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Is Mark Buerhle the Most Under-Appreciated Pitcher in MLB?
2007-04-20 09:38
by Scott Long

This isn't a story about the no-hitter that Mark Buerhle threw on Wednesday night.  Yes, it was impressive, especially against an offense like the Rangers, but that isn't my focus.  Combine this game with his previous start where he retired 20 of the last 22 batters he faced and you have a stretch where Buerhle has erased 47 of 50 opponents. Not Johnny Vander Meer, but it has to be one of the best 50 batter performances in history.  While this is a great feat, it is not my focus, either.

What I found most illuminating about the no-hitter is how underrated Buerhle is on a national level.  All over ESPN TV and Radio, the talking heads were discussing how Buerhle is just another case of how you don't have to be a great pitcher to throw a no-hitter.  The question was asked how is it that a Buerhle can throw one, but Maddux and Clemens have never been able to during their illustrious careers?  While Buerhle isn't of this quality, let's examine what he has accomplished.

Since Mark Buerhle has been pitching in the majors for so long, some fail to realize that he just turned 28 years old.  Beginning his 7th full-season for the White Sox, here is his resume.

  • Has played in 3 all-star games.
  • Has a career ERA of 3.80, accomplished in a hitters park.
  • Has never thrown less than 204 innings in any season.
  • Between 2002-05, he was in the Top 5 in innings pitched, leading the AL in 2004 and 2005.
  • Top 5 in shutouts between 2001-05.
  • Is one of the top fielding pitchers around and might have the best pick-off move in baseball.
  • Has won 98 games.

Even after Buerhle's only below average season in his career (2006), how many 27 year-old pitchers can you say this about?  Look at Buerhle's player comps and the first 2 that come up through Age 27 are Mark Mulder and Tom Glavine.  Despite these type of career achievements, many baseball talking heads were discussing him as if he should be put in the Mike Witt and Eric Milton category of no-hit pitchers.

While scouts and sabermetricians often differ on their evaluations of players, the one thing that they generally have a similar bias against are pitchers who don't strikeout a lot of batters.  This is the biggest reason Buerhle has been underrated during his career.  PECOTA, as it usually does, came in way too high on Buerhle's predicted ERA, with a projected number for 2007 of 4.90. 

Many people wrote Buerhle off going into 2007, as his 2006 was such a down season.  As durable as he has been, 2005 put too much stress on him (and the rest of the White Sox starters), as they threw deeper into games than any staff had done during the post-season since the 1970's.  This was why I was so confident at the beginning of this year that the staff would do way better than PECOTA and other computer prediction models were expecting. Considering his track record and how much of this has been accomplished in a hitter's park, it's time to give Mark Buerhle more of the credit that he deserves. 


2007-04-20 11:23:02
1.   Penarol1916
Mike Witt was pretty good for a couple of years, he's not that big of a fluke.
2007-04-20 11:23:33
2.   Eric Enders
Hey, Mike Witt was a pretty good pitcher for a while. His career up to age 27 is very similar to Buehrle's.
2007-04-20 11:24:25
3.   Eric Enders
Wow, that was a pretty random thing for two people to be posting at the same time.
2007-04-20 11:26:30
4.   kngoworld
Mr. Long, I agree.
2007-04-20 12:00:25
5.   Ken Arneson
I'm not a White Sox fan, but I am a Mark Buehrle fan. He is one of my favorite pitchers in all of baseball.

Back when Mark Mulder was healthy with the A's, the two of them always seemed to match up with each other when the A's and White Sox played. The games would be over in less than two hours. I love good pitchers who know their craft and work fast.

I don't think Beuhrle's pickoff move beats Andy Pettitte's, but I could be wrong.

2007-04-20 12:01:50
6.   Ken Arneson
5 On the other hand, his name is really hard to type. Maybe that's why some people don't take the time to give him his props.
2007-04-20 12:07:31
7.   misterjohnny
Buerhle is arguably the second best pitcher in the American League after Santana (with the jury still out on Matsuka). I know I didn't realize that.
2007-04-20 12:42:17
8.   mehmattski
7 Dr. Halladay and the entire nation of Canada beg to differ, sir.
2007-04-20 13:56:33
9.   doppelganger
All I know is that I'm still kicking myself for starting Zach Duke over him in fantasy this week.
2007-04-20 14:27:35
10.   das411
Didn't Buerhle come up at a reliever on that '00 team that flamed out rather suddenly? I think the reason he is underappreciated is just simple lack of exposure, at least before '05. He doesn't play in the AL East, so therefore he gets rare if any time on ESPN, he hasn't had any real outstanding postseason success (again until '05) and did not have any real noteworthy achievements to his name before this no-hitter.

Buerhle = AL version of Roy Oswalt?

2007-04-20 14:35:18
11.   misterjohnny
8 Yeah, you could definitely argue that Halladay is better than Buerhle. But what is interesting is on baseball reference, Buehrle is Halladay's #2 comp.
2007-04-20 14:48:56
12.   blue22
What criteria are we using here, (because 2nd best seems quite a stretch)?

