White Sox

White Sox

One of the biggest keys to the success of the 2005 White Sox was the solid bullpen, with several pitchers having career years at the same time. Dustin Hermanson was one of those pitchers. Remember that guy?

Dustin Hermanson was born December 21, 1972 in Springfield, Ohio. He played basketball as well as baseball at Kenton Ridge High School in Springfield; he was 10-0 with an 0.56 ERA as a senior.

The big righthander was drafted 3rd overall behind Paul Wilson (Mets) & Ben Grieve (A’s), and 10 picks before the Dodgers selected Paul Konerko, in the 1994 MLB Draft. He’s one of two top-5 picks ever drafted out of Kent State University (Steve Stone’s teammate there Thurman Munson was 4th overall in 1968). Hermanson was dominant in the Texas League in 1994, posting an 0.43 ERA in 16 games (21.0 IP, 13 Hits, 30 K) and had a brief trial at triple-A Las Vegas. Entering the 1995 season, he was ranked 18th on the Baseball America top-100 prospects list and started the season at Las Vegas.

Hermanson made his MLB debut on May 8, 1995; he was the first player from the 1994 MLB draft to reach the Majors. Dustin faced three batters and retired all three; the first batter he faced was Gwynn – Chris Gwynn – and he struck him out. Hermanson recorded the win, and he’s one of only four pitchers in Padres history to record a win in relief in a Major League debut, along with Larry Hardy, Jeremy Fikac and Gerardo Reyes.

In both 1995 and 1996, Hermanson shuffled back and forth from San Diego to Las Vegas, and couldn’t find his footing. On November 21, 1996, the Padres dealt Hermanson to the Marlins in exchange for Quilvio Veras, but before he could get a chance to pitch in Miami, he was dealt again – this time with Joe Orsulak and they were sent to Montreal for Cliff Floyd. It was the change of scenery Dustin Hermanson needed. For four straight seasons, Hermanson made at least 28 starts, pitching 150+ innings and had an adjusted ERA+ of 100 or better (100 is league average). On April 16, 1997, Hermanson put his name on the short list of pitchers in MLB history to homer in his first big league at-bat, taking Shane Reynolds of the Astros deep. His next appearance was his first Major League start, which he won on April 22, 1997 at Olympic Stadium against the Cubs. He finished his first full MLB season 8-8 with a 3.69 ERA and followed it up with a 14-11 record and 3.13 ERA in 1998.

 

Dustin was the Expos’ opening day starter in both 1999 (a win) and 2000 (a loss). Hermanson was shifted to the bullpen after a few rough starts in May 2000 but eventually returned to the rotation in June. In December 2000, the Expos packaged Dustin with reliever Steve Kline and shipped them off to the Cardinals for Fernando Tatis and Britt Reames. After a fairly average season in St. Louis (14-13, 4.45 ERA) in which he had his first taste of postseason action (3 perfect innings and a hold in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Diamondbacks), Hermanson was on the move again, this time to Boston, in exchange for pitchers Rick Asadoorian & Luis Garcia and first baseman Dustin Brisson. He struggled with injuries and made it into only 12 games in 2002. 2003 was split between the Cardinals, who released him midseason, and the Giants. In 2004, Hermanson flipped between starting and relieving until settling into the closer’s role for good in August, collecting 17 saves by the end of the year. After a mediocre 4.53 ERA, Hermanson was now a free agent again.

On December 8, 2004, Hermanson signed with the White Sox. He had to serve a single-game suspension for hitting Jeff Kent with a pitch the previous September. After that, he was a revelation. Through the end of May, he had pitched 19 times and had yet to allow a run in 21.0 innings. By the end of May, he had taken over the closer’s role from Shingo Takatsu. Hermanson finally allowed his first runs of the season on June 1 and blew his first save (after starting his White Sox career 15 for 15 in save opportunities) on June 11 in San Diego. Hermanson headed into the All-Star Break with a 1.53 ERA and 21 saves, but surprisingly did not receive All-Star recognition. Hermanson was still pretty good after the All-Star break (2.86 ERA in 24 appearances), but he was slowed by a sore lower back and was used sparingly in September while Bobby Jenks picked up the slack.

As the White Sox made their historic 11-1 run in the 2005 postseason, Hermanson made only one appearance – that being in Game 3 of the World Series. He came into the game in the 8th inning trying to preserve a 5-4 lead with two out and runners on first and second.  Unfortunately, he allowed a game-tying double before getting Brad Ausmus to strikeout. And the game continued on to the 14th inning.

 

In 2006, Hermanson’s back woes prevented him from getting into a game until September and he made it into only six games. The White Sox declined his option for 2007 and went to spring training with the Reds, but never made it back to the Majors.

Collecting a blown save in the World Series can’t diminish an incredible 2005 season. If it weren’t for the contributions by the bullpen throughout the regular season, it’s possible that the White Sox wouldn’t have reached the postseason, let alone win the World Series. Hermanson was a key player in that respect.

He was the third overall pick in the draft and finished with a 12-year MLB career where he won 73 games and posted a 4.21 ERA. He was on a World Series-winning team. He even hit a pair of home runs. Here’s a fun fact: he tossed two career shutouts – both with the Expos and both caught by his future 2005 White Sox teammate Chris Widger.

Hermanson can be found in several “best facial hair” photo galleries online for his unique goatee. According to an October 9th David Haugh article in the Chicago Tribune: “Hermanson shaves his beard in the design of a peace sign, in part as a tribute to a heritage that makes him part-Cherokee and Seminole.”

Dustin Hermanson. We remember that guy.