First Pitch: Cooper's been super for the White Sox

First Pitch: Cooper's been super for the White Sox

Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010
6:25 PM
By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

BOSTON With five starts down, the early returns on new Chicago acquisition Edwin Jacksonand by extension, tutelage from White Sox pitching coach Don Cooperare extremely positive.

Sure, the sample size is still modestjust five starts. But how good have those five starts been?

Most markedly, Coopers suggestion to Jackson that he apply the Jose Contreras Treatmenti.e., a more erect posture in his deliveryhas worked wonders. (Its neither a surprise that Cooper spotted the flaw immediately upon viewing tape of Jackson nor that he was hopping exciting to get the flamethrower in trade.)

Jackson brought a 5.16 ERA with him from the Arizona Diamondbacks and has offered up a clean 1.47 ERA so far with the White Sox, along with reducing his H9 a full two, from 9.4 in Arizona to 7.4. Hes also cut his walks in half (4.0 BB9 to 2.0 BB9) while increasing his strikeouts by four (11.0 K9 in Chicago vs. just 7.0 K9 in Arizona). Those factors have combined to have increased Jacksons KBB by 200, from 1.73 with the Diamondbacks to 5.63 with the White Sox.

Cooper wont take credit for it, always deflecting credit for improvement to his players, but Jacksons increased control is almost wholly a result of the posture tweak. The resulting confidenceJackson is matter-of-fact about it, but hes clearly found confidence beyond any hes had on the major-league level, going so far as to call his trade to the White Sox a new life. That new life could be the difference between Jackson pitching like a No. 5 starterlong reliever and a potential staff ace. In a sabermetric sense, Jackson offered the Diamondbacks just 0.6 WAR (wins above a replacement levelAAA-player) in 21 starts but has tripled his value to 1.7 WAR in just a quarter of the starts in Chicago.

Its not Jackson. Javier Vazquez was better (5.9 WAR) in 2007 with the White Sox than he even was with the Montreal Expos (5.4) or last years Cy Young candidacy campaign with the Atlanta Braves (5.2). Freddy Garcia was already a star when GM Ken Williams acquired him in 2004, but his WAR broken down per start shows that his Chicago White Sox yearspitching into his 30s in his first stint and coming off of major shoulder surgery prior to his secondhave been every bit as efficient as his time with the Seattle Mariners, with whom he pitched in his prime. And even Bartolo Colon, who won a Cy Young with the Los Angeles Angels in 2005 (4.4 WAR) and had two other 4.4-plus seasons with the Cleveland Indians, never surpassed his 4.7 WAR in 2003 with the White Sox.

Lets take a look at some other famous Cooper turnaround efforts, beginning with the two players the pitching coach himself was quickest to cite:

Esteban Loaiza, 2003-04 (55 starts7.7 WAR)
Loaiza, who started the 2003 All-Star Game and finished second in the 2003 AL Cy Young voting, is perhaps the most famous, and one of the earliest, Cooper reclamation. He was a brilliant low-risk sign by GM Ken Williams, and led directly to the Coopers second-greatest turnaround

Jose Contreras, 2004-09 (146 starts10.4 WAR)
Contreras couldnt find his way in New York with the Yankees, but Williams and Cooper saw enough potential in him to swap him for Loaiza in 2004. Without overlooking the help offered by adding countryman Orlando Hernandez to the club, Cooper made a series of corrections to Contreras delivery that made him the premier starter in the American League from the stretch run of 2005, through the White Soxs World Series run, and into 2006.

Matt Thornton, 2006-present (325 games8.7 WAR)
Thornton was obtained for failed bonus baby outfielder Joe Borchard but was hardly less of a disappointment for the Seattle Mariners, who made him a first-round pick in 1998. The acquisition of Jackson brought the comparisons hot and heavy with Thornton, as Coopers one-session adjustment with Thornton brought immediate dividends and resuscitated his career to such an extent that that flamethrowing lefty was just named to his first All-Star Game in 2010.

Its not any one thing Coop did that helped, necessarily, Thornton said. But overall, he underscores your own strengths as a pitcher and helps pare away the other stuff that gets in the way.

Gavin Floyd, 2007-present (100 starts10.8 WAR)
Floyd was a No. 4 pick overall in 2001 but underperformed to such an extent he was deemed expendable by the Philadelphia Phillies after just 19 major league starts. In Chicago, the turnaround wasnt overnight, but it has been significant. Not only is Floyd enjoying the strongest stretch of his career over the past two months, but hes gone from a gopher-ball server (2.2 HR9 in his first Chicago season in 2007) to the stingiest long-ball starter on the club (0.7 HR9 this season, including a stretch of 77-plus innings without a home run this summer).

Its breaking it down to basics, Floyd said of Coopers help. Youre a young pitcher, you have a lot thrown at you, youre putting pressure on yourself. Coop helped me strip it down to some of the simplest things and keeping that as my focus.
Dustin Hermanson, 2005 (57 games2.2 WAR)
Hermanson didnt have his best season with the White Sox in 2005, but he was the primary Chicago closer in 2005 before back pain sidelined him, pain that would render his final White Sox (and major league) season of 2006 moot. Cooper guided Hermansons delivery to help him stave off the back pain that would end his career.

Cliff PolitteNeal Cotts, 2003-06 (a combined 351 games3.5 WAR)
Politte and Cotts are minor success stories, and only Cotts pitched for the club in 2003, but neither player accomplished much after their White Sox days. Both were key short men for the 2005 World Series champions.

