Baseball has no time limit. Unlike every other major professional sport, the pacing and timing is wholly determined by the play on the field, particularly how quickly the starting pitchers work. This irritates some and tickles others who prefer the random allure of a four hour game on some mid-summer night Steve Trachsel pitched moderately well at times, but he was often as dormant on the mound as Mount Elephant.
Mark Buehrle is well-accomplished. He has a World Series ring. He’s thrown a no hitter. He even threw a perfect game that was preserved by one of the more miraculous catches in recent memory. There was that between-the-legs ball flip on opening day to take note of too. He’s also won 137 games in 305 starts while posting a career ERA around 3.8. Buehrle turned 31 in March, although his game is no more or less dependent on a blazing fastball as it was when he broke onto the scene in 2000.
Perhaps Buehrle is best-known for his fervent pace on the mound. To say Buehrle is a quick worker is careless. He pitches not like he has a plane or train to catch, but rather like he has a plane or train full of baseballs to pitch before he can leave. Last season, Buehrle’s 33 starts combined to total about 5,320 minutes – or 89 hours. That includes a monstrous three hour and 52 minute game against the Seattle Mariners in the middle of August that lasted 14 innings. Buerhle took part in 14 games that lasted 150 minutes or fewer and only six that lasted longer than 180. Joe West must adore him.
Buehrle works incredibly diligently. He doesn’t tromp around the mound or indulge himself in heavy meditation sessions between pitches. He fires, receives, and fires again. He pitches briskly like most do in The Show video games. Which is a double-edged sword. See, Buehrle makes the viewing experience enjoyable, but he also reduces the amount of time allowed to fully digest his abilities and performances.
He’ll top the 2,100 inning mark in one of his next two or three starts and he should break 2,200 innings for his career by season’s end. With the exception of his horrible 2006 season, Buehrle has posted a FIP no higher than 4.46 throughout his career, and 2005’s 5.27 figure undoubtedly skews his career 4.17 FIP higher than the rest of his career would suggest.
During the opening day chat, Dave Cameron suggested Buehrle is on his way towards the Hall of Fame and that position is hard to make an argument against. Rally’s WAR currently has Buehrle at 138th overall. Just behind a few Hall of Famers, like Dizzy Dean and Rich Gossage (he’s actually in a dead-heat with Roy Oswalt at this point). With a four win season Buehrle will jump to 106th all time. With another next season he’ll be around 82nd (or where Roy Halladay and Jamie Moyer sit right now). With yet another, Buerhle enters a stretch where seemingly every other pitcher listed is in the Hall of Fame.
45 of the 75 pitchers with at least 50 WAR are Hall of Famers, and others – like Roger Clemens, like Greg Maddux, like Randy Johnson, like Pedro Martinez, perhaps Mike Mussina and Bert Blyleven, Tom Glavine, Curt Schilling, and John Smoltz – could be in the Hall by the time Buehrle calls it a day too. Making that tally something like 54 of 75 – or nearly three-fourths.
Sportswriters who are members of the BBWAA will probably not be using WAR while filling out their ballots, but by factoring in memorable moments and market size, Buehrle’s odds seemingly rise. Of course, this could all fall by the wayside if Buehrle gets injured. Or if he decides that enough is enough. Or if he becomes ineffective. Or whatever.
I do hope he makes it to Cooperstown one day, though. And I hope his induction speech is the longest in recent memory. He’s saved enough time to make up for it.