The 14 best pitches in White Sox history: Who threw it best?

The 14 best pitches in White Sox history: Who threw it best?

Many men have thrown pitches for the White Sox over the course of their more than 100-year history, but these 14 pitches were the best to ever grace the South Side.

14. Shingo Takatsu’s frisbee curve

Shingo wasn’t in Chicago for long, but he was able to make an impression. He was nearly unhittable for most of 2004, and one of his biggest weapons was his “frisbee” curve. There aren’t many pitches that cause the crowd to gasp, but the frisbee did just that, often thrown too slow to even register a reading on the radar. Many batters were frozen by the slo-mo offering, which Shingo saved for when he really needed it. It looked super slow, even compared to his mid-80s fastball.

13. Carlos Rodon’s slider

Whereas Chris Sale’s slider sweeps down and into the right-handed batters box, Rodon’s seems to dart down toward the plate more suddenly. Perhaps that’s the illusion he creates because he doesn’t have the long arms and lanky frame that Sale has. Regardless, Rodon’s power slider has been his bread and butter ever since he was drafted out of N.C. State and has racked up many a strikeout.

12. Ted Lyons’ sailer

The winningest pitcher in White Sox history (260 wins), Lyons’ best pitch was referred to as his “sailer,” though descriptions of the pitch sound like the pitch we know today as the cutter. The October 1927 issue of "Baseball Magazine" said it was a “peculiar fast ball that ... will swerve from a straight line as much of a foot or more, breaking somewhat like a curve.” Lyons also featured a knuckleball, particularly later in his career. Whatever he threw, Lyons was the ultimate pitch-to-contact hurler, averaging 2.3 strikeouts per nine innings. It was a winning formula; he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1955.

11. Bobby Jenks’ fastball

When the big right-hander began to emerge from the White Sox bullpen in mid-2005, he brought a fastball that most White Sox fans hadn’t seen before. Maybe that’s because pitch speeds on telecasts were still relatively new, and before that you couldn’t see one 100 after another because the technology wasn’t there to bring it to us. Either way, Jenks' triple-digit heat was an unexpected surprise for the 2005 White Sox down the stretch and throughout the playoffs.

10. Jose Contreras’ forkball

The White Sox brought in Jose Contreras at the 2004 trade deadline after he struggled to get going with the Yankees. He was red hot down the stretch in 2005 and into 2006, and ended up the Game 1 starter in the 2005 World Series. The secret to his success was a forkball which darted sharply downward as it reached the plate. Contreras’ massive hands were an asset; he held the ball deep in his hand (as opposed to the split-finger pitch, which is held further up in the hand) with his fingers spread wide apart. His grip almost hurt to watch.

9. Red Faber’s spitball

After the spitball was banned in 1920, Faber was one of the 17 pitchers grandfathered in and allowed to continue throwing the slippery pitch. Faber hung around long enough to be one of the last two legal practitioners of the pitch, along with Burleigh Grimes. He managed to set a White Sox career record with 254 wins (later passed by Lyons) over 20 seasons. Faber (as well as his catcher, Ray Schalk) maintained that he used the spitter only occasionally, making sure to keep batters off guard from his diet of fastballs and curves. It clearly worked; Faber entered Cooperstown in 1964.

8. Wilbur Wood’s knuckleball

Wilbur Wood was fortunate to arrive in Chicago at the right time — the big knuckleballer had the opportunity to learn from the master — Hoyt Wilhelm. Unlike Wilhelm, “Wilbah” used his knuckler primarily as a starter (though he broke in as a reliever), and the reduced strain of throwing the pitch allowed him to amass incredible workloads during the early 1970s. According to the "Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers" (2004), Wood’s knuckleball is ranked as the third best all-time, after Wilhelm and Phil Niekro.

7. Mark Buehrle’s changeup

Buehrle controlled the pace of any game he pitched. And armed with a fastball that topped out around 90 mph (later in his career, he was in the mid 80s), Buehrle had to change speeds to survive, and his changeup was the key to induce weak contact and double-play grounders. He racked up more than 200 wins and 3,000 innings despite being a 38th-round draft pick.

