Growing up as a Sox fan I’ve had the pleasure of watching the career of Mark Buehrle first & foremost throughout my life. It was a pure joy and entertainment to say the least, there’s something special about rooting for a guy that continually finds ways to defy the odds of the “experts”. When Buehrle took the mound you knew he would give the Sox a good chance to win a game and as an added bonus more times than not would give the bullpen some rest. Buehrle was more than a typical innings-eater; he was a great pitcher (still is!), much of which gets overshadowed.
Unless you’re a Sox fan or one who closely followed Buehrle it’s quite easy to skim over him and the accomplishments he’s had throughout his career. He’s won 3 gold gloves from 2009 to 2011, and could be well on his way to his 4th straight. He’s thrown two no hitters, one of which was perfect. He’s won a World Series, won a World Series game, and on top of that saved one too. As well as been a part of 4 All-Star teams. The accomplishments are many especially coming from a soft tossing left hander and these don’t even break the ice of the sabermetrics which is after all what we’re about here.
Since assuming his role as a starter in 2001 till now he ranks 4th in fWAR with 47.4. Just for reference the guys ahead of him in fWAR are Halladay, CC, Oswalt, and Vazquez; the next 5 below are Johan, Johnson, Hudson, Pettitte, and Schilling. To say the least Buehrle squeezed himself in between some elite talent and yet hardly gets mentioned in the same tier as many of the above. His peripherals don’t scream out of greatness as some of the other may, but one area he dose exceed in is consistency and durability.
Since becoming a full time starter, he’s accumulated 2,613.2 IP in 391 starts, both of which lead all of baseball from 2001 to 2012. He hasn’t pitched below 201 IP in the past 11 seasons (which is nuts in itself, which I’ll elaborate more on later) and will likely keep that streaking rolling this year. Nor has he posted an fWAR below 3.4 with the exception of 2006 (1.9). He’s not only been durable but also been one of the elite pitchers in baseball over this timeframe.
As mentioned earlier his peripherals don’t exactly measure up to greatness, however over a certain period of time peripherals such as FIP and xFIP don’t always tell the whole tale. Some players just have a knack or skill of exceeding them and they should eventually be taken as the norm. Ichiro and BABIP is one case of such and Buehrle along with mediocre career 4.14 FIP and 4.22 xFIP is another. However up until a few weeks ago we were unable to quantify some of these effects had on pitchers, but with FanGraphs new release of FDP (Fielding Dependant Pitching) we can now give more merit to Buehrle’s game.
Since his move to starter Buehrle ranks 13th in all of baseball in FDP-Wins with an 8.4. Then by using Dave Cameron’s suggestion of cutting FDP-Win in half and adding them onto WAR we can see Buehrle’s value ranks 5th in fWAR with a 51.6. FDP also tells us Buehrle is also among few starters that succeed at limiting base runners to begin with and even once they were on, he limiting them from scoring.
Even with all of this, the most remarkable feature Buehrle’s shown in this time is his durability. Every single pitcher before and nearly every pitcher after him on has been injured at one point or another. In fact the only one that I can think that hasn't been hurt is Livan Hernandez and he’s nowhere near Buehrle’s talent level; however feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. Yet it is as if Buehrle is of a different species, he pitches, and then pitches some more! And without hesitation you know what you’re going to get out of Buehrle more so than nearly any other pitcher in all of baseball.
Buehrle has had an incredible career to date while going very much under the radar thus far and despite his age is showing us he can still succeed at a high level. Given his durability and consistency I wouldn’t be surprised to see much of the same from Buerhle for many more years. In which case if he continues to perform at a similar level he’ll soon be around the coveted 60 fWAR mark in which many consider a benchmark minimum for the Hall of Fame. He hasn’t overpowered or flashed his way into the record books, but has shown the value of being durable and consistent. In a game where many pitchers get hurt and a game where there’s been shown many ways to succeed; Buehrle continues to give his case for consistency. I think it’s about time that he and the value of consistency are taken seriously.