidacy. If you had to pick a recent pitcher who embodies the term “crafty lefty”, Buehrle would be at the front of the line. He barely touched 90 on the gun but managed to have a 16-year career with some excellent moments. Let’s take a look at the southpaw’s career.
Mark Alan Buehrle was drafted out of Jefferson College (Hillsboro, MO) in the 38th round (1,139th overall) by the Chicago White Sox in 1998. He debuted just two years later and pitched mainly out of the bullpen for the White Sox that season. Buehrle became a full-time starter the following year and never pitched in relief again in the regular season. That year, the southpaw finished with a 16-8 record, 3.29 ERA, and a league-leading 1.066 WHIP.
In 2005, Buehrle was a big part of the White Sox World Series run. He finished the postseason with a 3.47 ERA, two wins, and a save. That included a complete-game gem against the Los Angeles Angels in Game 2 of the ALCS.
On April 18, 2007, the soft-tossing lefty threw a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers, but he would outdo himself a couple of years later. On July 23, 2009, Buehrle threw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. It was the 18th in MLB history, and it was almost lost in the top of the ninth when Gabe Kapler hit a deep drive that Dewayne Wise tracked down and somehow caught. True to his reputation as a quick worker, the game lasted just 2:03.
Buehrle pitched for the White Sox until 2011 and was as reliable as any hurler in the league, starting 30+ games and throwing 200+ innings each season. His reputation of taking the ball every fifth day wouldn’t end there. In 2012, he was a Miami Marlin. After starting 31 games and tossing 202 1/3 innings in the NL, Buehrle was sent to the Toronto Blue Jays in a massive 12-player deal. The lefty just kept on doing what he did. Over the next three seasons, Buehrle started 97 games and threw 604 1/3 innings for the Blue Jays. He won his 200th game in his first start of 2015 against the Baltimore Orioles. He made his final appearance on October 4, 2015, fittingly against the Rays.
The Case for Buehrle
They say the best ability is availability. If that’s the case, then Buehrle should easily be in Cooperstown. He had 14 consecutive seasons of 30+ starts and 200+ IP. That is the fourth-most since 1920 behind Hall of Famers Warren Spahn, Don Sutton, and Gaylord Perry. While his 3.81 ERA doesn’t look all that impressive on its own, he pitched in an offensive era. His ERA+ is 117 which puts him in the same conversation as Andy Pettitte (117) and CC Sabathia (116). Buehrle has two no-hitters (one perfect game) to go along with a World Series title, five All-Star selections, and four Gold Gloves. He also finished top five in Cy Young Award voting once (2005).
The Case Against Buehrle
Buehrle will never be confused with Randy Johnson. While the Big Unit is second all-time in strikeouts (4,875), The White Sox lefty had only 1,870, good enough for 105th on the all-time list. In fact, if Buehrle gets into the Hall of Fame, he will be only the second starter to pitch since 1960 to be inducted with fewer than 2,000 Ks (Whitey Ford). Even though Buehrle had excellent control with a career 5.4 percent walk rate, he did allow more hits than innings pitched. He led the league in hits allowed four times.
His stats don’t jump off the page at you. They are, in fact, very similar to Pettitte’s who got 17.0 percent of the vote last year. Winning 210 games in 490 starts and throwing 3,232 innings in a 15-year span while maintaining a sub-4.00 ERA is pretty impressive, especially beginning in the steroid era. Impressive enough for 75 percent of the voters? Probably not.
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