Why it is fun but also concerning to watch Michael Kopech pitch again

He is throwing crazy heaters again, but also throwing too many fastballs.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Kopech's demotion to the bullpen during spring training might have saved his career.

Kopech was a mess as a starter. He has started 60 games and registered just 14 quality starts. He was demoted to the bullpen last season after his ERA ballooned to over five. He struggled against the lineup the second time through the order.

The hitters' slash line in the first through third innings off of Kopech is .189/.320/.355. It jumps to .266/.341/.506 the fourth through sixth. That struggle is a big reason Kopech was moved to the bullpen.

The decision by general manager Chris Getz to move him out of the starting rotation and into the closer role has been a good one.

It has been hard to give Getz a lot of credit with how the Sox have gotten off to a 2-9 start. This was the right call as Kopech is back to being the bullpen weapon we saw in 2021. He was a multi-inning high-leverage bullpen arm with a devastating fastball that helped the White Sox win the AL Central Division that season.

Through three games, we are seeing that version of Michael Kopech which is the best version of himself. He is straight up lighting up the radar gun with the heat he is putting on his fastball.

Outside of Garrett Crochet, there is no other pitcher on the roster that is more fun to watch throw than Kopech.

He has two saves, a 2.45 ERA, and opponents are hitting just .160 off of him. He has pitched more than an inning in three of his five appearances. His average velocity this season is 98.5mph which is three miles per hour faster than last year.

It is his best pitch and the one he is more comfortable throwing. It is also enjoyable to watch him throw that smoke.

Relying on the fastball is also a potential problem down the road for Kopech.

He is throwing his heater 80.7% of the time this season. He is using his slider 18.5% of the time and has mixed in a rare cut-fastball at a .7% clip. He has not broken out his changeup or breaking ball this season. Last year he went with the fastball 61.4% of the time.

Going with the heat has led to high pitch counts. He has already thrown 135 pitches in five games this season. He needed 39 pitches to get his first save of the season against the Atlanta Braves last Tuesday. He gave up a home run ball, another hit, and walked two.

He threw 31 pitches against the Kansas City Royals in one inning of work last Friday where he also issued two free passes.

Throwing triple-digit heat is not a bad thing for a reliever, but if the pitch has no command behind it, hitters are just going to lay off and take a free pass. Kopech has also been known to try and just keep firing those fastballs in there and that can lead to a costly mistake. That is why you want to see him mix in some of his other pitches more regularly to keep hitters honest.

Also, you do not want him frying out his arm so quickly. Kopech has always had durability issues. For now, he is one of the few players worth watching on this terrible team. Hopefully, it stays that way because we have seen crumble before.