Tag Archives: Don Cooper

White Sox Weekly – 11/5/17

Connor McKnight hosts this week’s White Sox Weekly. It’s the first oral history episode of the offseason, focusing on former White Sox Pitcher, Orlando Hernandez getting out of a bases loaded, no out jam in the 2005 ALDS. Connor relives “El Duque’s” performance with former White Sox General Manager, and current Executive Vice President, Kenny Williams, and White Sox Pitching Coach, Don Cooper.

An Ace Up His Sleeve?

After posting a 6.75 ERA during his stint with the Washington Nationals in 2016—which was followed by rumors that the team had tweaked his mechanics—there was lingering concern about White Sox newcomer Lucas Giolito. Giolito came as the headliner in the deal that sent Adam Eaton to Washington last December, teeing off the White Sox’s rebuilding efforts.

The trepidation was warranted as the 23 year-old certainly came with a mildly concerning resume. Giolito fell to the 16th round of the 2012 draft due to concerns about a sprained UCL, after many thought he would be taken in the first. Shortly after the draft, the Nationals scheduled Giolito for Tommy John surgery. Once he returned, the team began to work with Giolito on changing his delivery and, suddenly, the pitcher everyone expected to go in the first round looked as though his stock may be falling rapidly.

That was all before White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper, though. Cooper has become renowned for helping reinvent pitchers simply by showing them how to maximize their efforts while being true to themselves on the mound. Cooper isn’t interested in stat sheets; he’s interested in good old-fashioned feel for the game.

“I don’t think his first trip to the big leagues with us could have went any better,” Cooper said enthusiastically of Giolito’s season. “It couldn’t have gone better.”

Giolito was shut down during the final week of the season for precautionary reasons and did not make his last scheduled start. “He’s had enough innings,” Cooper said. “There’s nothing left to prove this year. There’s nothing really to gain.”

Giolito seemed just as satisfied with his success this season as Cooper was.

“Overall, this was such a crazy year,” Giolito said. “I started not the way I wanted to. I had to kind of get over some trials and tribulations down in the Minor Leagues trying to fix some things, trying to find myself and see who I was as a pitcher.”

Giolito threw 45.1 innings over seven starts for the big league club, averaging just over six innings per start to the tune of a 2.38 ERA and 6.75 K/9. He lowered his walk rate from 5.05 BB/9 with the Nationals to just 2.38 with the White Sox.

“He’s throwing strikes with four pitches,” Cooper said. “He’s got angles, he can change speeds, he can ride the ball up in the zone. He’s done everything. He’s been great.”

But for Giolito, his sights are already set on new goals for 2018. “For me, it’s get prepared to throw 200 innings,” Giolito said. “I threw, like, 175-ish this year. I feel like the next step is to get to 200. So that will be a personal goal for me next season.”

“Obviously his stuff was lights out then, his stuff is lights out now,” catcher Kevan Smith said of Giolito’s time in the minors. “I think this year is just boosted his confidence. He can see that he can perform at this level.”

Giolito may have had to work through his trials and tribulations but it’s become evident that the Giolito that once was regarded as one of the best prospects in baseball is still alive and well.

“I feel very confident,” Giolito said. “I’ve hit that point where I trust all my pitches in any count, any situation. I feel like that’s what a top end of the rotation guy has to be able to do is pitch deep into games and put up as many zeroes as possible and at the same time trust all your stuff.”

The White Sox may have moved on from Eaton, who was considered a key piece of their future during the team’s prior attempt at contention, but what they’ve gained in Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, who also came in the Eaton deal, are two young pitchers who have showed the ability to perform at the major league level and will become a pivotal piece of this club’s bright future.

“His personality and just the way he goes about his business, he’s a smart kid,” former White Sox pitcher Miguel Gonzalez said of Giolito. “He likes to learn, he asks questions just like any other guy that’s been getting called up “

With Carlos Rodon no longer a lock to begin the season with the club, the time is now for Giolito to step up to that 200-inning goal. He’ll be leaned on heavily in the near future, something that will help him become accustomed to that feeling for the coming years.

Perhaps for Giolito, all it took was getting back to basics coupled with regaining confidence. And of course, a little Don Cooper magic.

White Sox Weekly (06-25-2017) Part 2

Connor McKnight hosts PART 2 of this week’s White Sox Weekly. We re-live the Mark Buehrle #56 retirement ceremony, with speeches from Sox TV Play by Play announcer Hawk Harrelson, Pitching Coach Don Cooper, White Sox Hall Of Famer Frank Thomas, and of course Mark Buehrle himself. We also listen back to a conversation between Buehrle, and the White Sox Radio Broadcast Team Ed Farmer, and Darrin Jackson. Connor keeps us up to date with the status of White Sox Pitcher Carlos Rodon, with Rodon’s own comments about coming back to the big leagues, as well as Manager Ricky Renteria’s pre-game comments about Rodon’s return to the White Sox starting rotation.

How Tommy Kahnle Re-Invented Himself

The White Sox bullpen has had familiar faces in the bullpen with Nate Jones and David Robertson the past few years but, like any other major league club, there are a few names that move between the minors and majors, filling in spots, hoping to throw a few strikes and perhaps even reinvent themselves.

