Chicago White Sox: Is Mark Buerhle a Hall of Famer?

Chicago White Sox (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Chicago White Sox (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

Former Chicago White Sox ace Mark Buehrle is on the Hall of Fame ballot.

Let me make it clear from the outset: Mark Buehrle was one of my favorite Chicago White Sox players during the Aughts.

The ace pitcher won me over with his ability to work quickly and his relative lack of on- and off-field drama. When Buehrle was on the mound, you felt confident the Sox would win, or at least be in the game, and unlike some aces who work in and out of trouble, Buehrle tended to avoid that kind of high-wire act.

Thing is, though, Buehrle wasn’t dominant, at least not in the way we tend to think of pitching dominance. He wasn’t unhittable. He wasn’t a strikeout machine. He pitched to contact, allowing hitters to put balls in play. Batters just tended to hit them where they were.

It’s weird to have doubts about the Hall of Fame case of a man who has 214 wins, over 200 innings a year for 14 straight years (and he was an inning and a third short of 200 in his final season. He only had 51.1 in his first season, since he came out of the bullpen), a no-hitter, a perfect game, a World Series ring, a start and a save in the same World Series, five All-Star appearances, four Gold Gloves, and a 60 WAR, but Buehrle is a borderline case.

That’s partly because of the type of pitcher he was – he didn’t put up numbers in terms of strikeouts and that sort of thing. He never won 20 games in a season and only won 19 games once. Win-loss records aren’t a great metric for measuring pitching success – too many factors are beyond the pitcher’s control – but nonetheless, wins and losses are still on the minds of voters, whether they’re dinosaurs who eschew advanced stats or stat nerds.

Yet he’s one of just 15 pitchers, 12 of whom are in the Hall, who had 15 or more seasons with 30 or more starts. Only seven other pitchers have matched or exceeded his streak of over 200 innings in 14 consecutive years, and they’re all in the Hall of Fame.

It’s also worth noting, as NBC Sports Chicago did, that changes in the game mean pitchers will be less and less likely to reach 300 wins and 3,000 career innings. Buehrle has the latter accomplishment.

It’s true he has no Cy Young Award. But should HOF votes hinge on hardware?

Mark Buehrle’s HOF resume shows that he’s not a slam-dunk inductee. But the case is strong, and Sox fans have an argument to make.

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Still, should he fall short, what he did doesn’t change. Whether he makes the Hall of Fame or not, he remains one of the best starters to ever stand on the mound at 35th and Shields.