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Roger Schlueter

MLB Notebook: Buehrle's pace leads pack

MLB Notebook: Buehrle's pace leads pack

In his amazing-for-any-era 1933 campaign, Giants left-hander Carl Hubbell claimed two-thirds of the pitching Triple Crown, pacing the National League with 23 wins and a 1.66 ERA (in a league in which the collective ERA rested at 3.34, helping Hubbell produce a 193 ERA+). Hubbell -- who never did win a Triple Crown -- came in second in strikeouts, with his 156 significantly behind Dizzy Dean's 199. Hubbell faced 1,206 batters that season, meaning that 12.9 percent of them came away having fanned. The percentage may not look at all that impressive by today's standards (right now, for example, American League starting pitchers are collectively holding a 19.3 K percentage), but for the time, Hubbell's personal percentage was far above the NL mark of 7.6 percent). Today, it's a different world when it comes to the relationship between run suppression and strikeouts, which makes Mark Buehrle's work in 2014 even more eye-popping.

Allowing two runs on seven hits in seven innings with five K's and no walks, Mark Buehrle improved to 8-1 on the season as the Blue Jays defeated the Red Sox, 7-2, on Thursday.

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With his line, the southpaw owns a 2.16 ERA in his 10 starts. In Blue Jays history, 100 pitchers have had at least 10 starts through the club's first 48 games, with only four having a lower ERA than Buehrle's 2.16:

• Dave Stieb in 1983: 1.66 ERA

• Roger Clemens in 1997: 1.81

• Juan Guzman in 1992: 1.88

• Dave Stieb in 1984: 2.09

• Buehrle in 2014: 2.16

Buehrle is the fourth pitcher in Blue Jays history to have at least eight wins through the team's first 48 games. Roger Clemens had nine in 1997, while Dave Stieb (1983) and Roy Halladay (2009) each had eight.

Over the past 20 seasons, Buehrle is the eighth left-hander to have eight wins through his team's first 48 games (no one since 1995 has had more). Having done it also in 2002, Buehrle is one of two pitchers -- along with Randy Johnson (2000 and '02) -- to appear twice. The others: Jimmy Key (1997), Dontrelle Willis (2005), Tom Glavine ('06), and Matt Moore (2013). The last southpaw to have more than eight through 48 was Glavine in 1991 (nine).

Although the rates are almost sure to look significantly different by the end of September, it's fun to realize how anomalous some of Buehrle's numbers look now. He owns a 193 ERA+ and a K percentage of 14.7. There have been 114 pitchers since 1893 to qualify for the ERA title and finish with an ERA+ of at least 175. Among this group, 41 also finished the season with a K percentage below 15, and 25 of those 41 did so between 1893 and 1919. Since 1946, there have been only four pitchers to have this combination of numbers at season's end:

• Warren Spahn in 1953 (188 ERA+ and 14 K percentage)

• Johnny Antonelli in 1954 (178 and 14.2)

• Marvin Freeman in 1994 (179 and 14.4)

Derek Lowe in 2002 (177 and 14.9)

In their victory, the Blue Jays added two more homers to their AL-leading total, with Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista hitting back-to-back shots in the first. Toronto has 67 for the season, the club's fourth-highest total through 48 games.

Here and there
• Texas defeated Detroit, 9-2, with Shin-Soo Choo homering and drawing two walks in the victory. Since the start of last season, Choo has 60 games in which he has reached safely at least three times. Those 60 are the most in the Majors, with his former Reds teammate Joey Votto owning the second most (57). This season, Choo has 14 such games, which places him in a tie with Bautista for the third most in the Majors, with Troy Tulowitzki and Andrew McCutchen each owning 15.

• Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray allowed one run in eight innings, lowering his ERA to a league-leading 1.99 (in 10 starts). Gray is one of 193 A's pitchers since 1914 to have at least 10 starts through the team's first 47 games, with the 1.99 ERA tying him with Lefty Grove (1929) for the 12th lowest; Vida Blue's 1.03 in 1971 stands as the lowest mark.

• Making his first start since April 12, Rays right-hander Alex Cobb returned from the disabled list in style, hurling 6 2/3 scoreless innings. With this effort, Cobb became the first Tampa Bay pitcher to have three straight appearances with at least six innings and no runs allowed.

• In his return from a month-long stay on the DL, White Sox left-hander Chris Sale allowed one hit in six scoreless innings and fanned 10 with no walks. Behind the dominating effort, Chicago defeated the Yankees, 3-2.

Sale is the third White Sox starter since 1914 to have an outing that featured at least 10 strikeouts, no walks and no more than one hit allowed. Gary Peters (July 15, 1963) and Floyd Bannister (Sept. 13, 1987) both did this in complete-game efforts.

Sale is the first starter since 1914 to author this combination of strikeouts, walks and hits in a stint lasting six or fewer innings.

Sale is the second pitcher since 1914 to have a start against the Yankees that saw the hurler limit New York to just one hit and no walks while also fanning at least 10. Pedro Martinez fanned 17 in his one-hitter at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 10, 1999.

• The Indians defeated the Orioles, 8-7, in 13 innings, giving the club back-to-back games in which it played 13 innings and came away the victor. The last season in which Cleveland played two straight games that went at least 13 innings and won both: 1935, when the team opened the season with a 14-inning, 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Browns and followed that up with a 14-inning, 2-1 win over the Tigers. (With the Indians defeating the Tigers on Wednesday before this 13-inning win against the Orioles, the same two franchises that were involved in losing to the Indians in 1935 were involved in 2014.) In the Indians third game in '35, they went 13 innings, but lost, 3-2, to the Tigers.

• Padres outfielder Seth Smith homered and drew a walk in his team's 5-1 loss to the Cubs, and he is now sitting on a 1.394 OPS in 72 plate appearances in May. Knocking on the door of a 1.400 mark for the month brings Smith in proximity of an exclusive and heavy-named nonet; the eight players since 1914 to have at least 75 plate appearances and finish with a 1.400 OPS in May are (chronologically): Babe Ruth (1928, 1930), Jimmie Foxx ('32), Frank Thomas (1994), Mark McGwire ('98), Alex Rodriguez ('99), Todd Helton (2000), Barry Bonds ('01) and Lance Berkman ('08).

Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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