At some point today, I am expecting to receive a “Happy Anniversary” text from a good friend of mine. Now, if it were anyone but him sending this message, I’d be a little confused (and pretty freaked out). But, him being a fellow White Sox fan, I know exactly what he is talking about: today, White Sox fans, is the 12th anniversary of the White Sox’ 2005 World Series Championship. Baseball Prospectus predicted the White Sox to finish in fourth place that year. Bleed Cubbie Blue had this to say about the Sox, who they predicted to finish 3rd:
3) CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Regardless of the source, no one saw the White Sox season coming. So what carried the White Sox to this surprise run? One word: pitching. In this article, let’s take a stroll down memory lane, relive the White Sox’ 2005 Postseason run, and take a look at some of the crucial statistics and moments that led to the title.
ALDS vs. Boston Red Sox: Defending World Series Champs No More
The White Sox finished the regular season 99-63, relying on their pitching and defense: 17th in BA, 22nd in OBP, 18th in OPS+, yet 1st in WAR for pitchers, 3rd in ERA (1st in ERA+), and 6th in DRS (defensive runs saved). So, as we all obviously expected, the White Sox used that league average offense to hammer out 14 runs in Game 1. However, Game 2 was truer to form, as the White Sox struggled to get anything going out of the gate. By the start of the bottom of the fifth, Baseball Reference had the White Sox at a 13% chance to win the game, down 4-0 at the time. The White Sox began chipping away, and after Iguchi’s Home Run off David Wells in the bottom of that inning, the White Sox jumped all the way to having a 67% chance to win the game. The White Sox would win that game by a score of 5-4, and would head into Fenway in control. When I say “Game 3 of the 2005 ALDS,” I doubt there are too many memories that come to mind before this one:
You know the rest of the story: Bobby Jenks finishes off the ninth, and the White Sox head to the ALCS.
What Led to the ALDS Victory: Clutch bullpen pitching and timely hitting. The White Sox got out of every situation they needed to when the time came – the relievers in the series did not give up a run. The biggest momentum shifter, in my opinion, was Graffanino’s error in the bottom of the fifth in Game 2. That led to Iguchi’s 3 run homer later in the inning, and the White Sox never trailed again in the series.
ALCS vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Complete (Game) Domination
Game 1, surprisingly, went to the Angels. I say surprisingly because after playing their third game in three consecutive days in a three different cities, no one expected Paul Byrd to outduel Jose Contreras in Game 1 (the Angels were helped by some poor sacrifice bunting by the Sox in the game). In Game 2, the most dominant run of Postseason pitching began. It started with a one-run, five hit outing from Mark Buehrle. However, this game looked destined for extra innings after Kelvim Escobar struck out A.J. Pierzynski. What followed is what I believe made A.J. Pierzynski such a solid baseball player: his awareness:
Crede followed it with a walk-off single after pinch runner Pablo Ozuna stole second. As for the rest of the series, Paul Konerko continued to crush baseballs into the seats in the first inning, while Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia, and Jose Contreras completed the most dominant 4 games of Postseason pitching to date. An often overlooked stat: Jose Contreras also went 8.1 innings in Game 1. In other words, the White Sox’ starting staff dominated this series, even in games they didn’t win. A ground-ball to ALCS MVP Konerko ended Game 5, and it was off to Chicago.
What Led to the ALCS Victory: I think you can figure this one out. The Sox scored early and often (16 runs combined in the first 5 innings), and the starters did the rest.
World Series vs. Astros: “Sweep Home Chicago”
This was an awesome World Series matchup: each game was decided by 2 runs or less. The Astros had just survived “The Albert Pujols Game,” and had earned their first World Series berth in their history. The White Sox were trying to end their 88 year World Series Championship drought. Someone was ending a long history of losing. Each game was memorable for its own reason. In Game 1, the Sox pounced on Roger Clemens early (with the help of a first inning homer by Jermaine Dye), who exited after just 53 pitches due to a re-aggravated hamstring injury. After a back-and-forth affair, and some dominant relief work by Neal Cotts, Ozzie Guillen made Game 1 memorable for all:
Jenks would come in to close out Game 1. Game 2 will go down, in my opinion, as the best of the 2005 World Series games. The Astros started off hot, up 4-2 going into the bottom of the 7th. Baseball Reference had the Astros’ win probability up at around 80%. After Jermaine Dye’s “Hit by Pitch”, Paul Konerko came to the plate againt Chad Qualls, and he had something to say about that 80% win probability:
Now, I’m biased because Konerko was my favorite player, but that was quite possibly the biggest moment of that game – the win probability for the Sox changed from 28% before the Grand Slam to 86% after. When Jenks couldn’t close it out in the top of the ninth, Scott Podsednik played the hero, hitting a walk-off homer (Chuck Garfien did an awesome interview with him and talked about that moment; it’s an incredible interview to listen to).
Game 3 was the Geoff Blum game. The Sox were down 4-0 after 4 innings, and the Astros looked like they had gained some momentum at home. But a five-run fifth for the Sox got them right back into the game, which wouldn’t end for another 9 innings after that:
It’s a Jeopardy question only a Sox fan would get: “The White Sox hitter who hit a home run in the top of the 14th in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series.” Not Konerko. Not Dye. Not even Podsednik. Geoff Blum. Mark Buehrle closed out the bottom of the 14th, and by doing so, became the first pitcher to start a game in the World Series and earn a save in the next one since Bob Turley of the 1958 Yankees. Game 4 was a classic pitchers’ duel between Brandon Backe and Freddy Garcia. By completing 7 scoreless innings each, the two completed the longest World Series scoreless stretch since Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. Jermaine Dye broke the tie in the top of the 8th, and you know the rest:
I still get chills from this.
By going 11-1 in the playoffs, the 2005 White Sox cemented themselves as one of the two most dominating playoff teams in Postseason history – they joined the 1999 Yankees as the only other team in the Wild Card Era (since 1995) to win the World Series with less than 2 playoff losses. This was unforgettable dominance.
What Led to the World Series Victory: Solid hitting (.283 BA, .360 OBP), the continued force of the pitching staff (2.86 ERA), and a willingness to pitch whenever called upon. The White Sox’ staff did what we see so often now in the playoffs: they performed, no matter what situation they were called to pitch in, no matter their predefined role. Finally, an absolute resilience and belief that they were never out of any game – especially Games 2 and 3.
I was 8 years old when the Sox won the World Series, and I wish I remembered more about these games than I actually do. It’s amazing to be able to reflect on this series and the absolute dominance of the Sox, and I still tear up every time I go back and watch World Series highlights or the DVD that was released shortly after the series. This article could’ve been so much longer, as the memories and special plays from this Postseason are endless. I can only imagine how exciting and nerve-wracking it will be the next time the Sox are in the playoffs. Who will be the next Joe “Clutch” Crede, or the next unlikely home run hero? We will – hopefully – find out very soon. But for now, Happy Anniversary, White Sox fans.