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Mark Buehrle’s Hall of Fame resume is a study of longevity, not peak performance

Mark Buehrle's Hall of Fame resume is a study of longevity, not peak performance

Let’s use Mark Buehrle’s Hall of Fame candidacy as a vehicle to discuss why players can stick around for years on the ballot and then see if I’ve changed my mind on him as a possible Hall of Famer. 

It’s a discussion point every winter. Vote percentages change for players and, given that they haven’t added any counting stats since the last vote, it seems to confuse some people. With a voting limit and the ballot changing every single year, it’s easy to see how the percentages for some players could change (let’s say a player is the 11th choice for someone one year; if three Hall of Famers fall off the ballot while no new ones come on, that player would then gain a vote the next year, right?). Plus, the voting body changes and lapsed voters have different opinions than new voters. 

There’s also another prong and that is a voter honestly changing their mind. I’m not yet a voter, but I’m close and I might be doing just that with Buehrle. 

My initial thought when I saw him on the ballot was that he should be a one-and-done and I didn’t think much deeper. He got 11 percent of the vote in his first try and I saw some arguments from people I respected that made me think twice. Now that he dropped to 5.8 percent of the vote last season and is in danger of falling off the ballot, I think he might be worth a deeper dive. So let’s take that plunge. 

In parts of 16 years, Buehrle was 214-160 with a 3.81 ERA (117 ERA+), 1.28 WHIP and 1,870 strikeouts in 3,283 1/3 innings. He was a five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glover. He was 2-0 with a 3.47 ERA and a save in four playoff appearances in 2005 when the White Sox won the World Series for the first time since the Black Sox scandal. 

Buehrle doesn’t fare well — at least not at a Hall of Fame level — in JAWS. He’s 78th and there are 66 current Hall of Fame starting pitchers. The average Hall of Fame score is close to Roy Halladay (31st) while Buehrle sits around the likes of Orel Hershiser, Tommy John, Frank Tanana and Andy Pettitte. Those are very good or even great pitchers, but not Hall of Famers. 

I do wonder, though, if Buehrle’s workhorse nature merits a bump, especially as starting pitchers increasingly working fewer and fewer innings.

I’ve long thought innings pitched was an underrated stat these days for starters. It shows that the pitcher was, generally speaking, throwing well enough to absorb a lot of work,…

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