MLB: New York Yankees at Chicago White Sox

Mark Buehrle was awesome

I did a Q&A with C70 at the Bat the other day, which I believe will be running next week, in which they quickly preview all of the teams in the majors with bloggers or writers who cover those teams. The last question posed was “Who is your favorite White Sox player of all-time and why?”

This question has likely never been too difficult for White Sox fans of a certain age. I turn 30 in three weeks so I was a young, impressionable fan during the heyday of the greatest hitter in White Sox history, Frank Thomas. So that’s my answer, and it’s relatively easy to figure out why.

But when that question is posed, and it’s something that is brought up from time to time during random fan banter, the guy who always comes to mind next, after Thomas, is Mark Buehrle, whose No. 56 the White Sox will retire during a pregame ceremony before a June 23 game, the team announced Thursday.

Buehrle’s on-field accomplishments are what brought him to the point of becoming the 11th player in franchise history to have his number retired, but those only speak partially to what endeared him to fans like myself.

Fourteen straight seasons of 200-plus innings pitched (the first 11 of which came in a White Sox uniform), the no-hitter, the perfect game, the World Series relief appearance and save, those are the highlights of his career. They’re the feats for which he’ll most be remembered in the records and history books.

The unparalleled Christopher Kamka summed up a lot of this today:

But what made Buehrle so special — so danged popular — was the fact that he seemed like your neighbor. He wasn’t a freakish athlete who looked like he was created in some sort of super-athlete science lab. He made you believe you could play in the majors, and also helped remind you that baseball is a game and is supposed to be fun.

Buehrle’s journey to the majors, let alone the success he achieved, is somewhat hard to believe. Baseball America’s Matt Eddy researched the likelihood of MLB Draft picks making the majors back in 2013 by analyzing draft picks from 1987-2008 and found that only 6.8 percent of draft picks selected in the 21st round or later ever make it to the majors. Buehrle went in the 38th round in 1998. Not only that, he made only 38 appearances and threw only 217.1 innings in the minors, skipping Triple-A altogether. After a 51-inning debut pitching mostly in relief, he entered the rotation in 2001 and immediately became a 200-inning fixture.

Buehrle isn’t a Hall of Famer, and was far from a perfect pitcher. His strikeout numbers were never impressive. His FIP was always higher than his ERA, and he relied on his defense quite a bit. But he always ate innings and almost always found success, posting a WARP of 3.0 or higher in seven of his 11 full seasons with the White Sox, and was above replacement level in every season except for one.

When you watch Chris Sale pitch, you see his raw skill and exclaim, “how did he do that?!” When you watched Buehrle pitch, you saw him dot corners, induce weak contact, and fool hitters with mid-80s slop and mutter “how the hell did he do that?”

Buehrle was great because of the accomplishments, he was great because of the consistency, and he was great because of his generally pleasant demeanor. And that, ultimately, is what leads us to the honor he’ll be given this summer.

Lead Photo Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

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2 comments on “Mark Buehrle was awesome”


All that his ERA was always lower than his Fip means is that Buehrle was able to make good pitches when he needed to. It is a skill, more than a talent, and one of those immeasurable things that separates the winners from the rest. He helped his defense by working quickly and keeping them alert.

I think the ceremony to retire his jersey is on June 24th, not June 23rd

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