The 5 best seasons by White Sox pitchers

December 14th, 2020

CHICAGO -- Here’s a look at the top individual seasons by White Sox pitchers in franchise history.

1. Ed Walsh, 1908
Key fact: Set a White Sox single-season record with 40 wins

Much like Frank Thomas offensively, there are seven seasons to pick from when selecting Walsh’s best individual effort. As an example, Walsh set the franchise’s single-season ERA record with his 1.27 mark produced over 369 2/3 innings and 45 games in 1910, and he won 27 games in both '11 and '12. But his performance in '08 gets the nod.

Walsh finished 40-15 with a 1.42 ERA over 66 games (49 starts). He threw 42 complete games and 11 shutouts, both White Sox records. Walsh threw an astounding 464 innings, yet another franchise best, and fanned 269 against 56 walks. His strikeouts rank second in club history behind Chris Sale’s 274 in 2015.

For the record, Walsh has four of the White Sox top five single-season strikeout totals. He holds three of the top six individual-season win marks and four of the best seven ERAs. Let’s not forget Walsh had five seasons with at least 368 2/3 innings pitched.

2. Eddie Cicotte, 1917
Key fact: Allowed 100 fewer hits than innings pitched

Cicotte won 29 games in 1919, but his ’17 season was a bit better. He finished 28-12 with a 1.53 ERA, sitting fifth among the White Sox all-time single-season marks. Cicotte made 35 starts among his 49 games, throwing 29 complete games and seven shutouts within his 346 2/3 innings. Cicotte had an American League-leading 174 ERA+ and 0.912 WHIP.

3. Chris Sale, 2015
Key fact: Set single-season franchise strikeout record with 274

Remember the discussion concerning the plethora of great seasons turned in by Walsh? Well, that same concept holds true for Sale, only from the left side. Sale began his career with 79 games out of the bullpen from 2010-11, but he was an All-Star starter each of his next five in Chicago.

His 2015 season gets the nod because of the 274 strikeouts, breaking Walsh's record that stood for 106 years. Sale led the AL with a 2.73 FIP (against a 3.41 ERA), 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings and a 6.52 strikeout-to-walk ratio. From May 12-July 11, Sale struck out 131 over 92 innings in 12 starts. He walked only 13 and yielded 56 hits in that stretch, reaching double-digit strikeouts in 10 of those 12 trips to the mound, including eight straight.

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4. LaMarr Hoyt, 1983
Key fact: Won the American League Cy Young Award

Hoyt was joined by Floyd Bannister and Richard Dotson as an unstoppable starting rotation trio for the AL West champs, managed at that point by current manager Tony La Russa. Hoyt’s numbers were great -- a 24-10 record and 3.66 ERA over 36 starts, including 11 complete games. The right-hander allowed 236 hits and 31 walks over 260 2/3 innings, capturing one of three Cy Youngs in White Sox history.

But Hoyt almost couldn’t be defeated in the second half of the 1983 season. He went 15-2 with a 3.16 ERA over 18 starts after the All-Star break, as the White Sox pulled away and cruised to the postseason.

5. Bobby Thigpen, 1990
Key fact: Set the MLB single-season saves record

Thigpen’s 57 saves stood as the Major League record for almost two decades, until the Angels’ Francisco Rodríguez broke that mark in 2008. Thigpen's total could have been even higher, as he finished with eight blown saves.

Thigpen earned 12 saves in his 13 opportunities in September and October. His 1.83 ERA was the second-lowest mark of his career, while he led the AL in games pitched (77) and games finished (73) and struck out 70 over 88 2/3 innings. Thigpen finished fourth in AL Cy Young Award voting and fifth in AL MVP Award voting.

Honorable mentions

Bobby Jenks, 2007
There were a number of individual highlights from a dismal 2007 White Sox season, and one of them was Jenks retiring 41 straight batters. The Chicago closer, who had 40 saves and a 2.77 ERA, set down 41 in a row in a span of 14 outings, a run that ended on Aug. 20 via a Joey Gathright leadoff single.

Early Wynn, 1959
Wynn helped the White Sox reach the World Series by virtue of his 22-10 record and 3.17 ERA over 37 starts. He won the AL Cy Young Award.

Jack McDowell, 1993
The White Sox third (and most recent) Cy Young Award belongs to McDowell, meaning all three also came during years in which Chicago reached the postseason. The right-hander went 22-10 with a 3.37 ERA, 10 complete games and four shutouts. He had a 59-30 record from 1991-93.

Lucas Giolito, 2019
Giolito turned a rough 2018 into one of the better seasons in franchise history the following year. His 228 strikeouts stand seventh in White Sox history, and he went 14-9 with a 3.41 ERA.

Eddie Cicotte, 1919
Cicotte had 29 wins, 30 complete games and a 1.82 ERA.

Wilbur Wood, 1972
Wood finished 24-17 with a 2.51 ERA in 49 starts. He recorded 20 complete games and eight shutouts, striking out 193 over 376 2/3 innings, which rank fourth by a White Sox pitcher in a single season.

Esteban Loaiza, 2003
Only parts of two seasons cover Loaiza’s White Sox tenure, but he finished second in AL Cy Young voting in his only full season with the team in 2003. He went 21-9 with a 2.90 ERA and 207 strikeouts over 226 1/3 innings. He started that Spring Training as a non-roster invitee and eventually started the All-Star Game for the AL.

Chris Sale, 2014, '16
Sale had a 2.17 ERA in 2014, while going 12-4. He started the ’16 season with wins in each of his first nine starts, posting a 1.58 ERA during that stretch.

Billy Pierce, 1955
Pierce’s 1.97 ERA was a career best over 33 games (26 starts). He hurled 16 complete games and six shutouts.

Mark Buehrle, 2002
The southpaw was the model of consistency, producing 11 straight seasons with double-digit victories, at least 30 starts and at least 200 innings pitched while with the White Sox. If not for a two-out, two-run, eighth-inning home run by Bobby Kielty during his final start of 2002, Buehrle would have recorded his lone 20-win season.

Doc White, 1907
The southpaw won 27 games and had a 2.26 ERA over 291 innings.