Cy Young, Warren Spahn, Gaylord Perry, Christy Mathewson. And Mark Buehrle. That’s an amazing list. How does Mark Buerhrle get on that list?
In recent years, baseball has moved more and more toward specialization. In the early 1900s, starters would routinely finish the games they started, often throwing every fourth day. Cy Young, the pitcher perhaps most famous for his rubber arm, topped 40 starts and 400 innings in multiple seasons. Now, the league leader in innings barely eclipses half of that total.
That’s what makes Mark Buehrle such an incredible pitcher. He has two no-hitters to his credit, but he is not known as a dominant pitcher. His 3.81 career ERA is definitely solid, but he has only received Cy Young votes in one of his 15 years in the majors. He just keeps his team in every game he pitches, game after game after game. Buehrle is a throwback to those early days of baseball. He never misses any time, which is why he has started at least 30 games for 14 consecutive seasons.
We know that Buehrle stands out among his contemporaries, but where does he stack up compared to pitchers like Cy Young through the entire history of baseball?
|Most Consecutive Seasons with 30+ Starts|
|Pitcher||Streak (Years)||Time Frame|
It’s no surprise to see Young in the top spot with 19 consecutive seasons of 30 or more starts. However, it looks like the expansion era of the 1960s is even more popular than the turn of the previous century. Warren Spahn, Gaylord Perry, Steve Carlton, Phil Niekro, Tom Seaver, and Mickey Lolich—6 of the 11 starters with at least 13 consecutive 30-start seasons—all touched the 1960s during their streaks. Livan Hernandez and Greg Maddux are the only starters besides Buehrle from the current era who made the list, although Maddux’s teammate Tom Glavine was one of three starters who just missed with 12 consecutive seasons. Meanwhile, but for the 1994 work stoppage that limited Maddux and Glavine to 25 starts each, they may well have ended up with incredible streaks of 21 seasons (1988-2008) and 18 seasons (1990-2007), respectively.
Buehrle is already tied for fourth place in MLB history with his 14 consecutive seasons. Meanwhile, Buehrle is still just 35 years old and is showing no decline in performance. He has half a decade to go to reach Young, but it’s not inconceivable that he could reach that total, especially since he does not rely on big velocity to be effective. If he does break the record, it will be in 2020 when Buehrle is 41 years old.
I had my idea for this topic because of a fascinating article Bill James recently wrote on Rotation Emperors, which you can read with a subscription to Bill James Online. Rather than look at pitchers on the season-level, Bill looks at consecutive-start streaks. On that list, Buehrle became the current Rotation Emperor when Justin Verlander missed a start in late August of this season. Buehrle currently has 228 consecutive starts, which dates back to September of 2007.
What’s interesting is that Buehrle did not miss a start then because of an injury. Instead, manager Ozzie Guillen skipped Buehrle to allow rookie John Danks to get a start off the DL; the White Sox were well out of the race, so he was simply looking at his young pitcher to help plan for the 2008 season. That snapped a 224-game streak Buehrle had entering that rotation turn, which dated back to his sophomore season in 2001, his first season as a full-time starter. Had Buehrle’s streak not been snapped in 2007, his active streak would be 452 consecutive games. That would have been the longest streak, by far, of any pitcher Bill studied, going back to 1955 where Bill started his list! The player with the longest streak Bill studied was Jim Bunning, who had a streak of 337 consecutive starts end in 1968. That’s almost 50 years ago.
Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.