6. Eddie Cicotte’s shine ball

Eddie Cicotte is best known for being one of the “Eight Men Out” on the 1919 “Black Sox,” but he had a near-Hall of Fame-caliber career. He was known for his knuckleball, but arguably the best pitch in his arsenal was the shine ball. According to his teammate Frank Shellenback in an April 1948 issue of "Baseball Digest":

“Eddie darkened the ball on one side by rubbing it in the dirt. Then he slickened the ball by rubbing it vigorously on his pants. ... The process camouflaged the ball perfectly. The ball, thrown with blazing speed, rotating quickly, and showing the white side only at split-second intervals, baffled batters completely.”

5. Jack McDowell’s split-finger

Over a three-year span from 1991 to 1993, “Black Jack” McDowell averaged a 20-10 record, a 3.32 ERA and 13 complete games per season, taking home the AL Cy Young Award in 1993. His money pitch was the split-finger fastball. As McDowell noted on his 1992 Pinnacle baseball card: “The split-fingered fastball can be used both as a breaking pitch and a changeup. The difference is usually achieved by varying the grip and spreading the fingers. The most effective method is to create top-spin or down-spin on the ball.”

4. Goose Gossage’s fastball

Gossage had an intimidating presence and a fastball to match. He (along with Nolan Ryan) was clocked at 103 mph at the 1978 All-Star Game. Had there been speed readings on every pitch as there are today, the Goose would be considered a bigger star than he was. His fame was at its peak with the late-1970s Yankees, but he most likely threw his hardest coming up with the White Sox in the early 1970s.

3. Hoyt Wilhelm’s knuckleball

Not just the best knuckleball in White Sox history, but Hoyt’s fluttering offering is generally regarded as the best of its kind in major league history. Writing in the April 13, 1968, issue of "The New Yorker," Roger Angell had this to say of Wilhelm’s knuckler: “The ball sailed up, made a sudden small swerve, like a moth in a hallway, and flumped feebly into the catcher’s glove. ... He delivers the pitch with approximately the same effort as a man tossing a pair of socks into a laundry hamper.”

2. Chris Sale’s slider

One of the nastiest pitches in the game, Chris Sale’s slider looks even nastier with the combination of his long, lanky frame and three-quarters delivery. When the ball leaves his hand from the first-base side and sweeps across the plate, it looks like it moves 10 feet sideways. Hitters have no chance, whether coming in on a righty or sweeping away from a lefty.

1. Ed Walsh’s spitball

“Big Ed” Walsh carved out a Hall of Fame career using the spitball, which of course can’t be used now; it was banned in 1920. But it was a legal delivery back when Walsh took the mound in the deadball era, and his 1.82 career ERA is the best of all-time. Hall of Fame outfielder Sam Crawford described Walsh’s wet one this way: "He threw a spitball. I think that ball disintegrated on the way to the plate, and the catcher put it back together again. I swear, when it went past the plate, it was just the spit went by."

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Former White Sox pitcher and Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale to undergo Tommy John surgery

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USA TODAY

Former White Sox pitcher and Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale to undergo Tommy John surgery

Headline: Former White Sox pitcher and Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale to undergo Tommy John surgery

Byline: Vinnie Duber

We don't know when the 2020 baseball season will start. But we know Chris Sale won't be pitching when it does.

The former White Sox ace is slated for Tommy John surgery, the Boston Red Sox announced on Thursday, ending weeks of speculation that the guy who pitched the final outs of the 2018 World Series would undergo the procedure.

The White Sox dealt Sale away in December 2016, jumpstarting their rebuilding effort with a blockbuster trade that brought Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech to the South Side. After struggling in 2018, Moncada broke out in a big way, emerging as the best all-around hitter on the team in 2019. Kopech spent 2019 recovering from his own Tommy John surgery and figures to make his return to the big league mound at some point this season.

Sale's surgery is the latest blow for a Red Sox team that's gone through a rapid fall from grace after winning the World Series just 17 months ago.

Their epic championship hangover kept them out of the postseason last year. As they stumbled through 2019, they fired their top baseball executive, Dave Dombrowski. This winter, they were involved in their own sign-stealing scandal (which still hasn't reached a resolution), and their manager, Alex Cora, is one of the prominent figures in the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal. He lost his job, too. On top of it all, they dumped two massive salaries in a trade that sent their best player, Mookie Betts, to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team they beat to win the World Series.

