Chicago White Sox: The 10 Greatest Seasons in the Last 35 Years

Matthew SmithCorrespondent IIINovember 26, 2012

Chicago White Sox: The 10 Greatest Seasons in the Last 35 Years

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    The Chicago White Sox enjoyed a season of surpassed expectations in 2012. Led by first-year manager Robin Ventura, the White Sox spent 117 days in first place before fading the final two weeks and finishing second to the Detroit Tigers.

    It was a great season on the South Side of Chicago for the White Sox.

    Where does the 2012 season rank in the annals of White Sox history over the past 25 years, though?

    A better question is: Which White Sox teams would make the list for the 10 greatest during that stretch?

    Is the 2005 World Series team the best, or does the 1983 "Winning Ugly" incarnation of the White Sox have the statistical edge? What about the "South Side Hitmen" of 1977 or the "Win or Die Trying" bunch from 2006?

    We shall see.

    Here are the Top 10 White Sox squads over the last 35 years, with one honorable mention.

    *Unless otherwise noted, all player statistics courtesy of BaseballReference.com

     

    @MatthewSmithBR

The How

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    To answer that question, we turned to the kind folks at BaseballReference.com.

    The list looked at overall record, runs scored, runs allowed, team batting average and team ERA in compiling the list.

    Starting with each team’s overall record as a launching point, an inverse ranking formula (10 points for the best, nine for the second and so on) was used to assemble a composite score for each team.

    The teams are ranked in order with overall record, followed by total runs scored breaking any tie.

Honorable Mention: 2012

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    Record: 85-77, Second in the AL Central

     

    Manager: Robin Ventura

     

    What went right

    The White exceeded most expectations and were so competitive in a relatively weak AL Central that general manager Kenny Williams went out and made some impressive acquisitions.

    Williams brought in third baseman Kevin Youkilis from the Boston Red Sox, Brent Myers from the Houston Astros and Francisco Liriano from the Minnesota Twins prior to the non-waiver trade deadline.

    Chris Sale (17-8, 3.05) and Jake Peavy led the rotation and several rookies proved their worth in the bullpen.

     

    What went wrong

    The White Sox were in first place for 63 straight days before going 4-11 over the final 15 games thanks in large part to their bats. The offense flat out disappeared during the most important stretch of the season.

    Overall, the offense ranked fourth in runs scored (748) and third in home runs (211), but placed eighth with a .255 batting average. The pitching staff was also mediocre, posting a 4.02 team ERA.

    The 2012 White Sox edged the 1985 and 1996 squads based on the inverse formula.

10. 2010

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    Record88-74, Second in AL Central

     

    Manager: Ozzie Guillen

     

    Total adjusted points: 19

     

    What went right

    The White Sox proved to be competitive in the only year Guillen was able to implement the DH-by-committee approach he had longed for.

    Juan Pierre led the league with 68 stolen bases and Paul Konerko had his best season to that point. The team captain belted 39 home runs, drove in 111 runs and finished the season with a .312 batting average.

     

    What went wrong

    The Minnesota Twins. That is what went wrong.

    A 5-13 record against the Twins was bad enough. To make matters worse, however, the average margin of victory for the Twins was one run per game.

    The losses were like salt in a wound and doomed the White Sox, who played so well against the rest of the American League.

    This is the first of a surprising five appearances by Guillen on the list.

9. 2008

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    Record: 89-74, First in AL Central

     

    Manager: Ozzie Guillen

     

    Total adjusted points: 20

     

    What went right

    The White Sox beat three different teams (Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins) in three different cities to end the season and make it to the postseason for the first time since 2005.

    Carlos Quentin had a monster season (.288, 35 home runs, 100 RBI and a .965 OPS), and Alexei Ramirez set a rookie record by hitting four grand slams.

    Finally, no one can forget the magical “Blackout” game against the Twins. 

    Jim Thome hit a mammoth solo shot over the wall in center field in the bottom of the seventh inning,which proved to be enough as the White Sox beat the Twins 1-0.

     

    What went wrong

    The White Sox were thoroughly outmatched in the postseason, losing 3-1 to the Tampa Bay Rays. That series was largely decided by poor pitching and the fact that Quentin was not available.

    His season ended when he broke his wrist reacting to a strikeout in late August.

8. 1977

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    Record: 90-72, Third in AL West

     

    Manager: Bob Lemon

     

    Total adjusted points: 22

     

    What went right

    The “South Side Hitmen” took Chicago by storm. Led by Richie Zisk (.290, 30 home runs and 101 RBI) and Oscar Gamble (.297, 31 home runs), the 1977 White Sox hit .278 as a team and scored 844 runs.

    The team also set an attendance record when 1,657,135 fans saw them play.

     

    What went wrong

    Much like in 2012, the bats went silent late in the season and the pitching staff underwhelmed, letting the division lead slip away in August.

    The White Sox finished in the lower third in team ERA (4.25) and dead last in hits allowed (1557) en route to giving up 771 earned runs.

     

    Fun Fact

    According to WhiteSox.com, 1977 was also the year that Nancy Faust played “Na Na, Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)” for the first time.

7. 2006

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    Record: 90-72, Third in AL Central

     

    Manager: Ozzie Guillen

     

    Total adjusted points: 22

     

    What went right

    Following a World Series victory in 2005, general manager Kenny Williams looked to lock up another crown by acquiring left-handed hitting designated hitter Jim Thome.

    The middle part of the order (Thome, Konerko and Jermaine Dye) combined for 121 home runs and 342 RBI as the White Sox hit .280 as a team.

    The Sox led the AL in home runs (236), slugging (.464) and total bases (2625) while scoring 868 runs.

     

    What went wrong

    Again, it was the pitching.

