Mark Buehrle is off to a ridiculous start in Toronto

Mark Buehrle is off to a ridiculous start in Toronto
April 20, 2014, 12:00 pm
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Mark Buehrle's fastball keeps losing zip, averaging 83 miles per hour through four starts this season (down from 84 mph a year ago). But no matter: The former White Sox lefty currently is 4-0 with a league-leading 0.64 ERA after shutting out Cleveland over seven innings on Saturday.

In 28 innings, Buehrle has issued just five walks and has a 1.76 ground ball to fly ball ratio, which currently stands as the best in his 15-year career. He's struck out 19, and opposing hitters are making contact with 82 percent of his pitches -- the lowest that's been for Buehrle since 2002.

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While it's just a small sliver of the starts he'll make this year, the 35-year-old lefty has shown he's still got it.

"I haven’t changed anything in 10 years, 11 years," Buehrle said after his start Saturday, via the Toronto Star. "I haven’t changed the way I’m pitching. I’m not going to keep asking questions. I’m going to get out there and run with it and see what happens.”

Buehrle's never began a season this good, though. His year-by-year numbers through four starts:

 Year ERA Innings Hits Walks Home Runs Strikeouts
 2001 7.04 23 25 11 4 17
 2002 1.33 27 16 9 3 15
 2003 1.57 28.2 22 8 1 12
 2004 5.96 22 26 7 3 13
 2005 2.61 31 18 6 2 23
 2006 1.93 28 19 5 3 12
 2007 2.59 24.1 12 4 2 14
 2008 5.96 22.2 35 6 2 11
 2009 3.00 24 22 9 2 17
 2010 4.65 25.2 26 8 1 11
 2011 4.50 26 28 6 1 8
 2012 2.63 27.1 26 3 3 16
 2013 5.87 23 30 6 3 16
 2014 0.64 28 21 5 0 19

It's worth noting, again, that four starts is a small, small, small sample size. 2006 was Buehrle's worst year in the majors (he finished with a 4.99 ERA 36 home runs allowed), but through four starts he looked like the same Buehrle who finished fifth in 2005's AL Cy Young voting. Bad starts in 2001, 2004 and 2008 didn't preclude him from having a sub-4.00 ERA, either.

For someone who's 35 and doesn't throw hard at all, though, Buehrle's early-season dominance has been awfully impressive. The fastest pitch he threw against Cleveland on Saturday clocked in at 85.9 miles per hour, according to BrooksBaseball.net.

And that 83 mile per hour average on Buehrle's fastball? Sixty-two major league starters throw faster changeups.