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Buehrle’s Place in Sox History

2010/04/02

Mark Buehrle is my favorite player on the Sox, for a few different reasons. We’re the same age and we both grew up in the same area. Buehrle went to Francis Howell North, while I went to Fort Zumwalt South. If you’re from the St. Louis area, everyone asks where you went to high school, so forgive me for telling you all this boring stuff. I find it ironic that Buehrle was cut from his high school team as a sophomore, while scouts flocked to my high school ball yard to watch Steve Colyer, a lefty who could throw 94-95 MPH.

Colyer was drafted in the 2nd round, did make the majors, but only pitched 55 innings as a reliever. Buehrle was drafted out of Jefferson College, a JUCO, in the 38th round and has gone on to become one of the most reliable pitchers in the majors. And of course there’s that whole perfect game and no-hitter thing, not to mention his consecutive batter retired streak.

But it’s not just his background or his accomplishments that make me like the guy, I love watching him pitch. I’m a velocity freak like most people, and I’m not one who’s normally big on “crafty lefties”, but I love watching him work batters over with his less than spectacular stuff, including an 86 MPH fastball. Bob Gibson, of whom it was said “he pitches like he’s double parked” would be proud of the pace Buehrle works. Anyone who can polish off an American League opponent in about an hour is alright with me.

So anyway, here’s a quick look as to where Buehrle falls in the pantheon of Sox pitchers.

WAR WAR/Season WAE 5-Yr. Peak Career High
Walsh 55 4.2 31.6 41.4 9.9
Pierce 48.7 4.1 18.7 30.7 6.7
Cicotte 43.1 4.9 18 29.3 8.8
Lyons 58.8 2.8 16.4 20.6 5.5
Faber 55.2 2.8 14.7 27.8 9.9
Buehrle 39.4 3.9 13.6 22.4 5.8

These are numbers derived from Rally’s WAR database. It seems like Buehrle has been around forever, but he’s just 31 years old. He’s going into his 11th season, and is sixth in all-time ChiSox history in WAR, and 138th overall. He has .1 more WAR than Jack Morris, a misguided BBWAA darling. It took 18 years for Morris to get there.

The other numbers I’m looking at are “greatness numbers”, or ways to balance peak value from career value. Chances are, this is Buehrle’s peak, although I can certainly see him having a long career.  WAE is Wins Above Excellence, which is a way to add an another baseline to WAR that takes away seasons with less than 3.0 WAR. This gives a player credit for great seasons, and ignores any season where a player is average or below. Buehrle is at the bottom of that list, but being that he’s still not that far into his career, it’s impressive how that he’s not far off from the big boys.

So far he’s had a better five-year peak than the highly regarded Lyons, who was more of a “Steady Eddie” pitcher, somewhat like Buehrle. He hasn’t had the crazy career years that Walsh and others had.

While fans get excited about what Peavy brings to the team, and it’s nice to see Danks and Floyd rack up strikeouts, Buehrle was and remains to be The Man on the South Side. He’s more than deserving of being the Opening Day starter. I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb here, (OK, maybe quite a bit of a limb) but I wouldn’t be surprised so see if his numbers aren’t Cooperstown-worthy when his career is all said and done.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 2010/04/02 3:38 PM

    Good stuff Erik, this is quickly becoming my favorite White Sox blog.

    It’s going to be interesting to see if Mark stays true to all his talk about early retirement. If he calls it a day at the end of his current contract, that would almost certainly put pay to his chance at the hall. Hopefully he still has many more years pitching on the south side, though.

    • 2010/04/03 9:06 AM

      Thanks for the kind words, hopefully I can keep it up. I think one thing would definitely motivate him to keep playing, and that’s if the Cardinals offer him a contract when he becomes a free agent.

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