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The Season that Was: Mark Buehrle

A look at Mark Buehrle's 2015 season.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In his first two seasons, as a Blue Jay, we found out that he have long hot or cold stretches. His 2013 season, his first with the Jays, started out cold, but picked up as the season went on. 2014 started much better, and was a much better season over all, he even made the AL All-Star team, though he did pitch. He did slow a bit at the end of the year, but we would have been happy with a repeat of 2014.

Year   Age  Tm  W L  ERA  G GS GF CG    IP   H ER HR BB SO  FIP
2015    36 TOR 15 8 3.81 32 32  0  4 198.2 214 84 22 33 91 4.26

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The good news was that he had his most wins since 2008 and most complete games since 2004.

Baseball-Reference has him at just a 0.9 WAR, but Fangraphs has him at a much better 2.1 WAR (after values of 2.3 and 3.1 the last two seasons), giving him a value of $16.8 million to the Blue Jays.

He had a .285 BABIP, down from .316 in 2014. Our improved defense might explain that. He gave up a few less line drives (21.4% down from 22.5), a few more ground balls (45.9%, up from 43.7) and a few less fly balls (32.6% from 33.8). Unfortunately, more of the fly balls left the park (10.0%, up from 6.6).

His FIP was 4.26 and xFIP 4.46, a bit higher than his 3.81 ERA. Mark's strikeout rate was down a bit (11.0%, down from 13.9) and his walk rate was also down (4.0% from 5.4).

Unusual for Mark, he had reverse splits this year, left-handers hit .290/.319/.469, right-handers .275/.308/.430. He was much better at home (8-1, 3.29 ERA, batters hit .244/.285/.407) than on the road (7-7, 4.24, batters hit .307/.332/.467).

And, as you know, he was much better in the first half (10-5, 3.34, batters hit 262/.293/.419) than in the second half (5-3, 4.54, .303/.337/.472).

Mark Buehrle by month:

  • April: 3-1, 4.94 in 4 starts. Batters hit .360/.383/.550
  • May: 3-3, 4.99 in 6 starts. Batters hit .255/.298/.436.
  • June: 2-0, 1.75 in 5 starts. Batters hit ..220/.252/.348.
  • July: 3-1, 1.82 in 5 starts. Batters hit .269/.279/.373.
  • August: 3-1, 4.38 in 6 starts. Batters hit .257/.289/.464.
  • September/October: 1-2, 5.53 in 6 starts. Batters hit .345/.392/.504.

The September numbers were hurt by that last start on the final day of the season.

Mark's longest win streak was 4 games, which he did twice.  Longest losing streak was 2 games. His highest game score was 76, a complete game win in Washington, June 3, over the Nationals. 6 hits, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts. His worst game score was an 8, a lost in Cleveland on May 1. 4.1 innings, 11 hits, 8 earned, 2 walks, 1 strikeout, 2 home runs. Course I would say that his start at the end of the season, against the Rays, was worse. 0.2 innings, 5 hits, 8 runs (none earned) 1 walk, no strikeouts.

Mark is the last of the players we picked up from the Marlins, back in November of 2012, to still be with the team. In all, he was 40-28, with a 3.74 ERA in 97 starts, a total of 504.1 innings. Baseball Reference gives him a 6.6 WAR (Fangraphs 7.5) for his time as a Blue Jay, so he was the one that gave us the most production too.

It is too bad he couldn't get that 1.1 innings needed to get him to the 200 inning level again, but 14 years in a row above 200 innings is pretty amazing. And it is also quite a the achievement to pitch 16 years and not spend any time on the DL.

I already said my goodbyes to Mark, back here, but I will say that I will miss him. He has been everything the Jays could hope for, good when it was his turn to pitch, and a good teammate when it wasn't his turn. He took on the role of elder statesman and brought all the veteran presents that a team could want (well, other than scooters, David Price was the veteran that presented everyone with those).

He seems the type that would make a great pitching coach, but then he made $20 million dollars last season, guys that make that much money tend not to become pitching coaches. For one, who wants to take that much of a drop in pay. And, if you had $20 million plus in the bank, would you want the daily grind of baseball travel and showing up at the ballpark early to work on someone's delivery.

I think there is a lot to learn from Buehrle. He does kind of pitch the way pitchers did 40-50 years ago. Back before every player was strong enough to hit a home run, pitchers would throw strikes, try to get the batters to hit the ball and hope that your fielders would make a play on it. Then, if there were runners on base, they would kind of turn it on. Not throwing max effort on every pitch let them pitch deeper into game.

It is tough to do that now, almost any player can square one up and hit it out of the park. And, course, every game, every pitch is on camera, watched, studied. Bullpens are better, deeper, so starters are expected to go hard, for as long as they can and not be expected to to complete games. Buehrle, though he doesn't complete games at the rate players did long ago, but he does save himself pitches and which allows him to go deeper into games. He doesn't walk guys, doesn't throw extra pitches, doesn't walk guys and doesn't strike people out. He's effective, while going about pitching in a different way than his contemporaries.

I do think it was too bad that the Jays didn't have him on the playoff roster, but there really wasn't a role for him. He doesn't have the splits of someone you'd want to take a LOOGY type role and I don't think we would have been excited to see him come into a game with the outcome on the line. If we wanted a long man in the pen, I think Drew Hutchison would have been the better choice. And, really, would you want Buehrle's career to end as a mopup man in the pen?

I haven't heard Mark say that he is retiring. I do think there will be a team out there that could use a guy that can throw 200 innings, but I wouldn't expect him to be offered anything near $20 million again and I'd imagine he would only be willing to take so much of a pay cut. Below a certain point, I'd think he'd say 'I'd rather be home with my family'.

I'm happy I got to change to watch him.