Though the Red Sox are on a pronounced downturn, and the White Sox seemingly on an upswing, it's pointless to suggest that the White Sox "won the trade." After all, Sale has a World Series ring on his finger, and the Red Sox probably don't win that championship without him. That gives them the emphatic win.

Of course, the White Sox can still win the trade if Moncada and Kopech become key contributors on a championship team. Then both teams can claim victory in the trade.

RELATED: Watch these three Sox moonshots from 2019

The situation certainly presents an interesting case study in the short vs. long-term goals of organizations across the game.

The Red Sox dealt away two of the highest rated prospects in baseball and mortgaged their future for a shot at short-term glory, with Sale leading their rotation. And it worked. But now, they're seeing the dangers of such a move, with Sale, who's entering the first season of a five-year, $145 million contract, facing an uncertain future.

Meanwhile, the White Sox traded away a pitcher who could have been the anchor of a menacing rotation. The short-term was sacrificed while Moncada, Kopech and the rest of the young core developed, and now, the future is incredibly bright.

Moncada and Kopech have a chance to do more in White Sox uniforms than Sale ever did. He spent seven seasons on the South Side and never played in a postseason game.

It's a bummer for baseball fans, who have to live without one of the game’s best pitchers. Of course, they have to live without any sort of baseball at the moment...

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Adam Eaton won the World Series, but no, the White Sox did not 'lose the trade'

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USA TODAY

Adam Eaton won the World Series, but no, the White Sox did not 'lose the trade'

Adam Eaton is a World Series champion. Just like Chris Sale before him.

Yes, the players the White Sox dealt away on consecutive days during the Winter Meetings in 2016 have won consecutive championships: Sale got the final outs for the Boston Red Sox last October, and Eaton played a sizable role — a .320/.433/.560 slash line with two homers, six RBIs and five runs scored in seven games — in winning the first World Series in Washington Nationals history.

White Sox fans likely won't view those facts as good signs for their favorite club, what with teams reaping the benefits of players the White Sox once employed while the South Siders themselves have lost a total of 284 games since making those trades three years ago.

But it's important to remember that teams don't care about beating the team they traded with. They care about beating their opponents on the field and winning championships. In that sense, yes, the Red Sox and Nationals have "won" the trades. But that doesn't mean the White Sox can't win them, too.

In fact, the states of those trades, from a White Sox perspective, are looking infinitely better than they did a year ago. Rick Hahn's front office hauled in seemingly terrific prospect packages in both those deals, acquiring Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech (among others) for Sale and the pitching trio of Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning for Eaton.

In 2018, Moncada struck out 217 times, Giolito was statistically the worst pitcher in baseball, Kopech made four brief big league starts before having Tommy John surgery, Dunning was battling injuries en route to eventual Tommy John surgery and Lopez — was actually fine and probably the White Sox best big league starting pitcher.

One year later, Moncada has blossomed into the best all-around hitter on the team, Giolito is an All Star and the ace of the staff, Kopech is nearly through his recovery and set to make an impact in 2020, Dunning is similarly making his way through recovery mode and Lopez — was actually frustratingly inconsistent in 2019 to the point of his long-term future in the rotation being a frequent discussion topic.

Moncada, Giolito and Kopech are three of the reasons why the White Sox future looks so bright. And while Kopech has still yet to show what he can do at the major league level, Moncada and Giolito are fresh off sensational seasons that show the hype that accompanied their acquisitions way back when might have been warranted. Dunning and Lopez could similarly play roles for contending teams.

If we're judging the Red Sox and Nationals' championships as "wins" in these specific trades, then the White Sox are certainly able to grab their own "wins" should the players they got in those trades lead to titles. That was obviously the hope for all sides when the trades were made. The Red Sox and Nationals, being in contending modes, were in a much better position to grabs "wins" than the rebuilding White Sox, who were planning for years in the future.

It's also important to think about the alternatives: What would the White Sox have accomplished in keeping Sale and Eaton? The 2016 team they were dealt away from lost 84 games. It's not as if the White Sox were in a position to contend with those two guys on the roster. They might be in that position soon with the guys they got in those trades.

So congratulations to Eaton. But even with two championships in two years for the guys they traded away, it's still way too early to determine how those deals worked out for the White Sox.

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