For the first time in 11 years, the White Sox really found themselves scrambling for innings from their starters.
In previous years, the lack of 200-inning -- nay, 150-inning -- guys would have been a death sentence. This season, the strong performances by Chris Sale and Jake Peavy anchored the rotation enough to turn the other gaps into something closer to cracks, and the patch job was almost good enough to win. If you have higher standards of the offense, you could say the starters got the job done.
The rotation occasionally wobbled from turn to turn -- when there was a rotation, anyway. Sometimes Robin Ventura couldn't quite figure out who might be his starter three days down the line, so it lacked the looping a regular five-deep staff provides. It was difficult for starters to fall into a groove, and sometimes the Sox paid the price when talent was stretched too thin.
That said, inconsistency swings both ways. On the down side, some starters were chewed up and spit out and traded for Kevin Youkilis somehow. However, Ventura's Sox also benefited from an unusual number of strong starts, including some by unlikely sources. White Sox starters posted game scores of 80 or better in nine different starts, which is the most in any season since the 1993 White Sox posted 10.
Nobody's going to confuse Sale, Peavy, Gavin Floyd and Jose Quintana for Jack McDowell, Alex Fernandez, Wilson Alvarez and Jason Bere over the course of a full season. Sometimes they could fool you for a day, though. And one time, one guy really fooled everybody.
No. 9: Chris Sale, 80
June 22 | 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K | Highlights
In what was his second highly touted pitching duel, his bout with Zack Greinke lived up to the billing. They matched each other pitch for pitch through eight innings, with the Brewers finally breaking through in the 10th inning off Jesse Crain. Sale came out of the game with a no-decision, but lowered his ERA to 2.24.
No. 4(t): Jake Peavy, 81
April 28 | 9 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K | Highlights
Peavy would have loved a no-decision. Instead, he pitched a beautiful complete game and lost it, 1-0, to the Boston Red Sox. Hd ropped to 3-1 on the season, and it would be the first of many hard-luck defeats to come his way.
No. 4(t): Chris Sale, 81
May 28 | 7⅓ IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 15 K | Highlights
Sale fell one strikeout short of matching the franchise's single-game record for strikeouts, set by Jack Harshman on July 25, 1954. He had to settle for a tight 2-1 victory over Matt Moore and the Tampa Bay Rays. Let's watch:
No. 4(t): Chris Sale, 81
June 9 | 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K | Highlights
Normally I'd say that the 107-loss Houston Astros were a gross mismatch for Sale. But then I remembered that the Astros took two of three from the Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, so the Astros deserved a beating. Sale did his part in a 10-1 victory.
No. 4(t): Jose Quintana, 81
July 5 | 8 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K | Highlights
Prior to this start, Quintana had thrown eight shutout innings in two starts, and couldn't get a win out of either of them. In this one, he allowed a run in the fourth inning, and so the Sox scored two for him.
No. 4(t): Chris Sale, 81
Aug. 22 | 7⅔ IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 13 K, 1 HR | Highlights
This was Chris Sale's final overpowering start of the season, and the Sox needed every out of it. Another game with more than a dozen strikeouts, another 2-1 victory.
No. 2(t): Jake Peavy, 84
April 23 | 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 2 BB, 5 K | Highlights
This was the front end of Peavy's consecutive complete games back in April, and this one had a much happier ending, as Peavy outdueled Bartolo Colon in a 4-0 victory in Oakland.
No. 2(t): Hector Santiago, 84
Oct. 1 | 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 1 BB, 10 K | Highlights
Sure, it's a start against a post-collapse opponent playing out the string in the final series of the season, but Santiago needed to show up to bolster his standing for the 2013 pitching staff. He certainly opened some eyes when he struck out 10 Indians over seven easy innings.
No. 1: Philip Humber, 96
April 21 | 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 BB, 9 K | Highlights
"Do you believe a kid from Nacogdoches, Texas can pitch a perfect game?"
That line, delivered by Central Casting Jeremy Piven during a commercial for the Illinois Lottery, became more poignant as Humber's season staggered toward the finish line. If you only saw Humber's ERA and WHIP at the end of the year, it would truly be impossible. I'm not sure if that helps or hurts lottery sales.
And it's only going to be more difficult to believe as time marches on, because you can also phrase a couple other questions in the form of a "Do you believe a kid from " question. Such as:
- Do you believe a kid from Nacogdoches, Texas, owns the second-highest game score for a nine-inning game by any White Sox pitcher since 1918? (Only Gary Peters on July 15, 1963 was better).
- Do you believe a kid from Wichita Falls, Texas, is tied for fourth with a game score at 94, along with the best game scores ever posted by Mark Buehrle and Billy Pierce?
Weird game. Weird season.