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The Suddenly Good Mark Buehrle

Mark Buehrle
Mark Buehrle
Tom Szczerbowski

Mark Buehrle has made 14 starts, and it nicely breaks down the middle: his first 7 starts sucked, and 7 starts that followed have been very good. The demarcation line was his 7th start, and more precisely, the 7-run inning he allowed against the Rays, an inning that included a grand slam and a 2-run homer. The amazing thing about that inning was that Mark was allowed to finish the inning and he went on to throw 3 more innings, allowing just one hit.

How often does that happen? How often does a manager leave a pitcher in to give up 7 runs and how often does he leave the guy in to pitch more innings after that? I only found 2 other games (though there might be a couple more, the ADD kicked in and quit searching) this season where a pitcher was allowed to give up 7 runs in an inning without being pulled in the middle of it.

After 7 games, Mark had an ERA 7.02, and I kind of figured that Buehrle wasn't cut out for the AL East. In the 7 games since, his ERA is 2.54. That's a pretty big difference.

What's different? In the first 7 games he gave up 11.6 hits/9 innings, in the last 7 games it's been 7.4. In those first 7 games, he allowed 11 home runs, in the 7 since he's only allowed 1.

Other things:

Batted Ball Type First 7 games Next 7 games
Ground Ball % 32 43
Fly Ball % 47 32
Line Drive % 20 11

Fewer hard hit balls makes for more success, hard to imagine.

He seems to have cut back on using the curve in favor of using his cutter (h/t @James_in_to), when we look at these pitch selection % numbers from Brooks Baseball.

Month Four seam Sinker Change Curve Cutter
April 26 22.3 18.1 8.9 13.8
May 30.2 19.8 18.5 7.1 24.5
June 22.5 19.7 21.1 3.8 32.9

What's caused the change?

I don't know. I guess the easy suggestion would be that the 7-run inning gave Mark a kick in the pants. Maybe he decided he didn't want to get embarrassed like that any more. I don't know, sounds hard to believe that he just suddenly decided he didn't want to suck anymore.

Maybe Zaun is right and J.P. Arencibia has finally learned how to catch him. Nah, I don't believe that either.

More likely, like just about everyone else on the team, he got off to a slow start and has turned it around.

I doubt he'll keep this up the rest of the way, allowing just 1 home run in 46 innings doesn't seem sustainable, but then I'd hope he won't go back to giving up a home run every 3.5 innings.

It does look like he could make it to 200 innings again, when earlier in the season I figure he had no change of continuing that run.

What do you think caused the change?