There’s no better way to avoid a four-game sweep and to end a three-game losing streak than for the Toronto Blue Jays to send Mark Buehrle out to the mound to start a ball game. Buehrle moved to 7-1 on the season and strung together his third straight quality start in a 7-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels.
Blue Jays broadcaster Buck Martinez, who is also a former MLB catcher and manager, remarked during the game that Buehrle is his favourite pitcher of all time. A bold statement, but he may have a case. From Martinez’ standpoint, Buehrle is a pitcher who works fast, eats innings and has the utmost confidence in his stuff.
In working fast, Buehrle does not allow batters an ample amount of time to get comfortable in the batter’s box, and thus time to prepare properly for one of the five possible pitches that may be coming their way. He controls the pace of the game, and does so almost effortlessly. He pitches to contact, which if done effectively, ultimately lowers a pitcher’s pitch count that allows for longer outings and less reliance on the bullpen.
It also doesn’t hurt to note that he is a four-time Gold Glove winner at the pitcher’s position.
By controlling the pace of the game and pitching to contact, Buehrle’s career numbers are quite remarkable. He is a 35-year old who broke into the league as a full-time starter in 2001. In the last 13 full seasons, he has never recorded less than 200 IP in a regular season, and in only one season did he not have a winning percentage of .500 or better (in 2006, he went 12-13).
To reiterate Martinez’ points, Buehrle has confidence in his stuff despite not having overpowering velocity. His fastball has averaged 85.6 mph in his career, and it rarely touches 90, but he throws a gnarly change-up and shows great command with his other three pitches — a sinker, cutter and curveball. It is his ability to always keep the hitter guessing, coupled with his confidence and durability, that makes him such a valuable arm to have in any rotation.
Buehrle got the Jays back in the win column tonight, going six plus innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits while striking out two. It is now apparent that he has been the most valuable piece the Jays acquired in last year’s blockbuster trade that also sent the injury-prone SS Jose Reyes and hugely disappointing SP Josh Johnson to Toronto.
Buehrle now leads all of MLB with seven wins while boasting an ERA of 2.04. He will look to keep things rolling in his next start on the road against the Texas Rangers.