Palehosed adventures of lefty closers

688288.png

Palehosed adventures of lefty closers

Roger Angell in 1973 wrote in The New Yorker (via Neyer-James Guide to Pitchers):

Everything about Wilbur Wood is disarming. On the mound, he displays a comfortable expanse of tum and the stiffish-looking knees of a confirmed indoorsman, and thus resembles a left-handed accountant or pastry chef on a Sunday outing. Even the knuckler which he throws, sensibly, on nearly every pitch - looks almost modest, for it does not leap and quiver like Hoyt Wilhelm's old hooked trout.

Dave Letterman, in the mid 80s, once referred to Terry Forster as:

A big fat tub of goo; the fattest man in professional baseball.

Besides both seemingly being produced by the same pitcher factory (fat-ctory?) which produced the likes of David Wells, Bartolo Colon and Bobby Jenks, this pair of portly portsiders has something else in common: theyre the only White Sox lefties with 20 or more saves in a season. While similar in body type, they couldnt have been at further ends of the spectrum in terms of pitching repertoire.

Wilbur Wood was a big New Englander who had pitched limited innings with the Red Sox and Pirates from 1961-65. With the tutelage of Eddie Fisher and Hoyt Wilhelm, he transformed his knuckleball from a pet project into a legitimate weapon.

In 1968, he set a still-standing White Sox record with 88 appearances, and in 1970, he flicked flutterballs to the tune of a career-high 21 saves. It was the first time a Sox lefty reached the 20-save plateau. It was also the last time he pitched primarily in relief; Chuck Tanner took the reins as manager and didn't like his ninth innings peppered with passed balls and wild pitches from wayward knucklers.

Don't worry about Wilbur; he was just fine in the starting rotation. He averaged 22 wins and 348 innings over the next four seasons. When he logged 376 23 IP in 1972, you had to go back to the White Sox previous World Series championship season to find a higher total (the legendary Grover Cleveland Alexander's 388 for the 1917 Phillies).

Terry Forster was a fireballing phenom. In his age 20 season, the southpaw set a franchise record with 29 saves. Due to injuries as a starter, he was shuttled from the bullpen to the rotation and back to the bullpen, and in 1974 he won the AL Fireman of the Year award with his second season of 20 saves (24).

Forster had a remarkable knack for keeping the ball in the ballpark. In his 1972 breakout season, he pitched exactly 100 innings, surrendering not a single home run. The streak, including the end of 1971 and the beginning of 1973, ultimately covered a span of 137.2 innings. Since World War II, his career mark of 0.42 HR9IP is sixth=best among any pitcher with 1000 or more innings.

Forsters 1975 was decimated by elbow problems. Goose Gossage took over as closer; Forster came back to make two appearances after May 23, including one start (which ended after one inning), contributing to the second most left-handed collection of starting pitchers in Major League history. The 124 lefty starts by the 1975 White Sox (mostly Wood, Jim Kaat, and Claude Osteen) were the most by any team ever...except the 1983 Yankees.

Wood took a Ron LeFlore liner to the kneecap early in 1976; Forster and Gossage were both pressed into starting roles for the rest of the season. They combined for a 11-29 record and were both shipped to Pittsburgh after the season in exchange for Richie Zisk and Silvio Martinez. Wood was never the same again.

Since Wood and Forster roamed the mound at Comiskey Park, lefties were left out of the closer role for the Pale Hose. The last 24 seasons of 20 or more saves by a White Sox pitcher have all been by right-handers. Scott Radinsky and Damaso Marte each took turns in emergency roles as Bobby Thigpen thawed and Billy Koch got cooked, but neither held it down for an entire season.

In fact, since the save became an official statistic in 1969, 84.1 percent of all Major League 20-save seasons (612 of 728) have been by righties. With Billy Wagner's retirement, Brian Fuentes' role as a plan B to Andrew Bailey and Matt Thornton's inability to keep the closer role (0-4 in save opportunities), 2011 ended up the first season with no 20-plus save lefties since 1982.

With Sergio Santos departure to Canada, can Matt Thornton break the right-handed stranglehold on the White Sox closer role? But Jesse Crain and Addison Reed waiting in the wings in 2012, so itll be interesting to see how it all unfolds.

Fast Break Morning Update: Tim Raines elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

Fast Break Morning Update: Tim Raines elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

Former White Sox OF Tim Raines elected to National Baseball Hall of Fame

Between Cubs' victory lap and Hall of Fame vote, Sammy Sosa barely staying in the picture

Bulls' continued inconsistencies 'an issue of focus'

Report: Bears set to hire Curtis Modkins as running backs coach

Wrigley Field named one of the happiest places in the world by CNN

Tim Raines shares thank you message after being elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

Bulls Talk Podcast: What went wrong for the Bulls against the Mavericks?

Hawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks' bottom six steps up in Colorado

Big Ten Talk Podcast: Picking contenders and pretenders in the Big Ten title race

Jerry Reinsdorf, Frank Thomas congratulate Tim Raines on Baseball Hall of Fame election

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Tim Raines elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

traines.png
AP

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Tim Raines elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

Hub Arkush (670 The Score/Pro Football Weekly), David Schuster (670 The Score) and Patrick Finley join Kap on the panel.  Tim Raines finally gets the call from the Hall along with Jeff Bagwell and Pudge Rodriguez.  So when will Bonds and Clemens get in?  Why are Sammy Sosa’s vote totals dropping? The guys debate from former Cub David DeJesus joins the panel to talk Hall of Fame and the 2017 Cubs.

The Bulls lose to a bad Mavericks team. When will GarPax blow it up and start over?

Plus the guys discuss whether or not Antonio Brown will distract the Steelers and if the Falcons defense is the x-factor in the NFC title game.