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Tigers rumors: Mark Buehrle on the radar

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Fans of the Chicago White Sox encourage management to bring back pitcher Mark Buehrle next season during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at U.S. Cellular Field on September 27, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Fans of the Chicago White Sox encourage management to bring back pitcher Mark Buehrle next season during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at U.S. Cellular Field on September 27, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Add another name to the list of players the Tigers may have interest in. This time it's White Sox left hander Mark Buehrle.

The Detroit News' Lynn Henning reports the Tigers are in the same boat as about half of baseball in their pursuit of the 32-year-old. You might wonder why the Tigers would be looking at him, given the pitchers they have bubbling up in the system. But really, you can never have enough pitching. It's always good to have a back-up plan in case of injury or have a trade piece available.

Henning writes:

There's no guarantee that young pitchers the Tigers believe are eventually destined for their rotation - Jacob Turner, Drew Smyly, Adam Wilk, Andy Oliver, etc. - will be ready by the end of spring camp.
Turner, 20, was rushed from the minors for a couple of spot-starts last season, but the Tigers expect he will need at least a portion of next year to burnish his command at Triple-A Toledo.

Buehrle's a pretty interesting pitcher when you start to look closer. He tends to have good starts -- especially against the Tigers. He has a career 3.83 ERA with 3.59 in 2011. He's even thrown a perfect game. But he does it without striking out a lot of batters. One thing you can call him for sure is a work horse, as he's thrown 200+ innings every year from 2001 forward.

However, his xFIP (and SIERA) tend to range from slightly higher to a fair bit higher than his ERA on a yearly basis, and you can't even find a good skill or stat to credit for that.

Fangraphs wrote about him earlier this month:

So, uhh, what's left? He's not preventing hits. He's not preventing home runs. He's not stranding runners. How is Mark Buehrle keeping so many runs off the board?

The answer might be that he's not, and a real part of the explanation for Buehrle's gap between his ERA and his FIP/xFIP is actually a bias in how ERA is calculated. As you know, Buehrle is a ground-ball pitcher, and pitchers who put their infielders to work see a larger share of their balls in play result in errors. Errors result in unearned runs, and unearned runs don't count against a pitcher's ERA.

In fact, if we look at Buehrle's career, 10.1% of all the runs Buehrle has allowed have been labeled as unearned. For starting pitchers since 2002 with 1,000+ innings pitched, that's the ninth highest ratio of unearned runs in baseball.

When you adjust for that, his ERA would still be under 4, but it's not quite as good. Just an interesting note and a good reminder to look beyond ERA when looking at a pitcher.

Bonus fun fact I learned from Animal Planet over the weekend: Buerhle raises Vizslas.

OK, so what do you think of the possibility of adding Buehrle?