By Luke Stuckmeyer
They are two of Chicago's most popular pitchers over the last 20 years. Cubs fans love Kerry Wood. White Sox fans embrace Mark Buehrle. A flame-throwing righty and a crafty lefty. The comparison is an interesting one.
Buehrle's case is simple: One World Series ring, a perfect game and a no-hitter. He's been dependable and consistent while mastering the art of pitching. He won't leave you in awe, but he will leave you scratching your head.
Wood's case is more complicated: He has one of the single-greatest pitching performances in baseball history (20 strikeouts on May 6, 1998 vs. Houston), but no World Series ring. A starter and reliever with plenty of injuries and even more unfulfilled dreams.
Let's start by throwing out wins and losses. It doesn't work here and it's not the best way to determine a quality pitcher. Buehrle has more career wins (164 and counting to Wood's 86), but he's never been a reliever. Besides, both have a winning percentage hovering around the .500 mark (.534 Wood to .571 Buehrle).
So, ERA would be the next logical step, and once again it's extremely close: 3.67 in 1,380 innings for Wood to 3.81 in 2,530 23 for Buehrle. Wood has more strikeouts (1,582-1,425), while Buehrle has more All-Star games (4-2).
Winning is the ultimate goal, but you don't win a World Series by yourself. Wood had a chance to get his team there, but couldn't close the door in Game 7 of the 2003 NLCS against the Florida Marlins. Yes, I'm doing more flipping and flopping that a smallmouth bass on a pier.
Here's another question to ponder: would you take the 20-K game or Buehrle's no-hitter and perfect game? There have been 274 other no-hitters in baseball history and 20 other perfect games. Perfect, yes, but 20 others. Wood's one-hitter came in his fifth major-league start and 20 strikeouts in a game has only been done one other time. Ever. Oh, and he was 20-years-old.
One performance is perfect. The other one is dominant.
I give up.