Buehrle Brings Rays Offense to Halt
In the age of radar-gun readings on broadcasts and scoreboards, Pitch f/x data and prospect rankings, there seems to be an analytical (and fanatical) premium placed on velocity. Yes, a 98-mph fastball is preferred to one that goes 88 mph, but there is still room for the slowballer; especially if that pitcher knows how to use what he has and can dictate where it goes. On Wednesday night Mark Buehrle was a shining example of both.
Pitching opposite Matt Moore, a younger lefty throwing in the low-to-mid 90s (and people are concerned about that too), Buehrle was the alpha southpaw of the evening. Moore topped out near 95 mph with an average fastball around 92. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Buehrle averaged 82 mph with the fastball and maxed out at 83.8. For even more reference, Moore hit 86 mph with a changeup. Yet, its Buehrle who carried a shutout into the ninth inning while the youngster was unable to complete six frames.
Despite the lack of velocity, Buehrle dominated the Rays with sequencing and command. Take for instance his choice of first pitch. Last season, the league threw a fastball nearly 60 percent of the time on the first pitch. Buehrle threw 30 first pitches last night. Here is a breakdown:
Even when Buehrle fell behind in the count he refused to settle for his meager fastball. In hitter’s counts, he tossed 25 pitches. Just 10 of them were fastballs. Meanwhile, in counts where you would expect something with bend or tilt, Buehrle froze the Rays with “heat.” In two-strike counts the Jays’ starter threw his fastball more than any other pitch. He completed six of his 11 strikeouts with fastballs; all of them looking.
While Buehrle mixing and matching sequences at will, he also knew where he was going with his bucket of slop. Facing a lineup that featured eight right-handed batters, the 35-year-old was committed to working away. Of his 108 pitches, 74 of them were on the first-base half of the plate (away to righties).
On the other hand, when you refer back to the six called strikeouts on fastballs, you see Buehrle had a different location in mind. Note that all six freeze-balls came versus right-handed batters.
High-octane, premium gas is the preferred fuel of Major League Baseball. However, on occassion, regular unleaded will get you home just as well – if not better – provided you know how to shift gears and have a good idea of where you’re going.