SaleGreinke earns its hashtag

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SaleGreinke earns its hashtag

Yes, it's true that Chris Sale and Zack Greinke combined for merely eleven whiffs, a total each pitcher had surpassed on his own at least once this season. But there's more to a mound masterpiece than a long trail of strikeout victims. Sale kicked it up a notch when runners threatened to score. Greinke simply chose to deny scoring position as an option. When the game ended with the South Siders' 10th consecutive goose egg (apparently the goose remains the only animal capable of producing eggs of this shape), the box score showed tremendous numbers for the two starters.

In fact, both Sale and Greinke posted game scores of at least 80. The game score (explained below) developed by Bill James is a quick and easy way to measure the quality of a starting pitcher's performance. While not perfect, I think it gets the job done while assigning a quick one-number value for the sake of comparison. Digging through the box scores, it becomes apparent that the White Sox haven't participated in a pitchers' duel of this magnitude in some time.

The last time a Sox starter took part in a battle of 80 game scores was game one of an Aug. 18, 1990 doubleheader, when the "Little Bulldog" Greg Hibbard locked horns with Nolan Ryan in a strange "David vs. Goliath" matchup in Texas.

The crafty White Sox left-hander was on his way to a career-high 92 punchouts (in 211 innings). Of course the "Ryan Express" grunted and groaned (Goose Gossage, in his autobiography The Goose is Loose, commented that "when he let go of his fastball, he sounded like a woman giving birth. Or a beast in the jungle." Bill Melton told me virtually the same thing) his way to at least twice as many as Hibbard's career high in 18 different seasons, tripled it six times and, with his Major League record 383 strikeouts in 1973, quadrupled it.

And on this August 1990 day, the 43-year old legend posted a game score of 101. What would amount to Hibbard's career high of 81 went for naught.

August 17, 1990 (game 1); Rangers 1, White Sox 0

PitcherGScIPHRBBKGreg Hibbard
8282036Nolan Ryan
1-11030015
The previous "80 vs. 80" came improbably in 1987, a year of epic offensive explosion. Floyd Bannister and Mark Langston combined to allow just three hits on a Sunday afternoon at the Kingdome. The White Sox managed two solo homers (by Donnie Hill and Pat Keedy, of course) and the lone Mariner safety came in the bottom of the third courtesy of Harold Reynolds, who was promptly called out trying to stretch it into a double. No White Sox pitcher would surpass Bannister's 95 game score until Philip Humber's perfect game (96) against these same (yet very different) Mariners 25 years later.

September 13, 1987; White Sox 2, Mariners 0

PitcherGScIPHRBBKFloyd Bannister
95910010Mark Langston
8192239
There were two others since 1980, both White Sox losses and both on May 25:

May 25, 1986: Joel Davis (82) vs. Dennis Leonard (Royals, 82)
May 25, 1983: Britt Burns (80) vs. Bruce Hurst (Red Sox, 85)

And the previous two came in consecutive games in 1979:

Aug. 15, 1979: Ken Kravec 83 vs. Mike Flanagan (Orioles, 99)
Aug. 14, 1979: Rich Wortham 83 vs. Steve Stone (Orioles, 80)

And just for fun, the Sox' Steve Trout tossed an 83 the day before on Aug. 13, 1979 (but the Orioles' Scott McGregor turned in a shabby 32) making it three in a row by White Sox starters with exactly 83.

While other recent matchups were certainly ones to remember (for example Gavin Floyd vs. Ted Lilly in 2010, Johan Santana vs. Freddy Garcia in 2005, etc.), Sale vs. Greinke fulfilled my latest obscure statistical requirements, and hopefully the White Sox offense will prevent another one of these pitchers' duels from happening for quite some time.

Game score explained and other notes

Game Score: Begin with 50 points. Add one point for each out recorded. Add two points for each inning completed after the 4th inning. Add one point for each strikeout. Subtract two points for each hit allowed. Subtract four points for each earned run; two points for each unearned run. And subtract one point for each walk.

Only six times has a pitcher reached 100 since; Ryan again in a May 1, 1991 no-hitter, Kerry Wood on May 6, 1998 in his 20-strikeout game, Curt Schilling on April 7, 2002, Randy Johnson's May 18, 2004 perfect game, Brandon Morrow Aug. 8, 2010, and Matt Cain in his June 13, 2012 perfect game.

Offense across MLB stuck out like a sore thumb in 1987: (Below are MLB totals)

YearRunsgameHome runs
19854.333,60219864.413,81319874.724,45819884.143,18019894.133,083

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

Bobby Howry wasn't aware of the fact he was part of one of the more infamous transactions in White Sox history until a few years after it happened. 

