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by Harold Friend
Mark Buehrle is in his tenth major league season. He joined the Chicago White Sox in 2000, at the age of 21, and pitched only 51 1/3 innings, compiling a 4-1 record, with a 4.21 ERA and a 119 ERA+. Since then, Buehrle has never pitched less than 201 innings in a season. For the last few weeks, there have been discussions with respect to Buehrle's chances of eventually being elected to the Hall of Fame. Those discussions intensified after Mark Buehrle pitched a perfect game.
Mark Buehrle is not a Hall of Famer
If Mark Buehrle's future career replicates his past seasons, he does not belong in the Hall of Fame. He is a fine pitcher, but despite two no-hitters, he is an efficient, not a dominating pitcher.
Pitchers Similar to Mark Buehrle
Baseball-Reference lists Johnny Podres, Ross Grimsley, Frank Viola, Tom Glavine, Mike Hampton, Barry Zito, and Jerry Reuss as similar left-handers through age 29. Only Tom Glavine will ever be a Hall of Famer, primarily because of his 305 wins and long career.
Lefty Gomez, Hal Newhouser, and Herb Pennock
Three Hall of Fame pitchers whose credentials have been questioned include, but are not limited to, Lefty Gomez, Hal Newhouser, and Herb Pennock. All had outstanding seasons, but none was of the caliber of Lefty Grove, Randy Johnson, or Sandy Koufax (whose brief career is often an issue).
Mark Buehrle will probably win more than 200 games, since he was 30 years old in March and should have at least five or six more productive years. Although Buehrle's ERA is higher than that of Gomez, Newhouser, and Pennock, his ERA+, which accounts for the league's ERA, is better than that of the others.
Buehrle's WHIP (Walks and Hits/Innings Pitched) is clearly superior.. He gives up fewer walks, and has a much better strikeout to walk ratio than any of the others.
Twenty Win Seasons
Lefty Gomez won at least 20 games in a season twice. In 1934, he was 26-5, and in 1937, he was 21-11. He led the league in ERA twice, each time with a 2.33 mark.
Hal Newhouser won 29 games in 1944, 25 games in 1945, and 26 games in 1946. Those three outstanding seasons, plus a 21 win season in 1948, resulted in Newhouser making the Hall of Fame. He was the American League's Most Valuable Player in both 1944 and 1945, which is almost unheard of for a pitcher, but like Sandy Koufax, he had only five great seasons.
Herb Pennock won at least 20 games only twice in a career that spanned 22 seasons. Pennock was good, he was consistent, but he never dominated. He pitched in five World Series, and compiled a 5-0 record.
Mark Buehrle Has Never Won 20 Games in a Season
Mark Buehrle has never won 20 games in a season, but he pitches in an era where starters rarely pitch more than seven innings. He averages 15 wins a season, compared to Lefty Gomez' 19 wins a season, Hal Newhouser's 16 wins a season, and Herb Pennock's 16 wins a season. Buehrle has led the league in games started and innings pitched twice, but he has never led in any major categories.
Mediocre Pitchers Have Pitched Perfect Games
Of course, he has pitched two no-hitters, one of which was a perfect game, but such feats are not always accomplished by great pitchers. Don Larsen pitched the only perfect World Series game, Bobo Holloman pitched a no-hitter in his first major league game, and Kenny Rogers and Mike Witt have pitched regular season perfect games.
Sandy Koufax and Randy Johnson Dominated
Sandy Koufax and Randy Johnson were dominant pitchers who rank among the greatest. Mark Buehrle is a solid, reliable pitcher, who, except for two occasions, is quite hittable. Koufax pitched four no-hitters, including a perfect game, while Johnson has pitched two no-hitters, including a perfect game.
Koufax' career ended when he was 30 years old, which is Buerhle's age. Koufax won more games, lost fewer games, had an ERA that was one full run a game lower, and even when using ERA+, still topped Buehrle. Buehrle allows about two more hits every nine innings compared to Koufax. The comparisons of Buehrle with Johnson are similar.
Get Them Out of the Hall of Fame
There is no question that Buehrle compares favorably to Lefty Gomez, Hal Newhouser, and Herb Pennock, and that none of the three, like Buehrle, can stand up to Koufax or Johnson. The question is not whether Buehrle get into the Hall of Fame. The question is how to get Gomez, Newhouser, and Pennock out. Keep dreaming.