Mark Buehrle has been around for a long time. He’s been the pillar of consistency. Since the beginning of 2001, he’s pitched 200 innings in 15 straight seasons. He’s also won at least 10 games in each of those seasons. Every time he takes the mound, he is the definition of bending and not breaking. He will give up his share of hits and what not, but he always gives his team a chance to win the game.
While some question whether all of this has been worth the big money he’s being paid, Fangraphs.com suggests that he has been worth the money. His total 7.3 WAR during his time with the Blue Jays could not have been easily replaced. It’s his consistency that cannot be understated. It represents such value. But, this year, he may not live up to that billing.
Heading into his start against the Boston Red Sox on Monday, Buehrle sits at 171 innings. With just 3 or 4 more starts after Monday, could this be the year that he doesn’t get his 200 innings? He already has 14 wins, so that mark is safe. But, he needs 29 more innings over 4 (maybe 5 starts). 6 innings per start may not be enough. 7 would do it. But, does he have that much left in the tank?
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Shi Davidi (Sportsnet.ca) explored that very question. By switching Buehrle’s scheduled start on Sunday with Marco Estrada, the club was providing him with an extra day’s rest. And, Buehrle admits that he is feeling the physical grind of this season. He’s 36 after all. According to Davidi, the physical demands of the season have resulted in a drop in velocity over the last month, which is something that he can ill afford. It went from 85 mph in July to just under 83 mph. That’s quite a drop for a guy who is considered a soft tosser, anyway.
According to Buehrle, he hasn’t been dealing with any injury of sorts. It’s just that he is finding it harder to recover after his starts. “I don’t feel like it’s been this way all year,” said Buehrle. “I’ve felt pretty good the whole time, it’s just been these last few starts that I have a few aches and pains. I could go out there tomorrow and have everything back to normal, I don’t know.”.
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He’s a curious guy in that he doesn’t really put too much stock in the exploration of what is behind his issues. He really just wants to pitch. He admits to feeling the grind, but is certainly not asking for rest. He wants to be out there. But, the club is trying to win its first pennant in 22 years. They will look to put themselves in the best position possible to win games. If that means that Buehrle needs to rest an extra day, so be it. If that gets the most out of this starter, they’ll do it.
The Blue Jays are not likely to concern themselves with Buehrle’s consecutive 200 inning seasons streak. They are looking at winning games. Mark Buehrle does not appear to be the kind of guy who will be obsessing over it, either. He is a guy who wants to help his team win, even if it means that his personal streak of consistency is in jeopardy.