''I don't want to ask too many questions, I don't want to try to figure out what's going on. I'm just going to roll with it and keep it as long as I can.''
-- Mark Buehrle on his start to the 2014 season
Buehrle may not want to dissect why he’s winning, but we’ll try, after the Toronto Blue Jays ace became the first pitcher in the majors to reach six wins this season on Wednesday night.
Mark Buehrle Through May 7
A year ago at this time, Buehrle had a 7.02 ERA. His seven scoreless innings on Wednesday lowered his 2014 ERA to 1.91.
Buehrle has changed a few things from last season. He’s throwing more pitches up in the strike zone to right-handed hitters, and he’s coming inside more often to left-landed hitters.
The end result is that it’s working. The biggest difference is that he’s allowed only one home run in 47 innings this season after yielding 24 in 203 2/3 in 2013.
Some of this success will be tough to sustain
Buehrle has done some things this season that will be tough to replicate over 30 starts.
The Phillies went 0 for 5 against him with runners in scoring position on Wednesday. That made opponents 3 for 39 in such situations against Buehrle this season.
Buehrle may also be benefiting from some factors beyond his control, such as a few fly balls that just missed being home runs and instead were outs, or a couple of balls hit right on the button at fielders.
Opponents are 18 for 35 this season when registering what our hit-classification system registers as a hard-hit ball (the Phillies were 1 for 3 on Wednesday night).
That belies Buehrle’s three-year trend for that stat. Opponents hit .685 on their hard-hit balls against him in that span.
Buehrle will be challenged in his next start, which should come against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim next week.
He’s 2-8 with a 4.95 ERA against the Angels, his second-worst record and ERA against any team (he’s 1-10 with a 6.02 ERA against the New York Yankees).
The Angels also entered the day with the highest batting average on their hard-hit balls of any team this season (.805).