Commentary

The Don Cooper program

The White Sox pitching coach has revitalized a discarded staff

Updated: August 26, 2010, 10:37 AM ET
By Dave Cameron | FanGraphs
Getty ImagesUnder the guidance of Don Cooper, Matt Thornton is now one of the best relievers in baseball.

When you watch the White Sox play, you are apt to see things like Juan Pierre leading off, Mark Kotsay at DH and Omar Vizquel at third base, and yet Chicago has continued to play winning baseball despite some curious lineup changes and some offensive black holes and sits 4½ games behind the Twins in the AL Central. The Sox's secret weapon? Don Cooper, perhaps the most underrated pitching coach in the game.

Everyone has heard about Dave Duncan's prowess for fixing pitchers in St. Louis, and Leo Mazzone got a lot of credit for the Braves' epic run during the 1990s, but Cooper has flown under the radar as a pitching guru. However, he's been instrumental in helping the White Sox get top-notch performances out of guys who were deemed not good enough for another major league organization. In fact, the cast-off label could be applied to nearly every member of the White Sox's bullpen.

Bobby Jenks was claimed off waivers after the 2004 season, in which he had posted a 10.24 ERA in the minor leagues. In 2005, with some mechanical adjustments from Cooper, Jenks was throwing strikes and blowing away major league hitters. He took over as the White Sox closer in 2006 and has been one of the game's best ninth-inning stoppers since, posting 8.5 wins above replacement in his career.