Since Major League Baseball’s expansion era began in 1961, White Sox pitchers have thrown eight nine-inning no-hitters, including two by Mark Buehrle.
They’ve come from pitchers with outstanding careers (Buehrle), pretty good ones (Wilson Alvarez and Joe Horlen) and so-so ones (Philip Humber and Joe Cowley).
Time will tell where Carlos Rodon, 28, and Lucas Giolito, 26, will rank. Rodon became the latest Sox no-hit pitcher in beating the Indians 8-0 on Wednesday, and Giolito no-hit the Pirates 4-0 last August.
By the game-score method, Rodon’s 94 is tied for the third-most dominant nine-inning no-hitter in Sox history, trailing Giolito’s 99 and Humber’s 96. Starting pitchers start with 50 points, add points for outs, innings and strikeouts and lose points for hits, runs and walks. Average game scores hover around 50.
Rodon topped 80 once before, also against the Indians. On Sept. 25, 2016, Rodon scored 86 by pitching eight scoreless innings, allowing two hits and three walks and striking out 11 in a 3-0 victory.
But he hasn’t sustained high performance levels, entering 2021 with a career 28-33 record, 4.14 ERA, league-average 100 ERA+ and 6.4 WAR, as calculated at Baseball-Reference.com. Rodon has raised hopes again by starting this season 2-0 with 16 strikeouts in 14 scoreless innings.
Can he sustain it this time? While we wait for an answer, let’s look at the five retired expansion-era Sox no-hit pitchers:
Buehrle: His game scores were 94 in a 6-0 no-hitter against the Rangers in 2007 and 93 in beating the Rays 5-0 in 2009. Buehrle was an outstanding pitcher with a 214-160 record, 3.82 ERA, 117 ERA+ and 60 pitching bWAR in 16 seasons. The average bWAR for a Hall of Fame starter is 73.3.
Alvarez: The first outs Alvarez got as a big-league pitcher led to a no-hitter — 7-0 against the Orioles — in his Sox debut Aug. 11, 1991. With seven strikeouts and five walks, his game score was 89.
Alvarez had come up with the Rangers at age 19 in 1989 but had failed to get an out. After his spectacular Sox debut, he settled into a 102-92 career with a 3.96 ERA, 112 ERA+ and 25.0 bWAR.
Horlen: A mainstay on Sox teams built around pitching and defense in the 1960s, Horlen was 116-117 with a 3.11 ERA, 110 ERA+ and 25.5 bWAR in 12 seasons (11 with the Sox). His no-hitter came in 1967, beating the Tigers 4-0 with four strikeouts, no walks and a 91 game score.
Cowley: The only pitcher never to win another game after his no-hitter, Cowley gave up a run and seven walks to go with eight strikeouts and an 84 game score in no-hitting the Angels 7-1 in September 1986. In a five-year career with four teams, Cowley went 33-25 with a 4.21 ERA, 97 ERA+ and 3.6 bWAR.
Humber: A five-stop journeyman in an eight-year career, Humber went 16-23 — including 14-14 in two seasons with the Sox — with a 5.23 ERA, 81 ERA+ and a mere 1.0 bWAR. But he was brilliant for one game in 2012, striking out nine and walking none in no-hitting the Mariners 4-0.