Wilbur Wood was a freak of nature in the few years he served as a full-time starter for the White Sox. He led the AL in games started from 1972 to 1975. In four straight seasons, 1971-1974, he pitched more than 300 innings, leading the league in innings pitched in 1972 (376.2) and 1973 (359.1).
After four years pitching in relief for the White Sox, Wood hit the ground running when he entered the rotation in 1971. That year, he went 22-13 with a 1.91 ERA, striking out 210 batters and pitching seven shutouts. His 189 ERA-plus and 10.7 pitching wins above replacement were tops in the AL.
Wood earned The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year Award in 1972 while placing second in Cy Young voting behind Gaylord Perry. He was 24-17 that year, leading the league in wins while posting a 2.51 ERA and striking out 193 batters and walking only 1.77 batters per nine innings.
In 1973, Wood's ERA jumped almost a run to 3.46, but he still led the league in wins (24) while also losing the third most games (19). He led the AL with 138 earned runs allowed.
Wood didn't pitch another full season with an ERA below 3.50. In 1974, he posted a 3.60 ERA. Then, in 1975, his ERA was 4.11 and he led the AL with 133 earned runs allowed and 20 losses.
In 1976, Wood saw his career flash before his eyes went Detroit Tigers hitter Ron LeFlore dialed a line drive into Wood's left knee, shattering his knee cap.
Wood was never the same after that, posting a 4.99 ERA in 24 games (18 starts) in 1977, including an outing in which he hit three batter in an inning, and a 5.20 ERA in 28 games (27 starts) in 1978 before retiring.
Wood, a three-time All-Star, was solid in the bullpen before entering the rotation. He led the league in gamed pitched from 1968 to 1970, pitching a then-record 88 games in 1968 when he won The Sporting News Relief Pitcher of the Year Award. Wood posted a 1.87 ERA in 159 innings in 1968.
Wood is fifth in White Sox history in wins (163), innings pitched (2,524.1) and strikeouts (1,332).
Image courtesy of whitesoxinteractive.com.