This year is Mark Buehrle’s fourth time on the ballot. His vote started at 11.0%, then 5.8% and last year, 10.8%. I figured his numbers would start growing if he could stay on the ballot for a couple more years.
Buehrle is one of the most challenging choices on the list.
Mark was never the best pitcher in the game. He received Cy Young votes just once, finishing 6th in 2005, though he likely deserved votes in other seasons. Mark only made 5 All-Star teams. He never won 20 games (he got 19 once), but in all but his rookie year, he had between 10 and 19 wins.
On the other side, he was incredibly consistent. He started more than 30 games in 15 of his 16 MLB seasons. He had the streak of 14 seasons with 200 innings pitch (and came up just 1.1 innings short of making it 15 seasons). We won’t see that again.
His career 214-160 record puts him 92nd on the all-time list in wins. He’s 65th in bWAR for pitchers. He didn’t walk many, just 2.0 per 9 innings in his career.
Mark only had one losing season. He was 12-13 in 2006. I know it doesn’t mean all that much, but consistently on the winning side, even on some not-so-great teams, is a positive.
He pitched in the playoffs in three different seasons (he was left off the roster when the Jays made the playoffs in 2015).
When he came to the Blue Jays, Cee Angi told us, in a guest post, that we would love Mark Buehrle, and she was right. It took a bit. He started his Jays career with a few bad starts but turned it around after a particularly crappy start against the Rays. He gave up 7 runs in the third inning (including two home runs). Amazingly, John Gibbons left him in the game. He finished out 6 innings, giving up 9 hits and 7 earned. That turned out to be a turning point. He lowered his season ERA every start for his next 21.
In his three seasons with the Jays, he was 40-28 with a 3.78 ERA.
I wrote that he taught me about pitching:
I’ve always thought pitchers need to know they are throwing the right pitch before starting their wind-up. Buehrle would rather throw the wrong pitch and keep himself in his rhythm. Keeping in rhythm is essential to Mark.
He also throws and uses his defense. That’s not a fair way of saying it, but he tries for contact, preferably soft contact, and he figures that the ball will often find a glove.
When he’s doing well, he is a joy to watch. Innings go by quickly. He doesn’t walk anyone (less than 2 per 9 innings as a Jay). He pitches to the strike zone’s edges but rarely off the edge. He gets by with movement, changing speeds, mostly from slow to slower. He gives us the feeling that we could be pitchers if we learned to hit our spots.
He’s Batman, not Superman. We think we could work hard enough to be him. We all know we can’t throw 100 mph, but we all believe we could hit the high 70s (with work), and if we had learned to hit those spots, we could be him. We know we can’t throw as hard as Kevin Gausman, but we think (wrongly) that we could have been Buehrle if we worked enough.
With the Jays, he took the role of the elder statesman. He was great with Marcus Stroman, in particular.
One more bit:
I also like that he didn’t wear goggles for the Jays’ celebration, preferring to let the champagne sting his eyes. For some reason, that seems far more zen to me. Why spray it around if you don’t want to feel it when it hits you?
The writers must determine how to vote on starting pitchers from our modern era. The line always seemed to be 300 wins, something we will not see in the future. Two hundred wins will be a tough line to cross.
Mark is a player who will need time for the writers to discuss and think about before fairly judging him. He’s another whose bulk numbers are good, but he was never that ‘best player in the league’, so it is a tough call.
Mark Buehrle’s stats are here.
Would you vote Mark Buehrle into the Baseball Hall of Fame?
This poll is closed