White Sox

White Sox: Why Randy Johnson doesn't like Chris Sale comparison

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White Sox: Why Randy Johnson doesn't like Chris Sale comparison

Randy Johnson doesn’t think it’s fair to compare Chris Sale to himself.

That’s because Johnson, who will enter the Hall of Fame later this summer, didn’t enjoy the kind of success Sale — who told USA Today he looked up to Johnson growing up — is having in his mid-20’s.

"I'm flattered that he thinks of me that way,'' Johnson told USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. "But considering the fact he's just 26, he's light years away from where I was at that age. I didn't have that kind of success that early. I didn't have that control.”

Johnson made his major league debut as a 24-year-old with Montreal in 1988 and in 1989, his first full season, he walked 96 in 160 2/3 innings with a 4.82 ERA. In 1990, Johnson issued a league-leading 120 walks, though he was more effectively wild that year for the Mariners, posting a 3.65 ERA in his age-26 season.

[MORE: White Sox ace Chris Sale continues his staggering run of success]

In Johnson’s first 406 1/3 innings in the majors (between his age 24 and 26 seasons) he walked 223 batters. Sale, in 748 2/3 innings since debuting as a 21-year-old in 2010, has issued 190 walks.

The Sale-Johnson comparison is largely based on their tall, lanky builds, power fastballs and biting sliders. Johnson led the league in walks in 1991 (152) and 1992 (144), too, before getting his command under control by about his age 30 season.

That’s when Johnson’s career took off. From 1999-2002, Johnson won the Cy Young every year and averaged a 20-7 record, 258 innings, 354 strikeouts and a 2.48 ERA per season.

Johnson’s 12 complete games in 1999 were the most in baseball — and even though that was only 16 years ago, it was a different era. Sale led the American League with four complete games in 2013.

Sale has established himself as one of baseball’s best pitchers over the last four seasons, compiling a 2.82 ERA with 719 strikeouts in 654 1/3 innings since being moved from the White Sox bullpen to starting rotation in 2012. He’s earned bids to three consecutive All-Star games and finished in the top six in AL Cy Young voting from 2012-2014.

“He’s right up there with Johnson,” manager Robin Ventura, who faced “The Big Unit” 45 times in his career, said. “We do that because he’s left-handed but he’s right up there with any of those guys.”

[MORE: Carlos Rodon finding his groove in White Sox rotation]

Over Sale’s last four starts, he’s racked up 49 strikeouts against four walks in 30 2/3 innings. Narrow that down to his last three starts, and he joined Dodgers great Sandy Koufax as the only pitcher since 1900 to have 12 or more strikeouts and allow fewer than two runs in three consecutive starts.

Sandy Koufax and Randy Johnson. Those are pretty lofty left-handers to be compared to, but Sale’s doing his part to justify it.

"If I had to name the best five pitchers in the game, he’s one of them for sure,” Johnson told USA Today, “right along with Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez. He's just a very dominating pitcher right now."

White Sox free-agent focus: Dallas Keuchel

White Sox free-agent focus: Dallas Keuchel

This week, we’re profiling some of the biggest names on the free-agent market and taking a look at what kind of fits they are for the White Sox.

The White Sox need starting pitching, so why not bring in a guy with a Cy Young Award sitting on his mantle?

Dallas Keuchel is one of the two biggest names on the starting-pitching market this winter, along with Patrick Corbin, who will get more attention — and likely more dollars — because he's two years younger. But Keuchel's the guy with the track record, the AL Cy Young winner in 2015 (when he was also a top-five MVP finisher), a two-time All Star, a four-time Gold Glove winner and the owner of a 3.28 ERA over the past five seasons, during which he helped the Houston Astros transition from rebuilding to one of baseball's perennial contenders. You might have heard something about them winning the World Series in 2017.

It's true that things have been somewhat up and down for Keuchel since his Cy Young win. After posting a 2.48 ERA with a career-high 216 strikeouts in 33 starts during that 2015 season, he had a 4.55 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 26 starts in 2016, then a 2.90 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 23 starts in 2017 and a 3.74 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 34 starts last season. But three times in the last five years he's finished with an ERA under 3.00. In other words, he's pretty darn good.

How might he fit with the White Sox? Well, in terms of whether or not he lines up with their long-term plans. Keuchel's older than Corbin, but it's not like he's old. He'll be 31 on Opening Day 2019, and a long-term deal, which he's expected to fetch, would keep him around for another planned transition from rebuilding to contention. Keuchel — a veteran who's accomplished a lot already, including putting a World Series ring on his finger — could be viewed as a Jon Lester type for these rebuilding White Sox, a big name who buys into the front office's long-term plan and helps make those plans become reality.

And there's no doubt the White Sox are in the market for starting pitching this winter. Michael Kopech is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and the White Sox decided not to pick up James Shields' option for 2019. That leaves two holes in the starting rotation. An addition like Keuchel would be a long-term one, which means the White Sox would opt to make him a safety net for their still-developing fleet of young pitchers and choose not to roll the dice on a homegrown starting staff for 2020. However, if they're confident in a quintet of Kopech, Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease, then maybe they opt for a couple one-year fill-ins in 2019. Keuchel would not be a one-year fill-in.

Keuchel could also fill the role vacated by Shields, a veteran who could help bring along the young guys in an off-the-field mentor role. His experience going through the dark days of a rebuild — he was a member of Astros teams that lost a combined 310 games from 2012 to 2014 — and coming out the other end a world champ would also figure to be of value.

Of course, the White Sox wouldn't be alone in a pursuit of Keuchel, if they were interested. Thanks to Clayton Kershaw signing a new contract extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he's one of the two biggest names on the market when it comes to starting pitchers. The White Sox would likely have to go through the same bidding war and pitch of planned future success they would with other big names like Corbin, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

But there's no doubt Keuchel would be an upgrade to this rotation in 2019 and could provide plenty of value for years beyond.

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again, and the Big Hurt let 'em hear about it

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USA TODAY

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again, and the Big Hurt let 'em hear about it

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again.

The Worldwide Leader in Sports has made a habit of failing to remember the South Siders in recent years, most notably forgetting (on multiple occasions) that the White Sox did in fact win the 2005 World Series.

It happened enough times that A.J. Pierzynski had some opinions about it.

This time, the omission came in an effort to illustrate how good Mike Trout is, with ESPN researcher Paul Hembekides listing baseball players who appeared in the top four in MVP voting three or more times. Trout, the Los Angeles Angels superstar, has already done it seven times, and boy that is terrific.

But Hembekides left someone out. And that someone let him hear about it.

You tell 'em, Frank.

Yes, the Big Hurt finished in the top four of the AL MVP vote on six separate occasions: 1991 (third), 1993 (first), 1994 (first), 1997 (third), 2000 (second) and 2006 (fourth, while playing for the Oakland Athletics).

ESPN's blind spot for the White Sox doesn't end up meaning much of anything, though it's amusing that they've now managed to leave out a relatively recent World Series champion and a relatively recent first-ballot Hall of Famer.

We all make mistakes. But it's a little funny that ESPN's are, repeatedly, White Sox related.