Spare Parts: Michael Kopech opens up after trying year

One legitimate truism Hawk Harrelson likes to drop is that experience is something you get when you didn’t want it.

Michael Kopech, recapping his season to Scott Merkin, sounds like he got plenty of experience beyond the career-high 140 innings between Charlotte and Chicago.

“I went from having the yips for a month and a half to getting my big league call to blowing out my elbow and not getting to pitch again,” Kopech told MLB.com by phone from Matt Davidson’s charity event in Yucaipa, Calif. “It was kind of a crash and rebuild and then crash again. But it was definitely an unforgettable season.”

The word “yips” jumped out to me, as usually players fight that term (see: Soto, Geovany). Kopech indeed had control problems, but only one start that looked yips-y, so that label seems better reserved for somebody with the strike zone issues of Alec Hansen.

But it’s worth reading the entire article, because he goes in some places you don’t normally hear from an athlete of his caliber:

“Honestly, it makes you feel worse and worse as the days go on,” Kopech said. “It’s going to be a mental struggle for me. I know that. I’m ready for it. I’m just going to do what I can to get better mentally in the time being.

“It’s depressing. There’s no way around it. As someone who deals with anxiety and depression, it’s a situation where I have to be aware of myself. I have to know what’s going on and I have to be willing to say, ‘OK, I’m not going to play next year. Let’s get better this year meanwhile and get ready for 2020.’ It has to be something where I come to realistic thoughts with myself. I’m in the process of doing that but it is going to be difficult.”

Kopech sounds quite aware that he’s his own worst enemy, and that it’s something he can’t lose sight of. And while it’s alien to hear a pitcher with ace aspirations voice these insecurities, there are probably a bunch of guys in baseball who are fighting the same battles in their brains, and it’s better to talk about it than pretend it’s not there.

Spare Parts

James Fegan is doing work, including answering a couple of issues that we have batted around here time and time again — White Sox catchers hemorrhaging strikes, and the amount invested in analytics. For the former, Rick Hahn reasserted his belief in his staff’s ability to teach framing. For the latter, he refuted The Athletic’s report comparing R&D analytic departments and putting the Sox’ at the smallest. Whatever the case with their data-mining operation, he would admit they’re adding scouts while other teams are cutting them.

The headline doesn’t reveal anything new, but Bruce Levine added an interesting item further in:

Abreu has now vowed to continue going back to his roots by using longtime friend and hitting guru Marcos Hernandez as an advisor this offseason. Hernandez was Abreu’s hitting instructor during his first three seasons as a player in Cuba. […]

“We have been working on and off in the U.S since 2016,” Abreu said. “Nothing has been formal. He is a guy that knows a lot about my hitting, my offense. He is going to be a big help. You want to be around people who care about you and people that can help you improve. He’s one of those guys. It’s going to be very good for me. I have a lot of confidence in him. There is a trust there that works very well.”

Sam Miller’s article on the below-average height of baseball managers opens with a photo of Rick Renteria greeting his lineup on Opening Day. Renteria has plenty of company among managers in being dwarfed by his players — and even contemporaries — which runs afoul of the general bias toward taller men as better leaders.

Should it arrive in the majors, the pitch clock can only do so much to help push the pace of play along. It’s not going to affect the surge of pitching changes, which is what Jayson Stark keeps in mind. The one thing Stark noted is that the number of one-batter relief appearances has declined in three straight years, so perhaps there might be less opposition to the “relievers must face two batters” rule.

I like the idea of split-screen ads that could shave some time off the breaks between innings — and breaks during those abundant pitching changes.

The results for both Cy Young awards had plenty to chew on. In the American League, Chris Sale racked up his seventh consecutive top-six finish by taking the fourth spot behind Blake Snell, Justin Verlander and Corey Kluber. I would’ve picked Verlander, but both he and Snell were worthy. In the NL, deGrom picked up 29 of 30 first-place votes despite the results of his starts looking a lot like Lucas Giolito’s.

Author

  • Jim Margalus

    Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Eagle Bones

Disregard

Eagle Bones

It’s refreshing to hear Kopech (and really any person that speaks out like this) be open about these kinds of mental challenges. I feel like this is still a major problem in our society (not only in sports, but in life in general) in that we don’t often acknowledge these types of mental issues, doubts, fears, etc. and talk about them (especially men who still seem to have some stigma around admitting weakness). If some famous athletes speaking out like this can drive change, all the better.

To Kopech specifically, I hope he’s able to work through these challenges and come out stronger on the other side.

karkovice squad

Anderson’s experience would make him a good buddy.

Greg Nix

Possibly. I’d be careful about conflating acute grief with medical anxiety and/or depression. Not saying there’s no overlap, but also not necessarily quite the same thing.

Greg Nix

Agreed. I deal with anxiety issues and I’m certainly willing to talk about them in order to help others get past their stigmas. But it’s also a selfish act, because talking about anxiety helps ME recognize and deal with how I’m being affected. I’m glad Kopech feels able to put language to his mental health issues, because that’s a huge step in working past them.

Eagle Bones

I don’t think that’s selfish (though I get what you’re saying). I’m of the opinion (as I’m sure many are) that this country is way too quick to prescribe a pill for a problem that should really be handled by talking (mostly because it’s cheaper). You’re right though, it’s really a twofer: you feel better for having talked about it and it increases awareness and acceptance (hopefully) among others.

roke1960

It sure sounds like Kopech has his head on straight. The best start to combatting mental problems is to admit you have them. I’m sure he will come back better than ever.
It’s telling who Abreu didn’t mention in his duscussion- Todd Steverson. Why is he still the hitting coach?

Eagle Bones

I’m not sure this is a commentary on the Sox really, there seems to be a lot of players these days seeking coaching/instruction outside their MLB org.

WestEddy

He mentioned the Sox staff in another article. 

tommytwonines

Confusing wording choice by Langs – she juxtaposes win totals for the respective teams and pitchers – but I’m a big boy and read it twice and it’s a cool stat. Of course all year long I was shaking my head as Giolito’s win total increased. 

tommytwonines

Also, since framing was mentioned, there should be a hashtag #FlowersUnendingCaressingUsuallyStarts or

#FUCus

Trooper Galactus

This reminds me of a snippet I read from At Dawn We Slept, considered the greatest work on Pearl Harbor ever written. I recall just a brief mention that they changed the official abbreviation of Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet to CINCPAC, because CINCUS didn’t look very good for a naval term.

knoxfire30

New Fox Sports deal with mlb is a staggering 5.1 billion over 7 years, and new deal with DAZN a streaming service is 300 mil over 3 years… assuming an even split by team thats about a 34 mil windfall per team per year….

aka harper or machados salary….

zerobs

Not sure these contracts automatically escalate the figures agreed upon in the current CBA though. So teams may have the additional revenue but it won’t make a difference (yet) on payroll luxury tax implications.

knoxfire30

Im totally projecting for fun, but as mentioned in previous posts from myself and others, there is absolutely no reason to believe given current and future revenue streams the sox cant afford a massive payroll

zerobs

They are probably the only team that could sign both Harper and Machado with no immediate tax implications.

karkovice squad

I don’t doubt that the Sox have analytics tools. What I doubt is whether they’ve invested the resources to develop a comprehensive approach to winning baseball games. It seems more like a piecemeal approach.