    The White Sox had a 4.61 team ERA in 2006. Each starter’s ERA was over 4.25, and the best reliever in the bullpen was Mike MacDougal.

    While pitching was the greatest factor in the run to the World Series the year prior, it would prove to be the downfall of the White Sox in 2006.

6. 1990

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    Record: 94-68, Second in AL West

     

    Manager: Jeff Torborg

     

    Total adjusted points: 22

     

    What went right

    The 1990 White Sox could pitch. Greg Hibbard (14-9, 3.16) and Eric King (12-4, 3.28) led the starting rotation while Barry Jones paced the bullpen with 11 victories.

    Bobby Thigpen was on fire all season, setting a record by converting on 57 save opportunities.

    Frank Thomas appeared in his first game on August 2.

    For the season, the White Sox' 3.61 team ERA was good for second best in the AL.

     

    What went wrong

    The Sox forgot how to hit for the majority of the year. Four regulars (Carlos Martinez, Scott Fletcher, Sammy Sosa and Robin Ventura) hit below .250, and Ozzie Guillen was tied for fourth on the team with 58 RBI.

    Arguably, the only stat worse than their .258 team batting average was their .699 OPS.

5. 2000

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    Record: 95-67, First in AL Central

     

    Manager: Jerry Manuel

     

    Total adjusted points: 22

     

    What went right

    The White Sox tore the cover off the baseball.

    They finished the year atop the AL with 978 runs scored, second in OPS (.826) and third in hits (1615), doubles (325) and batting average (.286).

    Led by AL Comeback Player of the Year Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez, the offense took the team to the postseason.

     

    What went wrong

    Once the White Sox got to the postseason, the bats went silent. Never mind the 4.61 team ERA in 2000, the White Sox could not hit when it mattered most.

    Thomas went 0-9 with four walks, and the team hit .185 and scored seven runs during the three-game sweep at the hands of the Seattle Mariners in the ALDS.

    Additionally, Mariners manager Lou Piniella got the best of Manuel in Game 3,calling for a safety squeeze in the bottom of the ninth inning to take the series.

    It was a painful way for a great season to end.

4. 1982

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    Record: 87-55, Third in AL West

     

    Manager: Tony LaRussa

     

    Total adjusted points: 23

     

    What went right

    The 1982 White Sox were an incredibly balanced team. They finished third in the AL with a 3.67 team ERA and were fifth overall with a .273 batting average.

    Salome Barojas led the bullpen in appearances (61) and saves (21) while tossing over 100 innings.

    Greg Luzinski and Harold Baines each had over 100 RBI while Tom Paciorek hit .312.

     

    What went wrong

    The White Sox had a woeful 3-10 record against the Kansas City Royals. Coupled with a poor record in both June (12-15) and July (11-16), the losses to the Royals proved to be too much to overcome.

     

    Fun Fact

    Kenny Williams was drafted in 1982.

3. 1993

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    Record: 94-68, First in AL West

     

    Manager: Gene Lamont

     

    Total adjusted points: 23

     

    What went right

    Almost everything. Jack McDowell won the Cy Young, and Frank Thomas was the AL MVP. Oh, Bo Jackson was the AL Comeback Player of the Year, and Gene Lamont won the AL Manager of the Year.

    The pitching staff led the league in ERA (3.61), runs (664) and earned runs allowed (598) while finishing second in shutouts (7) and saves (48).

    All around, it was a great season.

     

    What went wrong

    Carlton Fisk was unceremoniously released in Cleveland following a long feud with management. He was let go just six days after setting the record for most games caught.

    The White Sox lost to the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS in six games, losing all three at New Comiskey.

2. 1983

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    Record: 99-63, First in AL West

     

    Manager: Tony LaRussa

     

    Total adjusted points: 25

     

    What went right

    Following the All-Star break, nearly everything.

    Floyd Bannister went 13-1 in the second half, while the White Sox went 44-15 in August and September. LaMarr Hoyt won the AL Cy Young, finishing with a 22-10 record and a 3.66 ERA. Salome Barojas had another exceptional season, posting a 2.47 ERA in 52 appearances.

    Offensively, Ron Kittle won the AL Rookie of the Year after he hit 35 home runs and drove in 100 runs. Greg Luzinski belted 32 long balls, while Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk hit 26.

    The team had a .262 batting average but somehow finished first in runs scored (800).

     

    What went wrong

    The White Sox rolled into the postseason with a record 20-game lead over the Kansas City Royals but were not prepared for the Baltimore Orioles.

    The Orioles, behind some exceptional starting pitching, won three straight to close out the series. LaRussa made a questionable decision in Game 4 when he sent Britt Burns out for his tenth inning of work and was promptly shelled.

    The Orioles scored three times in the top of the tenth to win the series in four games.

    The squad's famous moniker, "Winning Ugly," was well earned and is still remembered.

1. 2005

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    Record: 99-63, First in AL Central

     

    Manager: Ozzie Guillen

     

    Total adjusted points: 24

     

    What went right

    The Whtie Sox won the World Series! That is what went right, and that is why they are No. 1 on the list.

    While the team almost let their division lead slip away, they put themselves in great position with incredible pitching and timely hitting.

    The starters, led by Jose Contreras, Jon Garland and Mark Buehrle, won 72 games, and the bullpen was lights out.

    Cliff Polite won seven games from the bullpen, and Neal Cotts posted a 1.94 ERA in 69 appearances.

    No offensive regular hit greater than .290, yet the White Sox seemingly always had a lead. Thanks to the combination of Scott Podsednik’s speed (59 stolen bases) and Tadahito Iguchi’s abilty to move him along (17 sacrifices), the team was often up 1-0 by the time the first inning was over.

    Their 11-1 run to the World Series was highlighted by four straight complete games. The Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels and Houston Astros never had a chance.

    What went wrong: Nothing.