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Marlins make solid investment with Buehrle

12/7/2011

DALLAS -- There's an old adage in baseball: Invest in power pitchers.

Guys who strike out more batters last longer. If you think about, it should be obvious: If a pitcher throws hard and loses a couple miles off his fastball, he'll still have major league velocity. If a pitcher's fastball is fringe-average and he loses something, suddenly the balls are flying out of the park.

Mark Buehrle doesn't light up the radar gun but he's one of those softer tossers who should continue to pitch well into his mid-30s, making the Miami Marlins' reported four-year, $58 million deal with Buehrle a reasonable signing.

The safest thing regarding Buehrle is his durability. He's had 11 consecutive seasons with 30-plus starts; he's a good bet to make four more in a row. No, his strikeout rate isn't great -- or even good: Among 70 American League pitchers in 2011 who threw at least 100 innings, he ranked 64th with his 4.78 K's per nine. But he's been successful for years despite a low K rate, throwing strikes, generating groundballs, fielding his position (three-time Gold Glove winner) and holding runners (he's allowed just 49 steals in his career against 68 caught stealings).

The other positive is that Buehrle, who turns 33 in March, moves from a good home run park for hitters to one that could be more favorable for pitchers. (We don't know yet how the new Marlins Ballpark will play, but the old stadium was a fairly neutral offensive environment overall.

Because so many balls are in play against Buehrle, you do need a good defense to help him out. Jose Reyes, despite his reputation, graded as 11 runs worse than average last season, according to Baseball Info Solutions. How Hanley Ramirez handles the transition to third base is an unknown (assuming he's not traded). Buehrle had solid shortstops behind in Chicago with guys like Juan Uribe and Alexei Ramirez, so there is a small risk that the Marlins' defense undermines Buehrle's success to a small extent.

Overall, though, even though the deal takes Buehrle through his age-36 season, it's a solid addition by the Marlins to help a rotation that finished 12th in the NL in ERA in 2011 and faced the departure of Javier Vazquez.