Jaffe @ THT asks and answers five questions about the 2011 White Sox. From the 4th question:
Is Don Cooper the most underrated man in major league baseball?
… The Sox have a secret weapon, perhaps the most underrated man in major league baseball: Don Cooper, their pitching coach. Since Cooper took over in mid-2002 as the Sox’s hurler handler, the team has had an impressive record with its pitchers.
… Perhaps what’s most impressive about the Sox under Cooper is the health of their starters. From 2002-10, the Sox have coaxed 30 starts in a season from one of their pitchers 32 times. For perspective, here’s how the Sox compare to the other leading MLB teams in this category in the Cooper Era.Team 30+ GS CWS 32 OAK 26 ANA 25 BOS 24 LAD 24 SFG 24 STL 24 ATL 23 PHI 23 7 teams 22
Damn. That ain’t even close. The Sox are a standard deviation unto themselves.
It takes more than just a pitching coach to produce results like that. It tells you the front office prioritizes dependability in picking starters. It tells you their farm system takes care of guys. It tells you the pitchers are durable. No, you can’t give Cooper all the credit, but you sure as hell can’t ignore his contribution. As the pitching coach for the MLB team, he’s point man in ensuring the starters remain healthy and effective. He’s done an excellent job of that.
Cooper doesn’t wave a magic wand and suddenly make people better. (Buehrle may very well be a back-of-the-rotation guy if his strikeouts keep sinking, and that drop could easily happen this year.) But Cooper is mighty nice pitcher insurance to have on the team.
Cooper has never gotten the attention of say, Dave Duncan or Leo Mazzone, at least not yet anyway. If Cooper isn’t the most underrated man in MLB, it may be his counterpart in Minnesota, Rick Anderson. Both men are part of the reason why their teams often seem to exceed their projections.