This is why Buehrle is a Hall of Famer

December 24th, 2023

On the surface, Mark Buehrle may not jump off the page as a Hall of Famer.

The remarkably consistent left-hander posted a 3.81 ERA over 16 Major League seasons. Buehrle was a five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner, but he otherwise did not receive any major awards. He garnered Cy Young consideration only once in his 16 seasons -- and that was when he finished fifth in AL Cy Young voting in 2005.

As for his Hall of Fame candidacy, Buehrle received just 10.8% of the vote from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in 2023, his third year on the ballot. That was an increase from 5.8% in 2022, but still shy of the 11% he received in his first year on the ballot in '21.

As Buehrle enters his fourth year on the ballot, it’s worth taking a closer look at his case for the Hall of Fame. While the traditional overall numbers may not be Hall worthy, there are quite a few things that put Buehrle in categories that otherwise exclusively feature Hall of Famers.

Durability and consistency

There was never any question of what you were going to get out of Buehrle from season to season: a respectable ERA over 30 starts and 200 remarkably efficient innings. In fact, Buehrle topped the 200-inning mark in each of his first 14 full seasons from 2001-14.

The only pitchers in the Modern Era with 14 consecutive seasons of 200 innings are Buehrle, Christy Mathewson (1901-14), Warren Spahn (1947-63), Gaylord Perry (1966-80), Greg Maddux (1988-2001), Phil Niekro (1967-80) and Don Sutton (1966-80).

Six of those seven pitchers are in the Hall of Fame. The other is Buehrle.

Buehrle’s streak came to an end in his final season in 2015 with the Blue Jays -- when he pitched “only” 198 2/3 innings. With four more outs, he would have joined Spahn, Perry and Sutton -- all of whom pitched decades earlier than Buehrle -- as the only pitchers with 15 straight 200-inning seasons.

Just how rare was it for Buehrle to do what he did when he did it? His 3,232 innings from 2001-15 were not only the most in the Majors during that span, but he pitched 243 1/3 more innings than any other pitcher (CC Sabathia was second with 2,988 2/3). In other words, Buehrle essentially pitched more than an entire season’s worth more innings than any big league pitcher during his remarkable 14-year run.

Overall, Buehrle finished his career with a 3.81 ERA and 214 wins over 518 games (493 starts) and 3,283 1/3 innings. The only other pitchers with at least 200 wins and 500 appearances since 2000 are Sabathia and Zack Greinke.


Few pitchers, if any, fielded their position better than Buehrle. For starters, Buehrle racked up 87 career Defensive Runs Saved -- and FanGraphs didn’t even start tracking it until 2003.

To put that number in perspective, Buehrle’s 87 DRS are tied with Greinke for the most by any pitcher during that span, despite the fact that Buehrle -- who averaged 6.7 DRS per season -- is missing 3 1/2 season’s worth of data. The only other pitcher with even 50 DRS during that span is Jake Westbrook, who had just 63.

But Buehrle didn’t just excel once the ball was in play. His defensive prowess included bringing the opposing running game to a near halt.

Buehrle allowed only 59 stolen bases over his 16-year career -- and never more than eight in a single season. He combined with his catchers to throw out 81 attempted base stealers during that same span, resulting in a caught stealing percentage of 57.9%. That’s not only double the league average of 29% during his career, but it’s the sixth best by any qualified pitcher since that data was first tracked in 1974.

And while any pitcher needs help from his catcher to slow the running game, Buehrle certainly did his part. He picked off 102 baserunners during his career, which ranks fourth since 1974, behind only Steve Carlton (118), Mark Langston (105) and Andy Pettitte (103).

Limiting the damage

At the end of the day, pitching is all about run prevention. Sure, Buehrle racked up the innings on a yearly basis and shined defensively, but how did he manage to get through so many innings without overpowering stuff?

After all, Buehrle had only 1,870 strikeouts in his 3,283 1/3 innings. He also had a 1.28 career WHIP. Only nine pitchers who have that few strikeouts and that high of a WHIP are in the Hall of Fame -- and the latest debut season for any of those pitchers was 1941.

So how’d he do it?

Situational pitching. Buehrle wasn’t a dominant groundball pitcher -- his groundball rate was right in line with the league average during his pitching days -- but he was as good as anyone at getting a groundball when he absolutely needed one.

Despite his league average groundball rate, Buehrle forced opposing hitters into ground into 362 double plays. That’s the fourth most by any pitchers since the stat was tracked in 1974, trailing only Greg Maddux (422), Tom Glavine (421) and Pettitte (363).

The “extras”

Any time a player doesn’t have a clear-cut Hall of Fame case, it helps to have historic moments or milestones to sway things in his favor. For Buehrle, one of those moments came when he tossed a complete-game victory against the Angels in Game 2 of the 2005 ALCS on his way to helping the White Sox win the World Series.

Another came on April 18, 2007, when he faced the minimum in a no-hitter against the Rangers. The only blemish was a fifth-inning walk to Sammy Sosa, who was promptly -- and unsurprisingly -- picked off by Buehrle.

Two years later, Buehrle became just the 18th pitcher in AL/NL history to throw a perfect game when he retired all 27 Rays batters in a July 23, 2009, game at U.S. Cellular Field. Tampa Bay’s lineup that day included B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena, Ben Zobrist and Pat Burrell, among others.

Buehrle remains one of only 23 pitchers to throw a perfect game -- and one of only seven to throw both a perfect game and another no-hitter.

The other six are Sandy Koufax, Cy Young, Roy Halladay, Randy Johnson, Jim Bunning and Addie Joss.

All six are in the Hall of Fame.