Every postseason brings along an opportunity for something truly special. Milestones, memorable moments, and records are reached, made, and broken every October. But to do something that may never be done again, that is truly special. The 2005 White Sox have become the most under-appreciated World Series Champion in the media and even around Chicago. Despite being regularly forgotten by certain major sports outlets, they had a postseason run that may never be duplicated ever again.
Going wire-to-wire in first place over the entire regular season, the White Sox only lost one game while sweeping the 2004 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox in the ALDS, pitching four complete-games in the ALCS, and then sweeping the Astros in the World Series. The thing that made the team special is that their success in 2005 was no fluke. Yeah, they didn’t have any big name players, potentially only one Hall of Famer, and they didn’t make the playoffs the year after (despite winning 90 games). But they were no doubt the best team in baseball for the entire season.
They played the way the team was built to play, they played small-ball, they had fun, and they never let their surprising success get to their heads. Looking back now, they won’t ever get the recognition they deserve but if any team now did what the White Sox did in 2005, they would be seen as one of the best teams ever. Regardless of the lack of respect for the ’05 White Sox, that team was truly special, and after watching postseason after postseason, it’s becoming clear that when that pitching staff pitched four consecutive complete-games win the AL pennant, it will never be done again.
Since that fateful year of 2005, there have been a total of 19 complete games in 12+ postseasons. The most in one single postseason was in 2010 when four starters threw complete games, with only two coming from the same pitching staff. The last time a pitching staff had at least two pitchers throw complete games was in 2016 – Johnny Cueto and Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants. There was only one complete game last season by Justin Verlander and there have been six postseasons of 12+ complete games where only one at most were thrown.
This season, it’s looking less likely that one pitcher will pitch a complete game because now it’s a bullpen world. Clayton Kershaw was close in the NLDS when he went 8.0 IP, but as it’s becoming customary, the first sign of trouble prompted a quick pitching change. Teams like the 2015 Royals, the 2016 Indians, the 2018 Brewers – which were and are extremely bullpen heavy teams – are causing the demise and eventual disappearance of the starting pitcher in the postseason. The Brewers have even opted to go the “opener” route in the postseason, using a bullpen pitcher to start games, usually only pitching an inning or two before using a long relief pitcher.
This very method is currently working for the Brewers, and it worked for much of the Rays’ regular season despite failing to reach the postseason. Whatever helps the team win is always the right decision, but it will cause teams later down the line not worry about starting pitching as much. Again, not a problem if that method works for the team, but this may be the first season since 2008 where a starting pitcher doesn’t pitch a complete game. By next year, and the year after, it may become normal when teams opt for the “opener” instead of a starter, especially after a few teams practice a full regular season using this bullpen method.
That will only mean that the White Sox record of four consecutive postseason complete-games, will be untouchable. The White Sox were the first team to do it since the 1927 Yankees and they only used three pitchers in ‘27. The White Sox were actually the first team to have four pitchers throw consecutive complete games since the Cubs in the 1907 World Series, almost a century before.
Therefore, in case the White Sox record did not already seem untouchable, imagine how long it will take for another team to accomplish that feat with only one or two reliable starters, let alone four in a row. That ’05 team was not only special but what they accomplished was historic.