There are three things Mark Buehrle does better than any other pitcher in the majors: he works the fastest, eats up the most innings and fields his position better than anyone else.
He doesn’t throw hard and he has never had a season with an ERA under 3.00 and his strikeout rate of 5.6 per nine innings was among the lowest in the big leagues last season.
But he has won four straight Gold Gloves, and since his first full season in 2001, nobody has pitched as many innings. Buehrle leads fellow workhorses C.C. Sabathia and Roy Halladay in that regard by more than 60 frames.
While not a single Jays’ starter pitched 200 innings last season, Buehrle has thrown at least 200 the past 12 years running. He says his main goal each season is to continue that streak.
“Wins, ERA, that stuff is going to take care of itself,” he said following his second spring start, against Tampa on Friday. “If you’re at 200 innings, you’re healthy and you’re pitching somewhat decent to go deep into games.”
Though it seems more attention has been paid to Buehrle’s prohibited pit bull than his pitching this spring, it’s difficult to overstate the value of his day-in day-out dependability to a staff whose injury riddled starters pitched fewer innings than all but four other teams last year.
Given the rotation’s struggles a year ago, it was no wonder the club’s overworked bullpen was also among the league’s worst in 2012. The hope is Buehrle will help change that.