Sep 19, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcherMark Buehrle
(56) pitches against the New York Yankees during the first inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
There are excessive rumors going around in anticipation of the free agency starting tomorrow. There are talks about Russell Martin to the Blue Jays, there are discussions of J.A. Happ, there are a lot of unfavorable reactions to the Blue Jays acquiring Marco Estrada on purpose.
But only one current Blue Jay really makes all that much sense for the Dodgers. He’s been a top 5-7 most consistent pitcher since his sophomore year in the big leagues, he hasn’t spent time in the minor leagues since he was called up in 2000. His training regimen between starts seems to back up the durability he’s shown. All he’s done is win, and pitch a lot since he was first recalled, and that’s Mark Buehrle.
Buehrle began his career in 2000 as a member of the White Sox, and has a streak of 14 straight seasons (!) of 200 innings pitched. In 458 games started since 2001, he owns a 3.81 ERA and pitched in 3033.1 innings, he has an rWAR (baseball reference WAR) higher than Whitey Ford, and will probably finish with more rWAR than Don Drysdale. Whether or not that’s fair is up to you (WAR’s most definitely flawed), but it does illustrate how amazing and valuable durability is.
His fastball, which sits in the mid 80’s has been laughed at. The speed differential between his changeup and fastball are hilarious, a few miles per hour at their respective peaks (they both sit in the low to mid 80’s) he completely abandoned his slider, he was 35 years old this past season, and yet somehow was right in line with the 86 ERA- his career tells us he is. If you look at the pitches he threw, he scrapped his slider, threw the cutter at the lowest rate of his career, and picked up the usage rate of his curve ball to 13.0%, nearly 3% higher than his career mark.
Here’s a good post detailing his success, which echoes the sentiment that his curveball has allowed him to stay an above average pitcher despite an average fastball velocity (83) slower than a Jose Dominguez changeup.
Given, he doesn’t strike out a lot of people (5.30 K/9, 5.19 K/9 career wise), but he continues to produce despite that. It probably has to do with how little he allows walks (2.05 BB/9 this season and career wise). He’s prone to the long ball, giving up essentially one per 9 innings for his career, which sounds about right given that he’s never had overpowering stuff.
Oh and did I mention that he was durable? That’s the main reason for writing this post. I want Mark Buehrle because he’s as close to a given for 200 innings of 3.3-3.7 ERA ball as there is in the game. Just look at this Jeff Passan article detailing how Buehrle prepares for his starts
"“Not throwing hard may be less wear and tear on your body,” he says. “I don’t know if that’s it.”…“I’m not a workout freak where I do this regimen – this is Day 1, this is Day 2,” he says. “I do enough to get by and be ready for my next start.”…“I don’t throw a lot in the offseason,” he says. “I don’t throw bullpens in between starts. Sometimes I don’t play catch in between starts. If we’re not hitting BP, I don’t go out there.”…“I wasn’t gifted with 90,” Buehrle says, “so the man upstairs has gotta give me something.”"
90 miles per hour these days gets you labeled as a “soft tossing” backend starter by and large. Buehrle has put himself in the durability ranks of Christy Mathewson, Greg Maddux, Don Sutton, and Gaylord Perry by just racking up the 200+ inning seasons. And that will hold so much value on this team. Last season the Dodgers were terrified about Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu from a health standpoint. They lost Josh Beckett to retirement because of injury, Ross Stripling had tommy john surgery, Stephen Fife fell to the dreaded disease, we found out Dan Haren needed arthroscopic surgery on his non-throwing shoulder. So many worries for pitchers nowadays. If you can secure 200 innings from a #4 or #5 starter who will give you a better than average chance to win every 5th day, then you have a very valuable member of the rotation, despite of how cliche it sounds.
Trade proposals are futile because they never work out, but given that the Jays need salary relief, a Chris Reed/Scott Schebler/Darnell Sweeney type guy and any one of the top 15-20 prospects in the Dodger organization seem like a decent fit for one year of Mark Buehrle. Brandon McCarthy would be nice, a high upside bet like Josh Johnson/Brandon Morrow/Chad Billingsley would be great (and I think they try for one of those 3 names regardless of what happens) but Mark Buehrle would fit this team’s needs down to a tee.