With Mark Buehle's masterful performance Thursday in Baltimore, a starter has recorded a streak of allowing three or fewer runs in 18 consecutive starts for the 124th time.
Buehrle has a ways to go before he reaches Ray Washburn's mark. Pitching for St. Louis and Cincinnati, Washburn recorded 38 consecutive starts with three or fewer earned runs allowed from 1968-1970, easily the major league record.
[Side note: Washburn had a 13-14 record in that stretch. What a slouch.]
Only four pitchers have pitched 30 consecutive games allowing three or fewer runs -- Washburn, Claude Osteen (36, 1965-1966), Roger Clemens (32, 1990-1991) and Bob Gibson (30, 1967-1968). Not surprisingly, Washburn, Osteen and Gibson pitched in an era where the pitcher's mound was 15 inches high.
Since 2000, 16 pitchers have had a streak greater than or equal to Buehrle's 18 gamer, with Pedro Martinez and Josh Johnson accomplishing the feat twice. Martinez' 23-game streak started in 1999 and ended in 2000, after that, 22 is the longest three-or-fewer earned run start streak. Mat Latos (2010), Chris Carpenter (2005) and Johan Santana (2004) hold that distinction.
Pittsburgh's Jeff Karstens had his 18-game streak snapped July 31 of this year, making him the most recent pitcher to do what Buehrle has. Ryan Vogelsong, the National League's ERA leader, had a 16-game streak snapped Monday when he allowed five run against the Pirates.
Buehrle tied a franchise record for consecutive starts in which three or fewer runs were allowed, not earned runs. Eric King had a streak of 22 games with three or fewer earned runs allowed from 1989-1990, but the Sox right-hander allowed four runs -- one earned -- on Sept. 6, 1989 against Toronto.
Buehrle has historically been underrated by advanced pitching stats, which I totally understand. FIP emphasizes things a pitcher can directly control -- walks, strikeouts and home runs. Buehrle usually will have a low walk and strikeout rates with a below-average home run rate -- so FIP rarely rates him poorly, but more like above average.
He's better than above average, though, as his career ERA shows. ERA can be an extremely volatile stat, but over nearly 2,500 innings, it acts as a fair indicator of success -- especially for Buehrle. His career ERA before Thursday's start was 3.80; his FIP, 4.13.
Saying Buehrle pitches to contact isn't fair. Buehrle pitches to bad contact. His ability to throw his cutter inside and changeup outside to righties with great location has induced scores of weakly-hit balls in play over the last decade, and he additionally benefits from the lefty-on-lefty advantage most southpaws enjoy.
When Buehrle's command is pinpoint, he's liable to run off a streak of good starts like he has this season. When his command is off, though, he's liable to have a month like April -- in which he posted a 5.12 ERA.
This is Buehrle. And Buehrle is Buehrle is Buehrle.