Imagine watching Jeopardy! and one of the categories is Baseball. Contestant Carlos has control of the board and says, “I’ll take Baseball for $1,000.” The moderator of the day responds with “Neal Cotts.” Carlos rings in to answer and replies with “Who was the American League MVP in 1987?” “Sorry, that is incorrect,” says the moderator. Contestant Sheila rings in and asks, “Who was the only reliever the Chicago White Sox used in the 2005 American League Championship Series?” To which the moderator replies “That is correct, no other reliever appeared in that series.”
Yes indeed, the above paragraph tells us a couple of things. First off, it tells us that Carlos is not a baseball fan. Second, it illustrates that Sheila must be an avid White Sox fan. However, the most important fact above is that Neal Cotts was, indeed, the only reliever the White Sox used in the 2005 ALCS. Further, he only pitched 2/3 of an inning. Again, in a five-game series, manager Ozzie Guillen used one reliever for a total of 2/3 of an inning. While Neal Cotts may be somewhat noteworthy, the real story would be what the rest of the pitching staff did in the 2005 ALCS.
A Most Dominant Rotation
The real story of the 2005 ALCS was the dominant rotation the White Sox threw at the Los Angeles Angels. In game one, Jose Contreras started for the White Sox and allowed three earned runs on seven hits, while striking out four and walking nobody. With one out in the top of the ninth inning, Guillen came out and made his only pitching change of the entire series. He brought in Cotts, who retired the only two batters he faced. The White Sox would lose that game, 3-2, to fall behind in the series.
In game two, the Sox started a streak that will never be matched in postseason play. Mark Buehrle took the mound and went the distance, throwing a five-hitter against the Halos. Buehrle allowed one run on five hits, striking out four and walking nobody as the Sox won by a 2-1 score.
In game three, Jon Garland got the ball and didn’t let his manager down. All Garland did was throw a complete game, as the Sox beat the Angels 5-2. Garland allowed two runs on four hits, striking out seven while walking one batter. Game Three marked the second consecutive complete game for the South Siders.
In game four, Freddy “Big Game” Garcia got the start, as the Sox looked to take a stranglehold on the series. Garcia did not disappoint, throwing a complete game, allowing two runs on six hits. He struck out five batters and walked one as the White Sox won 8-2, taking a 3-1 series lead.
Then, in a potential clinching game five, Contreras returned to the mound. This time, Neal Cotts never got the chance to pitch, as Contreras threw a complete game. The Sox won by a 6-3 score, as Contreras allowed the three runs on just five hits, with two walks and two strikeouts. Remarkably, he threw the fourth consecutive game for the White Sox, as they punched their ticket to the Fall Classic.
When we look at the total effort of the 2005 Sox rotation, we see some staggering numbers. In 44 1/3 innings, Sox starters allowed 11 earned runs, good for an ERA of 2.33. They put up a combined WHIP of a minuscule .70. The Sox rotation struck out 22 while walking only four. This is good for a KK/B ratio of 5.5/1. They allowed a total of 31 baserunners in five games. That is unquestionably the work of a very dominant rotation. A pitching staff that, after Game One, suffocated the Angels, allowing the White Sox efficient offense to do what they needed to do to get the job done.
What the White Sox did in the 2005 ALCS is that much more impressive when one considers the way the game is played these days. In today’s game, we see “openers,” starters who, by design go between one and three innings, then turn the game over to the bullpen. Even some of the better MLB starters often pitch only six, maybe seven innings in a start. Yes, there are exceptions, and there will be some starters who will go deeper into games as the season progresses. Still, the proliferation of bullpen usage in today’s game only magnifies how special and dominant the 2005 White Sox rotation was. Their performance in the 2005 ALCS was truly one for the ages.
Main image credit Embed from Getty Images