Until the day he retires, Mark Buehrle will be speculated about as a Hall of Fame pitcher. His accomplishments are many, but unheralded in most circles.
With the great halls in Cooperstown growing every year, special care needs to be taken to allow in only those deserving. So the question stands: What makes Mark Buehrle so special?
On July 23, 2009, Buehrle did what few have accomplished: He pitched a perfect game. Only a handful of respected ballplayers have done this in the past. Most of those are in the Hall of Fame. The problem is, this does not guarantee a ticket to the Hall.
Just this past year, Dallas Braden threw himself a perfect game on Mother’s Day. Most will agree that Braden will not find himself in the unique position of trying to make it into the Hall of Fame.
So if a perfect game is not enough, what about throwing a no-hitter on top of that? Last year, we had numerous no-hitters. While most came from careers too young to tell if they will have the credentials, one came from pitcher Edwin Jackson. With a quick glance at his record and statistics, it is clear that his no-hitter will not even crack the door to the Hall for Jackson.
In 2005, Buehrle came in during the late innings with a White Sox lead during the World Series. He threw a solid inning of work to notch his first career save and a feat that most pitchers will never accomplish: He was able to win a game and save a game in the World Series. While this event stands to marvel, it is not an accomplishment demanding Hall recognition.
Looking at Buehrle’s record, he has averaged 14 wins a season for the past decade. He has never finished below double-digit wins. His ERA has combined to average over that decade to 3.85. He has never had an ERA over 5.00 during that span. He has averaged three complete games a season and owns a 148-110 record. These statistics are nothing to slouch at.
The problem is Buehrle falls short of a lot of Hall of Fame benchmarks. He only has 148 wins when most Hall of Fame entrees have tallied 300 or more. His strikeout total is 1,287 when the true benchmark requires 3,000.
The fact is, Buehrle’s primary pitching statistics are all personal and team accomplishments, not league ones. Pitching in 30 games and 200 IP or more every season for the past decade stands as a White Sox record, not an MLB record.
Buehrle’s Hall of Fame Statistics
What about Buehrle’s secondary pitching accomplishments? This is where Buehrle’s Hall of Fame résumé starts to solidify a little more. Too many people overlook his on-the-field accomplishments.
Buehrle has been declared by sports announcers as one of the best pickoff men in the game today. He has averaged seven pickoffs a season for his entire career. During an 11-year career, Mark Buehrle has not allowed more than 46 stolen bases. He has helped his battery mates to throw out 57 percent of those trying to steal. His baserunner-holding abilities are unmatched by players today.
The past two seasons, Buehrle has also found himself lugging home Gold Gloves each time. His ability to both induce double plays and get putouts over his career has made him one of the top fielding pitchers of the American League right now. This is the aspect of Buehrle’s career that should stand out to fans, analysts and players around the league.
While no aspect of Buehrle’s career stands out, it is forming up to be a solid résumé. If granted health and longevity in baseball, Buehrle could challenge to be the exception to the rule when it is time for him to retire. If he continues to do what he is doing, notching wins and earning Gold Glove awards, he will find himself knocking at Cooperstown’s door by the end of his career.
What About John Smoltz?
The true test will be coming in just a short time with John Smoltz trying his luck for the Hall of Fame. If Smoltz, with his 213 career wins, can get his foot in the door and find himself on a plaque in the Hall, then Buehrle will have a shot. If Smoltz finds himself like Ron Santo, on the outside looking in, then expect Buehrle to find himself out in the cold.