Off-hand, I feel like I could come up with 10 names I'd put above Buehrle in the AL alone.

2007-04-20 14:55:46
13.   Agronox
I agree with you. I always underrate Buerhle too, but I really shouldn't. And he gets practically no spotlight, but maybe that will change with this no-hitter.
2007-04-20 15:30:35
14.   misterjohnny
12 I was looking at ERA+, and while his 2006 was lackluster (to be kind), his previous six years have been excellent, including three top 10s. Schilling was up there, but he's had two bad years in a row. Pedro moved to the AL. Nobody else is that consistent besides Halladay and Santana that I could tell.
2007-04-20 15:44:45
15.   Scott Long
I wouldn't rate buehrle in the top 5 in the AL now, but over the past 7 seasons he would have to be one of the top 5.

Oswalt is better, but he gets a lot more respect because he can bring the fire.

Buerhle is the AL Tom Glavine.

Sadly for me I suspect he will be with the cardinals after this year, as he grew up a fan and will give them the griffey hometown discount.

Big egg on PECOTA's monitor for projecting a 4.90 ERA.

2007-04-20 15:56:18
16.   Scott Long
I wouldn't rate buehrle in the top 5 in the AL now, but over the past 7 seasons he would have to be one of the top 5.

Oswalt is better, but he gets a lot more respect because he can bring the fire.

Buerhle is the AL Tom Glavine.

Sadly for me I suspect he will be with the cardinals after this year, as he grew up a fan and will give them the griffey hometown discount.

Big egg on PECOTA's monitor for projecting a 4.90 ERA.

2007-04-20 16:04:57
17.   blue22
14 - Fair enough. The guy has historically been productive while being very durable. With your mention of Matsuzaka though, I thought you were putting Buehrle at #2 on the "who would I give the ball to tomorrow if I needed a win?" list. I'm pretty sure Buehrle doesn't make the top-5 or (maybe top-10 even).
2007-04-20 17:39:39
18.   misterjohnny
17 Maybe I'm showing my ignorance of the AL. I don't know why Buehrle had a bad 2006 (nagging injury?), but so far it looks like he has put it behind him. I'm curious who others would put in the top 5 right now. Santana and Halladay I think are a given. Matsuzaka I think should be off the table because we don't have a long enough track record in the US. Mussina is good, was once great, but I don't think is "the man" anymore.
Sabathia has had one good year and a lot of league average years (ERA+ as my guide). Lackey? He seems to be on the rise, with a great 2006. Escobar looks a lot like Buerhle in terms of ERA+, but without the big nosedive last year. Verlander and Wang look good, but so did Mark Fidrych after one year...
2007-04-20 21:26:23
19.   deadteddy8
The Mark Buehrle Question is an issue I've discussed at length with one of my close friends who insists that MB is a decent pitcher, but has never been near the league's elite. I insist that, while my initial reaction is to downgrade him because his peripherals are uninspiring, the man's actual Runs Allowed in 01, 02, and 05 have been excellent, which I take to mean that either he's been incredibly lucky (what my buddy believes when I bring this up), or (more likely) that the tools we like to use to measure pitchers are missing something when trying to describe how he succeeds.

There are a lot of guys I'd prefer to have on my team over Buehrle because I feel like I've got a good handle on what exactly they do to succeed. But if you just want to go on RA compiled over the years, and staying in the AL, I'd take MB in a heartbeat over Pettitte, and there's an argument to be made that he's better than the likes of Dan Haren, Jeremy Bonderman, Jon Lackey, and CC Sabathia (really close, using RA), not to mention the Kevin Millwoods and Ted Lillys of the world.

--David Arnott

2007-04-21 14:31:52
20.   Bob Timmermann
The mnemonic for this pitcher's name is "Mark Buehrle is the opposite of a R ight-H anded pitcher."
2007-04-22 09:27:19
21.   tem213
"Buerhle is the AL Tom Glavine."

Can't agree with that statement at all. Buerhle is a nice pitcher, no doubt. But by Buerhle's current age, Glavine had won a cy young and finished in the top 3 two other years.

2007-04-22 20:21:14
22.   Scott Long
Overall stats at 27 are very close to each other, with I'm guessing if you include park effects and league averages Buerhle would be a bit ahead of Glavine at this point.

Sure Glavine had a Cy Young and a couple of top 3's, but if Buerhle would have pitched in a better pitchers park, I suspect he would have had a few top 5 Cy Young finishes. Considering that Glavine wasn't competing against a Pedro or a Santana at their peak, his path was a bit easier. Clemens and Randy Johnson were in the AL at the time. The only great NL pitcher during this period I can think of is Greg Maddux. (I'm sure someone will prove me wrong on this. I'm just going with the off the top of my head research method.)

As White Sox Interactive mentioned, Buerhle has won and saved a World Series game, started and won an All-star game, and has thrown a no-hitter. I'm not sure anyone else has ever accomplished this besides him.

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