The Secret Of Mark Buehrle's Success

Mark Buehrle #56 of the Miami Marlins delivers a pitch against the Washington Nationals at Marlins Park in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Mark Buehrle just keeps cruising along, perhaps thanks to some adjustments he's made this season. And just think where the Marlins would be without him.

It's been a disappointing season for the Florida Miami Marlins. They've got a new home, having moved from Florida to Miami, and they've got a more expensive roster, having upped their payroll from $58 million to $102 million.

To little avail, standings-wise.

For all the things that have gone wrong, though, one thing's gone tremendously right: left-hander Mark Buehrle, the only positive result of the Marlins' off-season spending spree. After spending many years with the White Sox, Buehrle signed a four-year, $58-million contract with the Marlins.

And so far, he's been worth every penny, pitching almost exactly as well as he pitched during all those years with the White Sox. Which is pretty, pretty, pretty good.

That's not what's so interesting, though. Buehrle's been one of the most consistent pitchers in the game for a while, so it's no real surprise that he's pitching well. What's interesting is that he seems to have changed his pitching style. As FanGraphs's Ben Duronio notes, Buehrle's throwing more change-ups and cutters this season, and he's being especially aggressive with his change-up when he's got two strikes on the batters.

How has that worked out? Duronio:

With the new approach, Buehrle is netting a 4.06 strikeout-to-walk ratio, the first time he has been above three since 2005. His walk rate, which has been one of the biggest factors for his success throughout his career, is now at a career low 3.7% with 1.34 walks per nine innings pitched.

Of course, some of this success is due to the transition to the National League, a better home park. and the fact that offense is generally down the past few years compared to what was the norm during Buehrle’s career. Even so, the noted alteration to his repertoire has Buehrle pitching about as well as he ever has in his career, which is very impressive given his age and his history of quality performance.

Yes, it is impressive. But it's worth mentioning that while Buehrle's been a slightly different sort of pitcher this season, purely in terms of effectiveness he's been essentially the same.

In fact, that's Buehrle's career in a nutshell: never poor and never great, but always good. The Marlins are paying Buehrle around $15 million per season, which is a) what he was worth in each of the last three seasons, and b) what he's going to be worth this season, give or take a million here and there.

Also, he seems to be indestructible. If Buehrle doesn't get hurt, he'll run his string of seasons with at least 30 starts and 200 innings to an even dozen.

You know, Mark Buehrle's ERA+ (120) stacks up pretty well against a significant number of Hall of Fame pitchers. Warren Spahn, for example. But Buehrle's never going to be elected to the Hall of Fame because he doesn't have enough -- and isn't likely to get enough -- Hall of Fame seasons.

In his second full season in the majors, Buehrle won 19 games. Since then, he's never won more than 16 games in one season. Since 2005, when he won 16 games, Buehrle has won more than 13 games just once. Even if he averages 15 wins per season over these next five seasons (including this one), he'll have 236 victories while looking forward to his 38th birthday.

My own opinion is that Buehrle, if he keeps pitching like this for another five or six years, will deserve serious consideration by the Hall of Fame voters, if only because there's something to be said for being very good year after year after year after year after ...

But he's probably not going to win 300 games, and the paucity of big, Cy Young-type seasons is going to kill his chances.

The money should help ease Buehrle's pain, though. Money can do that, to some degree.

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