Over the course of 2016, Tommy Kahnle was almost never talked about amongst most fans. That’s fine; not everyone can be a superstar. But in 2017, Tommy Kahnle is now the guy everyone is talking about. And I don’t just mean in Chicago either. Yes, that’s how drastic of a step forward Kahnle has taken in just a few short weeks of baseball. Baseball that he wasn’t even aware he would be playing. Kahnle started the season in Triple-A Charlotte; he didn’t even break camp with the major league roster. In fact, the 27-year-old, formerly a part of both the Yankees and Rockies organizations, was only brought up to fill the shoes of the injured Jake Petricka.

What a case of serendipity this has been for the White Sox, who were surely just expecting to see the same Kahnle they’d seen before with spotty command and a few bad outings in Arizona. Wrong.

The White Sox bullpen has been strong so far in 2017 and Kahnle has been a big part of it despite only throwing nine innings. Take a look at these numbers to see just how good the White Sox relievers have been so far:



MLB Rank













The White Sox currently lead baseball in ERA and, for more context, they’re leading the league in DRA as well. That indicates the production coming out of the bullpen is not simply flukey baseball stuff or good defense coming to the rescue. The biggest concern is the walk rate—good for just middle of the pack. Without Kahnle, who has only walked one batter on the season so far, the Sox would likely rank even lower.

The reason is because Kahnle used to walk guys. He walked a lot of guys. His walk rate was 18.1 percent when he was with the Rockies. The incredible 3 percent walk rate Kahnle is posting so far in 2017 is of course not quite sustainable long term but, when you watch Kahnle, you can see his stuff looks like it’s here to stay. He’s found his command of the strike zone.

Kahnle is aware that the difference has been huge, yet the changes he’s made have been relatively small. “Everybody knows my fastball command is a little spotty sometimes. I made a few adjustments with my legs, I should say kinda my delivery, it seemed to work,” Kahnle told White Sox Weekly on WLS. “It was more of a shortened leg kick, I guess.”

Kahnle also attributed his recent success to keeping his head turned more toward home plate as he throws. “I usually have tendency to fall off. I worked towards those two things and it’s starting to work.” Kahnle said.

Not only has the ability to repeat his delivery with pinpoint command lead him to a 1.00 ERA and a -0.89 FIP (yes, negative FIP is possible), but he’s actually added velocity to his pitches across the board. Kahnle has seen his average fastball velocity tick up by 2 mph. His changeup and slider have gone up by nearly 5 mph each (sitting at 91 mph and 93 mph, respectively.)

According to PITCHf/x, Kahnle currently had the fifth-highest velocity among relievers this year. That has him ranked alongside pitchers like Aroldis Chapman, Trevor Rosenthal and even ranked above Boston closer Craig Kimbrel. Of those top five in the velocity rankings, Kahnle currently holds the best whiff percentage at 34.8 percent.

It’s well-known throughout baseball that White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper is a mechanical wizard. And though he isn’t much of a numbers guy (In a conversation we had once, Cooper referred to sabermetrics as “the sabermetrics”), Cooper does proves that numbers aren’t everything. Mechanical adjustments can take a pitcher from ranking as a poor strike thrower one year to what Tommy Kahnle is now with just a couple of tweaks. Because the success Kahnle is seeing right now is mechanically based and not simply a ton of luck breaking his way or a poor quality of opponents, folks can rest assured that this Kahnle 2.0 we are seeing may be here to stay. If he is, the White Sox stumbled on quite a beneficial dose of happenstance.

Carson Fulmer named White Sox Starter for Cactus League Opener

White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper had been keeping his pitching assignments close to the vest during the the early part of Spring Training. News broke Thursday night that Fulmer would be the starter as the White Sox opened the Cactus League Season against the Dodgers and it was confirmed Friday morning. Fulmer, who’s 2016 MLB debut out of the bullpen did not yield great results (11.2 IP over eight games with an 8.49 ERA) is eager to get things going again in 2017–this time in the rotation.

Last Spring, Fulmer was given a marquee start (inasmuch as any Cactus League start can really be “marquee”) in a night game against the Dodgers. He was pushed, aggressively and with purpose, throughout spring and into the season. That culminated with his promotion into the Sox bullpen in mid July.

“Last year was a year that I needed,” Fulmer said. “In baseball you’re going to face a lot of adversity and I feel like that’s what I did. I learned from those mistakes and I was able to work with some guys in our organization that got me turning up. I’m really comfortable right now and I’m looking forward to staying there.”

Fulmer wants the challenge. As the top guy on a heralded Vanderbilt pitching staff in college, he’s used to having expectations put on him. He’s also used to meeting or exceeding those expectations. One key to rising to the challenge for Fulmer has been creating an angle on his stuff.

“I think the difference between forcing weak contact and getting hit hard is the angle on your fastball and other pitches,” Fulmer said. “I think that for me, being a smaller guy, it’s easier for me to be flat. I think [the coaching staff] has really put an emphasis on keeping me tall and working down in the zone with the angle.”

At it’s best, Fulmer’s stuff has never been a problem. His fastball has plenty of life and, when he’s on, his curveball can be used as a wipeout pitch or a strike-getter. Control, however, seemed to escape him during his stint in the Majors in 2016. If Fulmer forces his way into the rotation this season, it will be because he’s learned to harness the stuff with more consistent control.