Buehrle reminds us (again) that he's good

July, 23, 2009
7/23/09
5:29
PM ET

Well, Mark Buehrle has thrown two more no-hitters than Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine. Combined. Does that mean Buehrle's a Hall of Famer someday, too?

Hardly. Unless you're Nolan Ryan, Hall of Fame voters pay little attention to no-hitters (and they shouldn't). But when Buehrle throws a no-hitter -- in this case, a perfect game -- we've got a better excuse than usual to review just how well he has pitched since arriving in the majors nine years ago.

First, though, let's take a moment to acknowledge DeWayne Wise finally justifying his presence on the White Sox roster. After sitting on the bench for eight innings, Wise took over in center field in the ninth, and promptly stole a home run from Gape Kapler with a brilliant play in center. (Oh, and by the way: Would Brian Anderson have made that play? Of course we'll never know.)

Buehrle's career ERA is roughly 23 percent better than the American League average during his 10 seasons. That's really, really good. That's better than Bob Feller, Eddie Plank, Juan Marichal, Don Drysdale, and various other Hall of Famers. It's better than CC Sabathia, Josh Beckett, Jake Peavy, Andy Pettitte, and John Lackey.

But would Joe Fan or Rob Blogger put Buehrle on the same level with those stars?

Probably not, because Buehrle just hasn't done the sorts of things that get one mentioned among such notables. He has never won 20 games, and has won more than 16 games just once. He has been mentioned in the Cy Young results just once (finishing a distant fifth in 2005). With two notable exceptions -- first the no-hitter, and now this -- he's never been particularly overpowering.

Regular as clockwork, Buehrle strikes out five or six batters per nine innings each season, and walks a couple. His numbers this season are almost exactly the same as in 2001, his first full season in the White Sox rotation. Since that season, only Barry Zito and Livan Hernandez have started more games and Buehrle has pitched significantly better than either of those workhorses. It's accurate to say that Buehrle has been steady, but that word hardly does him justice. Most pitchers, even most of the great ones, start slow before becoming stars, or have ups and downs while starring.

Not Buehrle. He found his level almost immediately, and has rarely strayed either way. Considering how many pitchers we've seen in recent years, pitching effectively into their late 30s and early 40s, I wouldn't want to place any sort of limit on what Buehrle might do. Will he approach 300 wins? He might. Probably not, though. And even if Hall of Fame voters eventually reject 300 as a key benchmark, I suspect that he'll need a couple of 20-win seasons between now and the end.

Otherwise he will continue to not get noticed. Well, unless he throws another couple of no-hitters. It seems unlikely, considering the astromonical odds against throwing the two he has already thrown.

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