It has been quite the magical season for the 35-year-old Mark Buehrle. His 10 wins are tops among all pitchers in baseball to this point, and his 2.04 ERA ranks him second in the American League behind rookie phenomenon, Masahiro Tanaka. In his 15-year career, Buehrle has never come close to putting up these kinds of sensational numbers, and that is why the time to sell high on him is right now.
What Buehrle has managed to do to this point is obviously incredible. Most pitchers don’t have career seasons at this age, and the vast majority see a downtick in production as they go through their mid-to-late thirties. Is it possible he keeps this up for the rest of the season? Of course. Is it likely? Don’t bet on it.
There are some things that bug me about Buehrle, and they lead me to believe that a stat correction is right around the corner. First off is his pitching history. Prior to this year, his career low ERA for a season was 3.12. That’s over a full run per nine innings more than he’s at right now, and that happened nine years ago when he was in his prime. In fact, including his amazing 2014 stats, his career ERA is still just 3.79.
The next problem I see is his 1.21 WHIP. While that number is quite acceptable, especially in the American League, it does rank him just 34th among all starting pitchers in baseball. His walks per nine innings sits at 2.55 this season, which is the highest its been since his rookie campaign, and those free passes will catch up to him eventually. These numbers don’t look like those of a pitcher with such a dominant ERA, and part of the reason for that is the competition he has faced.
Of his 13 starts this season, nine of those have come against teams that rank in the bottom third of the league in runs scored per game. Among the other four, only two rank in the top 12. It’s a lot easier to get out of jams against weak offenses, but the schedule is about to get a whole lot tougher too.
Buehrle’s next start comes tomorrow on the road against the Baltimore Orioles. While the O’s have under-performed offensively to this point, they do have five players that are hitting .375 or better against Buehrle in their careers. Aside from one of those players, we’re talking about pretty decent sample sizes too. After tomorrow’s game comes two games against the New York Yankees, then projected starts against the #8, #1 and #4 offenses in baseball (Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics, Los Angels Angels). That is quite the gauntlet he’ll be facing coming up, and there is absolutely no way he comes out the other end unscathed.
If you drafted Buehrle, or even scooped him off the waiver wire, you have certainly enjoyed the magical ride along with him. The time has now come to part ways though, as his value will never be higher than it is today. There are plenty of elite players that other owners would be willing to let go of in order to get there hands on a Cy Young candidate, and you’ll feel really smart when Buehrle’s numbers start coming back to earth.