Sunday, July 18, 2010
By Brett Ballantini
MINNEAPOLIS - Contrary to popular rumor, Mark Buehrle doesnt pick off every runner he allows to reach first. It just seems that way.
With depantsings of Denard Span and Delmon Young last night, Buehrle has picked off 72 runners since his first full season in 200127 more than the New York Yankees Andy Pettitte, who has the next-best total in that time span.
The White Sox mainstay has 76 career pickoffs, which trails all-time leader Steve Carlton (144) considerably. However, every other pickoffs leader is squarely in Buehrles sights: Pettitte (99), Kenny Rogers (94), Mark Langston (91), Jerry Koosman (82), Randy Johnson (81) and Greg Swindell (77).
Somebodys figured out my move, because I dont pick everybody off, said Buehrle with a smile, regarding his masterful move. I give credit to Joey Cora, who calls all our moves to first.
Clearly, the southpaw has a real gift for fooling opposing runners. Even runners without aggressive leads and who arent a major danger to steal (paging Young, who appeared to be leading off in molasses in the fourth inning last night) are frozen by Buehrles cagey play off the mound.
Hes good, real good, said Span, with 16 steals in 17 tries Minnesotas only true base-stealing threat. I thought I got back last night, but the move is tough. You want the best lead you can, but a great move can freeze you and sometimes you react too late.
Buehrle also gives credit to Paul Konerko for sneaky-quick tags at first. While that was evident in both picks last night, Konerko deflects any credit.
Buehrle is the one who does the dirty work fooling runners, Konerko says. The challenge of making sure you have the ball and get a quick tag down, that doesnt compare.
The lefty rather famously missed out on a perfect game en route to his first no-hitter vs. the Texas Rangers in 2007, walking Sammy Sosa. But Buehrle gets an unofficial, asterisked perfecto for immediately picking Sosa off of first and facing the minimum 27 batters.
Thats sort of how Buehrle looks at letting runners onhed rather not, but if theyre lollygagging over at first base, why not make em pay?
You cant lose focus on the hitter, but I do want to make a runner think, Buehrle said. An out is an out, and my goal is to get my 27 any way I can, as quickly as I can.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.