In 1997, with the White Sox only 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians, general manager Ron Schueler pulled the trigger on a massive trade that left many around Chicago — including some in the White Sox clubhouse — scratching their heads. Heading to the San Francisco Giants was the team's best starting pitcher (left-hander Wilson Alvarez), a reliable rotation piece (Doug Drabek) and a closer coming off a 1996 All-Star appearance (Roberto Hernandez). In return, the White Sox acquired six minor leaguers: right-handers Howry, Lorenzo Barcelo, Keith Foulke, left-hander Ken Vining, shortstop Mike Caruso and outfielder Brian Manning. Only Foulke had major league experience, and it wasn't exactly good (an 8.26 ERA in 44 2/3 innings). 

Howry was largely oblivious to the shocking nature of the trade that brought him from the Giants to White Sox until, before the 1999 season, he was featured in a commercial that referenced the "White Flag trade."

"I don't even know if I knew it was called that before then," Howry recalled last weekend at the Sheraton Grand Chicago at Cubs Convention. 

The trade was a stark signal that youth would be emphasized on 35th and Shields. Both Alvarez and Hernandez were set to become free agents after the 1997 season, and the 40-year-old Darwin wasn't a long-term piece, either. With youngsters like Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee rising through the farm system, the move was made with an eye on the future and maximizing the return on players who weren't going to be long-term pieces. 

Sound familiar? 

It's hardly a perfect comparison, but when the White Sox traded Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox in December for four minor leaguers — headlined by top-100 prospects in Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech — it was the first rebuilding blockbuster trade the organization had made since the 1997 White Flag deal. Shortly after trading their staff ace at the 2016 Winter Meetings, the White Sox shipped Adam Eaton — their best position player — to the Washington Nationals for a package of prospects featuring two more highly-regarded youngsters in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. 

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And there still could be more moves on the horizon, too, for Rick Hahn's White Sox (Jose Quintana has been the subject of persistent rumors since the Winter Meetings). But for those looking for an optimistic outlook of the White Sox rebuilding plans, it's worth noting that the club's last youth movement, to an extent, was successful.

Only Howry (3.74 ERA over 294 games) and Foulke (2.87 ERA, 100 saves over 346 games) became significant long-term pieces for the White Sox from those six players brought over in 1997. And it wasn't like Schueler dealt away any of the franchise's cornerstones — like Frank Thomas, Albert Belle and Robin Ventura — but with future starters in Lee, Ordonez and Chris Singleton on their way the White Sox were able to go young. A swap of promising youthful players (Mike Cameron for Paul Konerko) proved to be successful a year and a half later. 

And with a couple of shrewd moves — namely, dealing Jamie Navarro and John Snyder to the Milwaukee Brewers for Cal Eldred and Jose Valentin — the "Kids Can Play" White Sox stormed to an American League Central title in 2000. 

"It was great," Howry said of developing with so many young players in the late 1999's and 2000. "You come in and you feel a lot more comfortable when you got a lot of young guys and you're all coming up together and building together. It's not like you're walking into a primarily veteran clubhouse where you're kind of having to duck and hide all the time. We had a great group of guys and we built together over a couple of years, and putting that together was a lot of fun."

What sparked things in 2000, Howry said, was that ferocious brawl with the Detroit Tigers on April 22 in which 11 players were ejected (the fight left Foulke needing five stitches and former Tigers catcher/first baseman Robert Fick doused in beer). 

"About the time we had that fight with Detroit, that big brawl, all of a sudden after then we just seemed to kind of come together and everything started to click and it took off," Howry said. 

The White Sox went 80-81 in 1998 and slipped to 75-86 in 1999, but their 95-67 record in 2000 was the best in the league — though it only amounted to a three-game sweep at the hands of the wild-card winning Seattle Mariners. 

Still, the White Flag trade had a happy ending two and a half years later. While with the White Sox, Howry didn't feel pressure to perform under the circumstances with which he arrived, which probably helped those young players grow together into eventual division champions. 

"I was 23 years old," Howry said. "At 23 years old, I didn't really — I was just like, okay, I'm still playing, I got a place to play. I didn't really put a whole lot of thought into three veteran guys for six minor leaguers." 

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox 2016 first round pick Zack Collins joins the podcast to talk about his future with the White Sox, when he hopes to make the big leagues and the doubters who question whether he can be a major league catcher.   He discusses comparisons with Kyle Schwarber, his impressions of Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, why his dad took him to a Linkin Park concert when he was 6 years old and much more.