Mark Buehrle Hates the Disabled List

Mark Buehrle will be a free agent after this season. It couldn’t come at a better time for the 32-year-old, who will get plenty of interest from teams that need pitching because the thin free-agent class. Besides being a decent thrower, he’s extremely durable. Since 2001 — when the left-hander became a full-time starter — he hasn’t missed a start for any reason (player’s transaction information on the bottom left).

His durability can be shown by having the most innings pitched (2,406) and the second-most games started (359 vs Livan Hernandez‘s 361) from 2001 to 2010. But though he’s been durable, he hasn’t been the game’s most-dominating pitcher.

In fact, of the 44 pitchers who have logged more than 1,500 innings since 2001, here is where Buehrle ranks in several significant categories:

K/9: 41st (5.0)
FIP: 26th (4.13)
ERA: 16th (3.82)

Kevin Millwood‘s FIP (4.10) is less than Buehrle’s 4.13. Each pitched with the same ability, but the extra 500-plus innings that Buehrle pitched allowed him to generate 13 more WAR. Even though he was not the best pitcher, the additional starts helped him rank decently in several other categories

WAR: Seventh (45)
Wins: Fourth (155)

His 45 WAR is one fewer WAR than Randy Johnson‘s total. Johnson generated 46 WAR in almost 800 fewer innings.

The exact reason why Buehrle has been so successful when it comes to staying healthy isn’t exactly known, but a couple of possibilities exist. First, he pitches for the White Sox. Since 2002, the Sox have lost the fewest number of days to the DL, when compared to every other team. Certainly, keeping players healthy is a major point of pride on Chicago’s South Side.

The second possibility behind Buehrle’s health is that he’s a relative soft-tosser: his fastball averages about 86 mph. He’s not putting as much stress on his arm, compared to harder throwers.

Buehrle sets the standard by going 10 years without missing a start. But it’s not as if he’s the only pitcher who’s been able to avoid the injury bug. Since 2006, Matt Cain and Justin Verlander have had clean bills of health. James Shields is another pitcher to watch. In 2008, he missed a couple of starts so he could rest for the post-season. Before this year both Dan Haren and Bronson Arroyo were part of this club but missed time this season.

Looking at these six pitchers, a few attributes are common. They are tall and relatively thin — the average being 6-foot-4 and 219 lbs; they throw more curve balls (15% vs. 9%) and fewer sliders (9% vs. 14%) than an average pitcher; and — as a group — they’re not the hardest throwing-bunch. (The average fastball speed is 90.7 mph.)

Buehrle has been pitching’s iron man for the past decade, and that ability to consistently make his scheduled starts has increased his value. How much he’ll help the team that signs him this off-season is up for debate, but one thing is pretty certain: His health won’t be a concern.




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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

36 Responses to “Mark Buehrle Hates the Disabled List”

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  1. MrKnowNothing says:

    Can’t believe he’s only 32. Feels like he’s been around forever.

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  2. AA says:

    The FIP and WAR numbers for Buehrle are deceiving. He routinely outperforms his FIP.

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  3. larry says:

    “relatively thin.” i guess that depends on the relatively. he’s obviously not fat but buehrle’s got a bit of a belly.

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    • C.C. Sabathia says:

      What are you talking about? The man’s a beanpole!

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      • Proud Moonie (Unificationist) says:

        David Wells is a Moonie and because of that, he pitched well for a fat person.

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      • Proud Moonie (Unificationist) says:

        “Father’s words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. “

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  4. Jim Lahey says:

    He’s actually a few ranks higher if you look at K% rather than K/9 because of his good control / low amount of walks.

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  5. Sophist says:

    definitely not a beanpole. 6’2 230 doesn’t sound “relatively thin” either.

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  6. p4ri4h says:

    jesus christ, i was 21 when buehrle started pitching. i remember his first game too.

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  7. nom chompsky says:

    If you removed the last word, you’d have yourself a way more incendiary and compelling headline.

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  8. Rey22 says:

    Knock on wood man. Watch as Buehrle misses his next start for some injury somewhere.

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  9. bryan says:

    Sadly, Bronson Arroyo hasn’t missed any time this year. He’s pitched through back pain and a bout with mononucleosis. He should have been put on the DL, but never was. Hence his giving up 40 HRs allowed, 5.66 FIP, and -1.0 WAR.

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  10. Is there any proof that “soft-tossing” is actually less stressful on the arm? If a guy is throwing his hardest, does it matter whether that is 85 or 95? High schoolers throwing 75 can injure their arms just like Aroldis throwing 105.

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  11. Herm Schneider says:

    You’re welcome

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  12. Dealer A says:

    How do you know he hates the DL when he’s never even tried it?

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  13. Nom Chompsky says:

    If you took off that last word, you’ve have yourself a more incendiary and compelling headline.

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  14. steex says:

    This makes me think of when Buehrle was reported to have broken his foot shagging fly balls during ’05 spring training – the end result of which was one missed spring start, being ready to throw 8 innings of scoreless 2-hit ball on opening day, and of course eventually a very nice season with a White Sox championship.

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  15. Mike says:

    man… the recent stories link is such a tease… I expected to hear about Buerhle beating up a cripple

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  16. Sox2727 says:

    What we can conclude is that the Sox have the best non-player/non-coaching personnel in the game. Herm Schneider and his male fupa is a living legend. And the Sod Father, Roger Bossard sets the standard for all groundskeepers. Now if only they could get the on field talent up to the same level…

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  17. MikeS says:

    It really is impressive that when you look for comps in this category, second place (Cain and Verlander) only have half the record Buehrle does and fourth (Shields) has 1/3. Obviously the odds of a starting pitcher going 10 years without going on the DL are pretty astronomical.

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  18. Eric Farris says:

    I know Verlander has been healthy, but is he really a good comp, when one of the main classifications is “they’re not the hardest throwing-bunch”?

    when the sample size is 6, doesn’t he kind of hurt your conclusion?

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  19. frug says:

    Another thing worth noting, Buerhle is set to extend his streak of 10 straight 200+ IP seasons. It’s the longest active streak and I believe the longest since Maddux from 1988-2001.

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  20. Mark Beurhle says:

    I will never miss a start.. I will never retire

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  21. Mitch says:

    seems like a guy destined to wear pinstripes next season.

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