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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.