It would be a grotesque misrepresentation of fact to say that the White Sox have not enjoyed good pitching in the Kenny Williams era. They won the 2005 World Series was won with superb pitching, the organizational strategy is centered around acquiring and developing pitching, and advanced metrics have been rating Sox staffs at the top of the league for value after taking their home ballpark into account for the last few years.
What they have not had, is such a concentration of production at the top of their rotation as they do now in Jake Peavy and Chris Sale. The Sox deal in depth, and by refusing to surrender any spot at the back of their rotation to marginal major leaguers, but starters who register as appointment-viewing have been in short supply.
Looking through whether or not the Sox have had a duo in their rotation with results as outstanding as Sale and Peavy have had in a 1st half of the season under Kenny Williams produced two things:
1) The answer: No.
2) This table:
Some notes about the results found:
- No duo has ever matched the results of Peavy and Sale., essentially because no one has been as effective as Chris Sale. There are many 1st halves comparable to Peavy's in quality, but no one has come close to what Sale's done to start the season. I cut things off at the beginning of the KW era to salvage some brevity, but Britt Burns in 1980 is the last time any White Sox got anywhere near to as low of an OPS+ against for the 1st half as Sale is currently sporting.
- The pitching staffs of the early 2000's were worse than anything we can really imagine in this post-World Series era. This year's Gavin Floyd would have been a godsend to the 2001 squad.
- Buehrle had more spurts of true dominance than realized, but it pops out how much success he had in preventing runs when opposing averages indicated he was quite hittable.
That final point, leads into the main one. Despite being helped by strikeouts going up, Sale and Peavy's numbers illustrate why it's so much fun to watch them. They're not simply effective, they're overpowering. Whereas Buehrle was like a fine wine that the entire fan base grew a taste for and felt more cultured for being able to appreciate, Sale and Peavy pump out the flashy pleasure of lots of strikeouts. It's been a long time since White Sox pitching was this easy to appreciate.
This uniqueness in Sox history also stands to explain the general level of mania surrounding the maintenance and future of these two. The workloads of Peavy and Sale became less and less comparable those of past players as my research took me through the 1990's and further. Though it's mostly been Peavy, each have provided reasons to be concerned about their health. Since there's no true way to prevent either of these guys from going down to injury, it's important to take some to look back and appreciate what they've done here.