December 7, 2011
Three's Company in Miami
Signed P-L Mark Buehrle to a four-year deal worth $58 million. [12/7]
The soon-to-be 33-year-old Buehrle—who feels older, for whatever reason—is renowned for his consistency. For instance, did you know that Buehrle has won double-digit games in each season dating back to 2001? If not, you will soon. Some of Buehrle’s other consistencies prove more reliable in illuminating his value, such as his streak of 200-plus innings that also dates back to 2001. The southpaw’s steadiness extends to Wins Above Replacement Player, too, as Buehrle has racked up WARP scores of 2.4, 2.6, 2, 2.4, and 2.4 since the 2007 season.
There is reason to believe those WARP scores may undersell Buehrle, who has made a living out of making attempts to quantify and project his performances look silly. Nate Silver wrote in 2006 about how Buehrle continued to elude PECOTA’s sweet embrace for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, how Buehrle pitched with runners on base and when behind in the count. As you can see below, Buehrle has consistently outpitched his Fair Run Average in relation to his run average:
Do it once or twice and people will scoff and bet against a continuation. Do it nine out of 11 years and people will take notice. Projecting Buehrle proves difficult. He could continue to produce two-plus WARP throughout the life of this (and his next) contract, or he could fall from grace despite a move to the National League. The most consistent pitcher in the league might be the one with the most questions moving forward.
The market seems to be geared towards giving league-average starting pitchers $4-to-$5 million guaranteed. You had to figure that Buehrle, with a 113 adjusted-earned run average and a 62 percent quality starts since 2009, would eclipse that annual average value by a fair amount. Sure enough, his contract calls for an AAV of $14.5 million—or a slight raise over the $14 million he has made in each of the past four seasons. Ideally, teams would pay players for what they will do, not what they did, but who knows what Buehrle will do.
On a similar note, wandering minds have to worry about Buehrle’s ability to stay healthy. His clean slate of health is remarkable and admirable, but pitchers are zany, unpredictable creatures. Even so, no other creature has more innings pitched since 2001. In fact, only C.C. Sabathia and Livan Hernandez are within 100 innings of Buehrle. Some pitches can get through a lengthy career without missing significant time due to injury. Buehrle very well could be one, but nobody should be too sure either way.
Just as no one should have the Marlins’ rotation all figured out already, either. Josh Johnson, Buehrle, Ricky Nolasco, and Anibal Sanchez are tentative locks, but the identity of the Marlins’ final starter hinges on the rest of their offseason. The incumbent, Chris Volstad, is a non-tender or trade candidate, while Javier Vazquez’s status is in limbo. Besides, the Marlins continue to show interest in C.J. Wilson. Alternately, the Fish could sign Prince Fielder, thus precipitating a Gaby Sanchez deal, which may net them a readymade starting pitcher.
Two things are certain: the Marlins have plenty of options… and so do their fans when choosing a new favorite player.