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Chicago White Sox: 5 Best Starting Pitchers of All Time

Matthew SmithCorrespondent IIIDecember 27, 2016

Chicago White Sox: 5 Best Starting Pitchers of All Time

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    The Chicago White Sox and their fans are enjoying a Cy Young-caliber season from left-handed starting pitcher Chris Sale.

    His recent performance against the New York Yankees was simply another magical outing.  As he gave up one earned run while striking out 13, the wheels started turning. 

    Is he having one of the best single-season runs in White Sox history?  If not, then who did, and who are the greatest Sox pitchers of all time?

    It's number crunching time, everyone. Let’s see who the top five all-time White Sox starting pitchers are.

How Did We Get There?

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    The criterion used in ordering the list is based upon two things.  First, the raw numbers (taken from Baseball Reference) are taken into account and then the era each individual pitched in.  Wins above replacement (WAR) factored heavily into the rankings, as did ERA, wins, starts and hits per nine innings. 

    But numbers alone cannot be the sole means of ranking careers.

    As an example, Doc White had an ERA under 2.00 four times and in 1906, it was 1.52.  He posted all of his numbers before 1910, however, when ballparks were the size of polo grounds (literally) and runs were not scored as often.  Not to diminish his accomplishments, but the era has to be factored in.

    An attempt was made to balance each starter’s achievements with the era in which he pitched.  The numbers along with the times are taken into account, if you will, in order to rank each pitchers place in White Sox history.

    So, with that said, let’s start with those who just missed the cut.

Those Who Almost Made the Cut

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    The aforementioned Doc White deserves to be mentioned.  His career WAR of 31.6 ranks eight of all time, he sits seventh in victories with 159 and has a lifetime ERA of 2.30, which is good for fifth on the White Sox records list.  Stellar career to be sure, but it is not quite enough.

    Eddie Cicotte will never escape the stigma of throwing a World Series.  For as great as he was, he committed a cardinal sin and along with not being allowed into the Baseball Hall of Fame, he is not allowed on this list.  See what you get, Ed.

    While either one of them could have made the top tuna list, they didn’t.  So, without further delay, the top five starting pitchers in White Sox history are…

5. Billy Pierce

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    Billy Pierce dominated the 1950s.  He won 14 or more games eight times during the decade en route to 186 career victories while a member of the White Sox.  He holds a career WAR of 46.5, which is good for sixth best, pitched 193 complete games, finished his Sox career with a 3.19 ERA and struck out 1999.

    Not bad for a 160-pound southpaw.

    For many, Pierce was the face of the franchise for some time.  He was a key part of the Go-Go White Sox team of 1959 and earned seven All-Star nods while with the team.

    Combine all those factors with his production, and he slides in at No. 5.

4. Mark Buehrle

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    Mark Buehrle slides in at No. 4.  His 45.7 WAR and 161 victories are both in the top 10. He is also in the top 10 starts, innings pitched and walks per nine innings.

    Most impressive is his consistency and ERA.  During the heady days of the steroid era, he posted a career 3.83 ERA and won 10 games 11 years in a row with the White Sox.  Buehrle went 16-8 with a 3.12 ERA during the 2005 season when the Sox won the World Series.

    Buehrle was a leader on and off the field for the White Sox and he will go down as one of the best starting pitchers to suit up for the South Siders.

3. Ted Lyons

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    Ted Lyons is a name that many forget.  He pitched his entire 21-year career for the White Sox and won 10 games or more an astounding 17 times.  He owned a career WAR of 60.7, which is good for second of all time and is first in victories with 260.

    He did have some numbers that were not exceptional.  He owned a career ERA of 3.67, which is a bit high for the era. He also walked more batters than he struck out, but his career 1.348 WHIP more than makes up for that.

    Oh, he threw 356 complete games, placing him at the top of the all-time list.

2. Urban "Red" Faber

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    Urban “Red” Faber was a magician.  Famous for throwing the good old spitball, Faber started 20 games for 14 out of 16 years.

    During his 20 year career with the Sox, he had the best WAR of all time at 61.9, threw 273 complete games, started a White Sox record 484 games, recorded 1,471 strikeouts and won 254 games. 

    Each one of those stats rank in the top 10. 

    Giving each achievement a point per place and dividing by the total number of occurrences, Faber finished just behind the No. 1 all-time White Sox starting pitcher.

1. Ed Walsh

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    Ed Walsh is the best White Sox pitcher of all time.  The HOF pitcher’s stats are gaudy.

    He stands third in WAR at 59.6.  He is first in ERA with an incredible 1.81.  He won 195 games while striking out 1,732 and tossed 249 complete games.

    While those numbers are fantastic, they are not what make him the best White Sox starting pitcher of all time.

    What makes him tops on this list are his 57 shutouts.  That’s right, 57 complete-game shutouts set Walsh apart from every other pitcher who put on the uniform.  That is 15 more than Doc White and 22 more than Pierce who only pitched 15 fewer innings.

    Top-to-bottom, Walsh walks away as the best of all time.

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