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The Season that Was: Mark Buehrle

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A look at Mark Buehrle's 2014 season.

Tom Szczerbowski

After a 2013 season that started off terrible, but got better, it was hard to guess what we might get from the guy this season.

The 2013 season turned on May 6, after he gave up 7 runs in an inning against the Rays. Amazingly Gibby left him in the game and he threw 3 more innings, these ones scoreless and the Jays came back to win. At that point we had pretty much figured that Mark either couldn't pitch in the AL East or couldn't pitch. one or the other. After that start Mark had a 7.03 ERA. From then, until September, every start he made lowered his ERA.

We came into this season thinking that Mark was a slow starter. He even came into the season talking about how he had to figure out how to start the season better.

In our prediction thread, I said:

I'd go 3.90, 32 starts, 201 innings, and a 13-10 record or something like that.

and he:

Year    W  L  ERA  G GS CG    IP   H ER HR BB  SO
2014   13 10 3.39 32 32  0 202.0 228 76 15 46 119

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/10/2014.

I'm counting that as a win.

Fangraphs has him at a 3.5 WAR, giving him a value of $19.2 million to the Jays. Baseball Reference has him at a 3.6 WAR.

His BABIP was .316, a bit up from his .305 last year and higher than his lifetime ,292, I'm going to blame the less than terrific defense behind him.

He gave up a few more line drives than last year (22.5% down from 20.6), a few less ground balls (43.7%, down from 45.3) and about the same rate of fly balls (33.8%, down slightly from 34.1). The nice part was that far fewer of his fly balls left the park (6.6% down from 10.6). He was also getting quite a few more infield flies (12.7% up from 7.9).

His FIP was 3.66 and xFIP 4.09 both higher than his ERA (3.39).

As usual Mark was better against lefties (.369/.317/.401) than right-handers (.293/.330/.422).

He was better on the road (batter hit ..273/.307/.381, and he had a 3.12 ERA) than he was at home (batter hit .299/.344/.448, with a 3.63).

As you all know Buehrle  was much better in the first half of the season (10-6 with a 2.64 ERA, batters hit .267/.312/.397) than in the second half (3-4 with a 4.64 ERA, batters hit 318/.350/.447).

Buehrle by month:

April: 4-1, 2.16 ERA in 5 starts. Batters hit .268/.319/.390 against him.

May: 5-0, 2.48 ERA in 6 starts. Batters hit .252/.301/.338.

June: 1-4, 2.79 ERA in 6 starts. Batters hit .244/.292/.431.

July: 1-2, 5.74 ERA in 5 starts. Batters hit .359/.389/.496.

August: 0-2, 5.76 ERA in 5 starts. Batters hit .363/.390/.496.

September: 2-1, 2.83 ERA in 5 starts. Batters hit .267/.297/.374.

His season sort of fell off a cliff in July but he got it back together in September, just in time to get his 200 innings.

Marks longest win streak was 6 games, running from May 1 to June 1. His longest losing streak immediately followed the win streak, running from June 7 to July 25.

His highest GameScore was an 86, on April 2,  his first start of the season, when he went 8.2 innings, allowing just 4 hits, 1 walk with 11 strikeouts. His second highest game score was an 85, September 24, his last start of the season, when he went 8 innings, allowing 3 hits, 1 walk with 10 strikeouts. Other than his first and last start, he never had more than 6 strikeouts in a game. He bookended his season with his best work.

His worst game score was a 15, on April 25, against the Red Sox. He gave up 12 hits and 6 earned, with 3 walks and no strikeouts, in 5.1 innings, his first loss of the season. He had a GameScore of 18, on July 25, against the Yankees, in that terrible series at Yankee Stadium that I was unfortunate enough to be at.

Buehrle went into the season wanting to show that he didn't have to have a bad start to the season, and he succeeded. Early in the season, he was painting the edges of the strike zone, really putting on a clinic on how to pitch without a 95 mph fast ball. That first month of the season, he pitched as well as any pitcher could (minus the one start against the Red Sox). Dioner Navarro got a lot of credit for being able to keep up with his fast pace on the mound. I thought that most of his rep for being good at working with pitchers seemed to come from how well he a Buehrle worked together.

I don't know what happened to him in the middle of the season. Maybe the precise hitting of targets takes too much concentration to keep up all season long. Maybe he hit some arm soreness that hindered him a bit. Maybe it is too much to hope he could keep up that level of performance all season long.

The 200 inning streak has gotten to the point that it is helping along a debate on whether he should get into the Hall of Fame. He is up to 199 wins. He has 14 seasons in a row of 200+ innings and 10+ wins. I tend to think that Hall of Famers should have some seasons as the best in the game or at least near the best in the game. Buehrle has only received Cy Young votes once, finishing 5th in the voting in 2005, but then maybe there is a place in the hall for players who have been good for long periods of time, not just ones that have been very good.

Mark is 35 now, if he can go 3 or 4 more seasons and get his win total to 230-240, he'd have a pretty good case. His current contract runs out after the 2016 2015 season. I'd imagine he'd get offers after that. whether he wants to continue to play is another question. He might decide to go home to be with his dogs.

When he's good he's fun to watch, he pitches so quick it is hard to watch the game and take part in the GameThread. When he's not good, you wonder how he ever got anyone out.  When they talk about a 'lack of leadership in the clubhouse' I wonder about Buehrle. He seems like an obvious leader type. He seemed to take special interest in Marcus Stroman. He seemed to get along with the other pitchers.

He seems like a guy that would make a good pitching coach, after his career is over, but he also seems like the type that would like to stay home with his family after this career is over.