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99 Minute Games: Mark Buehrle and White Sox Pitching
2005-04-16 14:48
by Scott Long

Just finished watching Mark Buehrle take a shutout into the 9th and despite one of the three hits by Ichiro (the only 3 Buehrle gave up) the White Sox won 2-1. And no that wasn't a misprint, the game between Buerhle and Ryan Franklin took all of 1:39. The White Sox are 8-3 to start the season and have gotten quality starts 10 of these 11 games. Garcia 1.93, Buehrle 2.22, Garland 3.46, Contreas 3.55, and Hernandez 3.76 are the ERA's for the starting 5. Sure it's early and there is no way these ERA's aren't going up, but what in the name of PECOTA were people thinking when analyzing this staff, prior to the season.

Buehrle has been consistently good since he started with the Sox when he was 21. Over the past 4 seasons the left-hander has put up ERA's between 3.29 and 4.14, in a hitters park. He has been between 221 and 244 innings each of the last four years. Is it any wonder he has been compared to Tom Glavine? So at the age of 26, without any past history of arm trouble, PECOTA had his 2005 ERA at 4.47. As I wrote before the season, PECOTA just didn't seem to make any sense when it came to the White Sox's starting pitching.

Further PECOTA analysis had 29 year-old Freddy Garcia at 4.55 and 25 year-old Jon Garland at 5.05, which also seemed way too high, considering they had have consistently pitched around 200 innings annually without serious injury issues and had never had an ERA that high in the past. With these 3 pitchers having demonstrated they can consistently pitch around 200 innings annually, plus being between 25 and 29 of age, it didn't take much of a leap of faith to expect at least a slight improvement statistically, but instead PECOTA and many of the experts looked at this staff as average at best.

Add off-season pick-up Orlando Hernandez, who has a career ERA of 3.96 and you have four quality starters. The wild card is Jose Contreas, who can give you 200 innings plus, albeit inconsistent results and this starting staff was the best in the AL, outside of the Yanks and Red Sox. Even if Hernandez has another injury plagued season or Contreas starts giving too many starts away, the Sox have the most ready for primetime minor league starter, Brandon McCarthy just waiting to bring his phenomenal strikeout to walk rate up to the Majors.

The White Sox offense, which has serious OBP issues, will determine if this team is a playoff contender or not, but the starting pitching and bullpen depth are so superior to the Indians and Tigers that White Sox still look to be the Twins best competition. I don't go as far as thinking the White Sox will be the AL's Wild Card representative, like's Ryne Sandberg and Playboy magazine's Tracy Ringolsby did, but the 70 win season some predicted is between 10 to 18 games off.

2005-04-16 16:57:54
1.   The Cheat
So when was the last game that was faster than 1:39?

Sportcenter listed it as the fastest game in the last 5 years, so you retrosheet savants have a headstart.

2005-04-16 17:21:02
2.   graciebarn
The fastest game on record is 51 minutes-yes, it was in September. I want to say the Giants were in it but don't know off the top of my head.
2005-04-16 17:56:20
3.   Bob Timmermann
I would assume any game that was of similar length probably was pitched by Greg Maddux in recent years.

My personal best that I've seen is 1:48. That was Phil Niekro vs. Lamarr Hoyt in Atlanta.

2005-04-16 18:08:53
Seriously, those PECTOA projections were pretty garbage this year. It was difficult to take them seriously.

The game was absolutely amazing and the 12 K's bested his previous mark by 3 strikeouts.

Why is it that in the past, Mark Mulder, who is similar in many respects to Buehrle, has gotten so much more publicity than Buehrle? It's really unfair if you ask me, but I think Buehrle's really going to take off this year and I think I have good reason to think so:

He's been very good over the past few years leading up to 2004, but there was one knock on him: a declining strikeout rate. It hadn't declined all that much, but it hadnt gone up between any two years of his career up to 2004.

In 2004, the K/9 went up by nearly 1.5 to a much more repsectable 6.05 and the walk rate went down as well, thus his K/BB shot up above 3 (3.24) where it had been in the low to mid 2's before.

But his ERA was still the second worst of his career at 3.89 (terrible, I know). Why was this? Home Runs. He had averaged only 24 from 2001-2003, but in 2004 he gave up 33 long balls.

What led to this increase? His home park, US Cellular Field. He gave up 22 of his 33 long balls at home. On the road, he gave up only 11, a much more respectable total in line with career averages. His road ERA? 2.63. Home? 5.02.

Now it is my belief that the home run increase at US Cellular Field was not caused by the renovations, as many have stated, but instead by very favorable weather conditions to home runs. The same thing that was happening at the Cell was happening at Wrigley Field. While Konerko hit 27 of his career high 41 homers at US Cellular Field, Mosies Alou did the same, hitting 29 of his career high 39 homers at Wrigley Field.

Now let's say that Buehrle continues trending upward, he realizes that the home run killed him last year and he works to avoid it (he has stated that he has done just that this offseason) and he carries over his road performance of 2004 to US Cellular Field in 2005. Where would that put him?

Based on the above, I think that we're going to see a very special year from Mark Buehrle in 2005. He is going to finish a lot of games, finish them quickly and give up not a whole lot of runs. I agree with you Scott about Tom Glavine. PECOTA even has Glavine's 92 season as his 7th best comparable. Jim Kaat was high on the list as well.

2005-04-16 19:42:01
5.   Will Carroll
Wait MRKARNO - you piss on PECOTA at the start and then tout it in the end. You don't get it both ways.

And both of you don't understand how PECOTA works.

2005-04-16 20:05:59
6.   Scott Long
Yes I do know how Pecota works. It's calculated by a guy name Nate PECOTA, who lives in his parents' basement in Cooter, Missouri. He uses a complex model which includes a solar-powered calculator, a Ouija board, and a Magic 8 ball. Now don't question my understanding of PECOTA again!
2005-04-16 20:33:38
7.   Will Carroll
Damn, I take it back Scott. You do know the secret formula.
2005-04-16 21:05:42
Will, I think do understand PECOTA (if we can trust Nate Silver's explanation that is), it's just that I disagree with some of the comparisons. They just all happen to be the ones that arent that great. :)
(BTW my earlier statement was a generalization, the one PECOTA forcast that really upset me was Buehrle's, the rest I could live with)

Seriously though, upon further review it looks like a lot of Buerhle's comparables took a big step forward and some of the others did not in this year of their respective careers and PECOTA decided to hedge its bets (as it always does) and predict somewhere in between. Thankfully (for Scott, myself and the rest us White Sox fans), it appears that he's falling on the good side of the projections.

2005-04-18 08:02:37
9.   kcboomer
PECOTA is a good system when looking at player's in aggragate, but it isn't very good at all when looking at a specific player for a specific year. I don't know why the BP boys don't admit this, but they defend PECOTA like it came down from the mountain with Moses.
2005-04-18 22:24:14
10.   ESiegrist
Scott, PECOTA was 'thinking' the exact same thing I'm thinking right now -- neither Buehrle nor Garcia is an ace, Garland has plateaued at mediocrity, El Duque will limp past 100 innings if he's lucky, and Contreras is a time bomb. I've seen nothing in the last two weeks to make me change my mind about any of them.
2005-04-20 10:38:21
11.   curmudgeon
If you take out the commercial breaks, the game was play in one hour three minutes.

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