Others have done it, but I’ve avoided touching on free agent pitcher Mark Buehrle at length. I kept saying that I wanted to like Buehrle, but I just couldn’t bring myself to want him on the Yankees. Part of me thought this was okay because of Buehrle’s average home run rates and way below average strikeout rates. But, part of me loved his generally strong ground ball rates and his remarkable durability.
Yesterday at FanGraphs, Dave Cameron delved into what Buehrle does–or rather doesn’t do–that has separated him over the course of his career. The end of the article is what caught my eye:
If we sort all starting pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched since 2000, Buehrle’s 3.83 ERA puts him as a peer of Ben Sheets (3.79), Zack Greinke (3.82), Josh Beckett (3.84), and Andy Pettitte (3.86). If you ignore the subjective earned runs tag and sort by runs allowed per nine innings, however, Buehrle’s 4.26 RA/9 makes him a peer of Al Leiter (4.23), Barry Zito (4.24), Randy Wolf (4.29), and Jarrod Washburn (4.29).
There’s nothing wrong with the second group of pitchers, but I think we’d all agree that they aren’t as good as the first group. If a team thinks they’re getting more of the former than the latter, they may very well end up disappointed.
The thing that I think I’ve missed or not acknowledged enough when it comes to Buehrle is that the Yankees wouldn’t need him to be anything spectacular. After reading those last two paragraphs of the Cameron piece, I asked myself: Would I be happy with 180-200 innings of a 4.2something run average from any pitcher? Yeah, I think I would be. That doesn’t sound sparkly or shiny, but given the Yankee offense, that’s going to lead to wins more often than losses.
We can all agree that the Yankees need pitching. But I think we can still have some discussion over to what degree they need that pitching. If the Yankees add Buehrle, that should by no means be the only pitching they add. I’d like to see them take a shot at Yu Darvish, but you know that already. If they did stop after adding Buehrle, the rotation would look like this:
That’s one elite pitcher, a solid lefty, a young guy building on success, and then, well, yeah. The 4-5 doesn’t look too great after last season, but both pitchers have talent and have shown the ability to be solid for long stretches of time. It might not be the best rotation possible, but combined with a dynamite bullpen and an explosive lineup, it’s more than good enough to get the job done. Looking at what Mark Buerhle could provide and what the Yankees need, I think I’m ready to do a 180 on this situation.
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