Damaso Marte, 2002-05 (279 games7.7 WAR)
Marte was run out of town after attitude problems saw him hold a smaller and smaller role on the World Series winners. But its telling that while Marte has enjoyed a long career as a lefty specialist, his only sustained success came in his four seasons in Chicago.
John Danks, 2008-present (117 starts16.1 WAR)
Danks isnt just the centerpiece of perhaps the greatest trade made in the Williams era, but another great example of Cooper at work. Sure, he was just 20 years old when acquired and could have been expected to mature as a pitcher, but Danks came to Chicago as a high-hits, high-home run hurler. Cooper has helped guide Danks to 2.7 less H9 and HR9 in the 2007 season compared with his work so far in 2010.

Sometimes these guys with such enormous talent have a lot thrown at themthey may be overcoached, Cooper said. Other times, theyre such raw, natural talents that they are left on their own. In Johns case, here was an enormously talented guy who couldnt get past the fifth or sixth inning. We set about right away to change that, and you see the results.

Jon Garland, 2002-07 (194 starts16.9 WAR)
Garland had 29 starts for Chicago prior to 2002, but well count only the seasons in which Cooper was the White Sox pitching coach (he took over on July 22, 2002). Garland was a notoriously stubborn player, and came to the White Sox feeling as if hed been thrown under the bus by his prior club, the Chicago Cubs. Thus one of Coopers biggest challenges with the lanky youngster was simply in convincing him that he had the pitchers best interests at heart. The proof of Coopss persuasion? Garland enjoyed by far his peak years, 2005-07 (46-30, including back-to-back 18-win seasons and a 12.1 WAR), under his tutelage.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

Three more hits for Leury Garcia as White Sox pound Royals

Three more hits for Leury Garcia as White Sox pound Royals

When a role player finally gets an opportunity in Rick Renteria's rotation, it's usually for two or three games. The idea is to give said player an opportunity to find a rhythm before they might head back to the bench for a few days.

So far this season, Leury Garcia has found this method favorable.

The centerfielder/utility man posted his second consecutive three-hit night game and drove in two runs on Tuesday night as the White Sox pounded the Kansas City Royals 10-5 in front of 14,591 at Guaranteed Rate Field. Garcia said he appreciates knowing he's likely to appear in two straight games if he's penciled in for a first. Todd Frazier also drove in three runs for the White Sox, who scored double-digit runs in consecutive games for the first time since May 26-27, 2012 to improve to 10-9.

"That's something that makes you get into rhythm," Garcia said. "It's not the same when you get to play just once a week or twice a week. When you're playing every day you have your routine and your swing and your approach."

Though a familiar face, Garcia — who was acquired in the Aug. 9, 2013 deal that sent Alex Rios and $1 million to the Texas Rangers — is on pace to play more this April than he ever has before. With four more plate appearances on Tuesday, Garcia has 46 this month, just four shy of the 50 he accrued last September. September 2013 when he netted 45 trips to the plate is the only other time in Garcia's career where he's received at least 40 plate appearances in a month.

But Garcia has found ample time this month with Peter Bourjos traded, Charlie Tilson injured and Jacob May struggling. Much like Matt Davidson, Garcia has capitalized on his chances.

On Tuesday his two-out RBI single in the second inning off Danny Duffy tied the score at 1. Three innings later, Garcia's two-out RBI double put the White Sox ahead for good. He also added an infield single in the sixth inning for good measure and finished 3-for-4.

A career .462 OPS hitter before this season, Garcia is slashing .318/.348/.500 in 46 plate appearances this season. 

"He was playing one day and then playing after five days (before)," teammate Avisail Garcia said. "Now he's playing every day and he's doing good. He's a good player and he can hit the ball and play good defense.

"It's huge (to play consecutively)."

A big factor for Leury Garcia's early success is his reduced strikeout rate. He's at 8.7 percent this season (four in 46 tries), down from 30.8 percent for his career. 

"He's just starting to manage his swing," manager Rick Renteria said. "He's learning how to approach at-bats, he's not just flailing at balls, I think it's a little bit more in control. He's still an aggressive swinger but I think he's trying to manage making contact. 

"He's capable of doing quite a few things and it's just coming together."

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Leury Garcia's second straight great game helped the White Sox break out against a lifeless Kansas City club. Tim Anderson followed Leury Garcia's double in the fourth with an RBI single off Duffy to make it 4-2.  

Frazier, who had two doubles and three RBIs, doubled in a run in the fifth and Yolmer Sanchez tripled him in. 

Duffy allowed six earned runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings.

Omar Narvaez, who had two hits and a walk, singled in a pair off reliever Chris Young in the seventh as the White Sox pulled away. Frazier and Avisail Garcia, who finished 3-for-5, doubled in runs with two outs in the eighth. 

But afterward Leury Garcia received praise from every corner of the clubhouse. Renteria and Frazier singled out his performance and Sanchez sat in on his postgame media session. 

"I've been taking advantage of that rotation because you as a player, you want to play," Garcia said. "But at the same time you have to realize there's another 24 teammates that also deserve to play to. You have to be prepared to take advantage of that opportunity. 

"For me I've been great because I've been able to perform and I feel good."

White Sox Talk Podcast: How soon could White Sox promote Yoan Moncada

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: How soon could White Sox promote Yoan Moncada

On the latest edition of the White Sox Talk podcast, Ryan McGuffey and Rob Wiatrowski are joined by CSNChicago.com's Dan Hayes to discuss his recent weekend visiting all four White Sox minor league affiliates. 

The panel discusses the players that jumped out to Hayes and when may be the earliest Yoan Moncada gets the call to the Big Leagues. 

Later, Matt Davidson's story makes quite the read and why the Orioles giving up on Miguel Gonzalez has benefitted the Sox. 

Listen to the White Sox Talk Podcast below.