Don Cooper is allowed to be a curmudgeon


In a recent article exploring advanced biomechanics and their applications to preventing injuries, White Sox pitching Don Cooper came across as…well…pretty disinterested.

"“I’m not going to let new-school ways get in the way of my old-school thinking. I don’t need biomechanics. I have experience. I have my eyes. I just watch and look.”"

That’s fairly dismissive.  Chances are if the White Sox take it upon themselves to try to implement some cutting-edge ideas in sports-medical thinking to the coaching of their major league pitchers, they’ll have to figure out how to shove it down Cooper’s throat.

Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk thinks such an attitude is pretty reprehensible

"If you were an executive in a billion dollar business and one of your supervisors took that approach when presented with something that, even if untested, at least claimed to have significant benefits for your business, you would fire him.  Indeed, even if you were skeptical yourself, you would fire that guy if he didn’t at least engage the new information if, for no other reason, than to debunk it.But not baseball! In baseball, people like Cooper ignore and dismiss new stuff until they have absolutely have no choice but to acknowledge it.  Or, more commonly, until their successors acknowledge it while they sit in the retirement home and continue to talk smack about the new-fangled ways of doing things."

There’s some other stuff from Craig that’s only going to inflame the passions of fans wishing to defend their team’s pitching coach, and it distracts from the main point isolated in the quote above, which is sound.

It’s unfortunate that Cooper seems pretty close-minded.  It’d be nice if he were constantly searching for the next new advantage, and it is odd that baseball is an industry that is particularly forgiving of people who don’t.

However, for Don Cooper, it’s pretty clear why he’s allowed to be that way; because he’s a brilliant, burning success of a pitching coach.

Since Cooper took over in 2002, White Sox pitchers rank 3rd in Wins Above Replacement according to FanGraphs.  No. 1 and No. 2 are the Red Sox and Yankees.  The 10,096 innings White Sox starters have logged over that time is the best in baseball and almost 200 more than the next closest team.  The entire talent procurement approach of the organization is centered around his–with some help from the minor league staff–ability to develop pitchers into better contributors than they could become elsewhere, and reap the rewards of the value gained.

And of course, when it comes to preventing injuries–the entire crux of the biomechanics push–there’s no one better than the White Sox, be it last season, or the last ten seasons.  No one’s particularly close, either.

Even if all credit for that is removed from Cooper’s work and laid at the feet of trainer Herm Schneider, it would still answer the question of why the pitching coach is allowed to be a dismissive crank in regards to new techniques in pitcher development and injury prevention; because this is flat-out not a problem for the White Sox.

Which is not to say that the team shouldn’t look into it, certainly they should, but any plan to instill more consideration of biomechanics into the White Sox development of pitchers should take a lot of time looking into how to maintain the practices that Cooper & Co. have operated by, because they’ve done pretty well.

The White Sox are hardly removed from criticism for their obstinance on some matters, and one can question how the hell they’ve become relegated to mediocrity with such sterling performances in this area of the game.  But if Cooper is a fool; he’s a fool they can, and should suffer.

Follow James Fegan on Twitter @ JRFegan.  Also check out his full-time, daily blog, White Sox Observer