Want to pick a needless fight with a sabermetrically-inclined baseball fan? Center an argument against advanced pitching metrics around Mark Buehrle.
It's simply unfair to point to the one guy who so blatantly defies typically methods of predicting pitcher run-prevention, who's out performed his xFIP for his 11-year career by .4/9 IP, s0 there's no choice but to throw up your hands and accepts his results.
As such, one could argue that just two starts ago, Buehrle was having perhaps his best year as a pro. His ERA was 3.06 after all, (which would be a career-low if he finished that way) and his walks had dipped under 2/9 IP again, reminiscent of his mid 00's prime.
That certainly added some intrigue to the upcoming question of whether the White Sox will re-sign Mark Buehrle at the end of the year. The notion that the 32 year-old Buehrle--while pondering retirement and where he'd like to end his career--was possibly not only as good as ever, but on the upswing after an insane 18 start streak of allowing three runs or less, added complication to how he would be valued at the end of the years
Instead, the Sox top two division competitors have now knocked him around in back-to-back outings, his ERA (now 3.58) has fled back to the safety of his career averages, and the shocking idea of a late-career bloom is once again giving way to something just as impressive--that Buehrle is continuing to maintain the same baseline of performance level in the Major Leagues over a length of time that exceeds the duration of many great pitcher's careers.
Strangely enough, I always find it as impressive to watch Buehrle get knocked around as be dominate. His bad nights show just how fine of a line he is constantly walking, with stuff that just asks to be hammered once his control slips.
How revealing himself to be the same old Mark will affect the possibility of Buehrle's return depends entirely on the nature of the off-season. If it's a merciless rebuild, it's hard to fathom why the Sox wouldn't wave goodbye to his salary no matter what and reel in the draft pick. If it's another load up for a big run, I can't imagine that Philip Humber being the real staff leader in ERA will make Mark any less necessary.
Shades of gray between those two approaches would mean that Buehrle's future depends on yet-to-be-determined circumstances. But when the Sox plot out the building of next year's team team, the performance-certainty Mark offers is a convenience that's hard to ignore.