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White Sox 4 CGs in '05 ALCS thing of past?

Cooper, Pierzynski say today's bullpen specialization won't allow it to happen
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper and A.J. Pierzynski probably didn't agree on everything during Pierzynski's successful eight-year-run as the club's catcher.

But there's one opinion they definitely share: The White Sox four straight complete games thrown in the American League Championship Series en route to a 2005 World Series championship won't be matched.

CHICAGO -- White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper and A.J. Pierzynski probably didn't agree on everything during Pierzynski's successful eight-year-run as the club's catcher.

But there's one opinion they definitely share: The White Sox four straight complete games thrown in the American League Championship Series en route to a 2005 World Series championship won't be matched.

"It will never happen again. Ever," Pierzynski said during a recent interview. "You will never probably even see two complete games in a row."

"Listen, the odds are definitely against it: the four complete games, and we almost had five," Cooper said. "I don't see that happening again with specialization."

For those who don't remember, the White Sox won the ALCS in five games over the Angels with Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia and Jose Contreras going the full nine in each of the four victories. Contreras worked 8 1/3 innings during a 3-2 loss in Game 1.

Video: Cooper discusses how easy it was to coach Buehrle

Astros right-hander Justin Verlander threw the only complete game during the entire 2017 playoffs, doing so in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Yankees. There were 10 instances in total where a starting pitcher worked seven innings or more, while the White Sox alone reached that goal during 11 of 12 starts in '05.

Cooper mentioned bullpen specialization, a concept taken to a new level by Indians manager Terry Francona during the 2016 playoffs in using Andrew Miller at the game's most important point regardless of the inning. But even with Francona's best reliever gone, he still had other quality options such as Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw.

That sort of bullpen usage would be virtually impossible to play out over a 162-game season. But it makes sense during a win-at-all-costs postseason series.

"I'm still a believer in the starter has to handle the bulk of the work. I guess a lot of baseball is because they pay those starters a lot more," Cooper said, referring to the regular season. "You better have qualified guys in the bullpen to go to the 'pen in the third and fourth. You better have lots of length and guys you are pleased with bringing in.

"The more depth you got, the better because then they might be interchangeable parts. Hopefully you can sustain the good bullpen by giving them the rest needed for them to go out and give you the stuff you are expecting them to do on a regular basis."

Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green anchored the Yankees' playoff bullpen in 2017, turning contests into a four- or five-inning game. The Royals featured similar quality relief depth at the core of their 2014-15 World Series appearances.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn took apart last year's bullpen via trades as part of the rebuild, but he understands its importance to a championship-caliber team. Some of the special frontline arms currently targeted for the rotation eventually could end up in relief roles.

Video: Prospects Kopech, Jimenez could join White Sox soon

Regardless of that talent breakdown, playoff games are approached differently now compared to what the White Sox accomplished on the mound 12 years ago.

"You can't just go off of a script. You have to kind of go by feel. That has changed because of the analytics," Pierzynski said. "I get it. I like analytics. But there's not as much feel for the game, as much as, 'This is our plan and we have to do it no matter what.'"

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox