It was during that Opening Day contest against the Indians when the White Sox Mark Buehrle made a spectacular play on a Lou Marson grounder back to the mound, ending with a between-the-legs, no-look flip to first baseman Paul Konerko, which still is used as a barometer for top-flight defensive efforts. That single play punctuated an error-free season for Buehrle.
There wasn't such a single, standout moment for Buehrle in 2011. There was just more of the same steadiness in the field from the veteran southpaw, who captured his third straight Rawlings Gold Glove, as announced on Tuesday night.
Buehrle was listed as a finalist with the Angels' Dan Haren and Cleveland's Fausto Carmona, but was once again recognized as the top glove man at his position. Buehrle has long taken pride in this particular part of his game, but was previously blocked in the AL by fellow defensive stalwarts such as Mike Mussina, Kenny Rogers and Johan Santana.
AL GOLD GLOVE WINNERS
|C||Matt Wieters, Orioles||1|
|1B||Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox||3|
|2B||Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox||2|
|3B||Adrian Beltre, Rangers||3|
|SS||Erick Aybar, Angels||1|
|LF||Alex Gordon, Royals||1|
|CF||Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox||1|
|RF||Nick Markakis, Orioles||1|
|P||Mark Buehrle, White Sox||3|
With 40 assists, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound hurler ranked second among AL pitchers. He finished fourth with six pickoffs, leaving him one behind teammate John Danks. Buehrle also was fourth in total chances (56) and 10th in fielding percentage, with his one error leaving him at .982. He tied for fourth among AL pitchers by assisting on five double plays.
Controlling the running game has been a key to success over his 12 seasons, and that skill certainly didn't disappear in 2011. Buehrle allowed just three stolen bases in 10 attempts.
Since the start of the 2001 season, marking Buehrle's first year as a starting pitcher, he leads all Major League pitchers with 80 pickoffs (35 more than Andy Pettitte) and ranks second with 607 total chances and 459 assists. Over his 12-year career with the White Sox, opponents have been successful on just 41.9 percent (49-for-117) of their stolen-base attempts, the second-lowest rate among active pitchers behind Chris Carpenter (37.4).
This Gold Glove honor came one day after Buehrle won his third straight Fielding Bible Award, presented to just one player at each position in either league. This award is voted on by a panel of 10 experts, including Peter Gammons and Bill James, and takes into account a pitcher's ability to field his position as well as hold baserunners.
According to the release for the Fielding Bible honor, Buehrle saved an estimated nine runs with his defensive prowess to rank No. 1 among all pitchers in the game. His 90 total points in the voting gave him a 29-point margin over runner-up R.A. Dickey, which stood as the largest point differential of any position.
Jim Kaat (1974-75) was the only other White Sox pitcher to win two straight Gold Gloves. Buehrle joins Kaat, second baseman Nellie Fox, catcher Sherm Lollar, outfielder Minnie Minoso, shortstop Luis Aparicio, outfielder Jim Landis and Ventura as multiple winners in franchise history.
Now, the question is where Buehrle will be going for his fourth Gold Glove in 2012. The White Sox hold exclusive negotiating rights with the free agent until Wednesday night at 11:01 p.m. CT, but no deal is expected to be reached before that period ends.
Late in September, Buehrle told MLB.com that a move to the National League could interest him after spending his entire career with the White Sox. But he also talked about wanting to stay with the White Sox, assuming they wanted to have him back.
A.J. Pierzynski was listed as one of the three AL Gold Glove finalists at catcher, but Baltimore's Matt Wieters took home his first Gold Glove at that position ahead of the White Sox backstop. St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina was the only winner to have more Gold Gloves than Buehrle, as Molina picked up his fourth.