(In case you missed it at KSDK) At the ripe age of 36 years old, Toronto Blue Jays lefthander Mark Buehrle is having a career season. The St. Charles, Missouri native is 13-5 with a 3.31 ERA in one of the toughest divisions when it comes to power bats and high scoring in the Major Leagues. The stat that has marked the time for Buehrle in this league over his 15 year career is durability. Since his first full season as a starter in 2001, he has won at least 10 games every season since and 11 seasons of 13 or more wins. Buehrle has also pitched 200 innings or more in every full season as a starter. All of this considered begs the question. Is Buehrle a future Hall of Famer?
He won a World Series with the Chicago White Sox in 2005. He threw a perfect game on July 23rd, 2009 against the Tampa Bay Rays, which holds a lot more weight than a no hitter these days with the lack of frequency. Buehrle also has 212 wins and counting with 3-4 years left on his career. If he averages 12-13 wins the rest of his career, he’ll end up with around 245-250 wins. His career earned run average is 3.79 with a decent overall WHIP of 1.28. Once again, with the exception of 2012 with the Miami Marlins, Buehrle has amassed these numbers in the tough American League Central and East divisions.
He’s also done it without a power arm. In 155 innings this year, he only has 73 strikeouts. For his career, 3,239.2 innings pitched, Buehrle has 1,852 strikeouts. His strikeouts to walks ratio is around 2.5/1, which is solid and consistent. He has 33 complete games for his career. He doesn’t strike out a lot of guys or allow many walks. He pitches to contact, which may hurt him with the voters who love them some K’s. Efficiency shouldn’t be graded on a curve that supports pitching mound fascism though, right? Over 15 years, Buehrle has gotten the job done. But is it HOF worthy?
Let’s compare it to the latest Hall of Fame inductee, John Smoltz. Some were baffled Smoltz got in but let’s take a look. Over 21 years, Smoltz amassed 215 wins and an earned run average of 3.13 with a WHIP of 1.18 and 3,084 strikeouts in 3,473 innings. Smoltz put together 53 complete games. However, in 6 of those seasons, Smoltz wasn’t a full time starter. He saved 55, 45, 44 games from 2002-04 for the Braves. In the other three, Smoltz only started a combined 25 games. A wrinkle, if a successful interesting one, to a very long career that included a World Series appearance against The Minnesota Twins in 1991 that included a Game 7 duel with Tigers ace Jack Morris. Smoltz flirted with a no-hitter in 2007 but lost it in the 9th inning. Smoltz also won a Cy Young award in 1996.
While Smoltz has the dual sided career as a starter and great yet brief closer with the strikeouts to back it up, Buehrle has been a durable arm with the big career highlights(including four Gold Gloves and five All Star appearances to boot) that has stretched over multiple teams in a tough hitter’s league over 14 seasons. Smoltz was part of the outstanding 1990’s Atlanta dynamo with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine(also inducted this year), and Steve Avery. Buehrle has anchored many pitching staffs himself.
When Buehrle reached his end, he will have a lot more wins and maybe another World Series title. While he isn’t a lock to be inducted today, if he keeps up this work, Mark Buehrle will demand a fair look at the end. The argument is there.
One more thing. Over his 16 seasons, Buehrle’s WAR(wins above replacement) is 60.8, which comes out to an average of 4.05 per season, an above average mark for a pitcher. Smoltz’s WAR over his 21 seasons is 66.5(an average of 3.16). If you just take Smoltz’s 15 full starter seasons, his average is up to 3.9. If you go old school or new school sabermetric, the numbers don’t put Smoltz too far in front of Buehrle, and it must be pointed out once again. The southpaw isn’t finished yet.
Is Mark Buehrle a Hall of Fame Candidate? Yes he is, especially if he remains consistent. Is he a lock? No.
What do you think?