While Dylan Cease might be the pitcher most in need of the assistance a new pitching coach can bring, Ethan Katz isn’t ignoring the rest of the White Sox staff.
James Fegan summed up Katz’s to-do list in a fantastic article on The Athletic, and as you might expect, Cease’s is the most involved.
In their near-daily communications and reviews of drills, Katz has targeted the beginning of a chain reaction. If Cease can ride longer on his back leg in his delivery, it will delay when he begins to rotate, delay when his front shoulder starts to open up and keep him straight and true toward home plate, improving the vertical action on his fastball while keeping him in the zone. […]
Cease noted to Katz that his delivery feels like that of Josh Hader, Milwaukee’s All-Star closer with a distinct cross-firing throwing motion. Cease is not cross-firing at all in Katz’s estimation, but it’s just that after two seasons of flying open, that’s how unfamiliar having a consistently straight line felt.
Also as you might expect, Reynaldo López is the other pitcher whose changes might be noticeable as early as spring training. Katz is attempting to shorten López’s arm action. He says it wouldn’t be a Lucas Giolito-grade editing job, but the affects are theoretically far-reaching:
“His arm is staying next to his side. If you were to watch from home plate, it’s not getting back behind him. Where now the arm has a more direct path and has a little bit more deception.”
López ditched his curveball entirely in 2020, completing a four-year progression of his slider emerging as his primary breaking ball since coming over to the White Sox. The slider was a dominant offering when López was one of the bright lights of a 100-loss 2018 season for the Sox, but hitters slugged .618 against it in 2020. Now that López is armed with a compact arm action that theoretically should make all of his pitches more accessible, it has Katz believing they can restore the curveball that López had back in 2016 in Washington, “when he was at his best.”
Again, I’ll issue the disclaimer that Katz’s prescriptions are easier said than done, especially since he’s not the one doing them. That said, I’m pleased to hear the idea of addressing something physical with López’s delivery, because the idea that his problems stemmed mostly from focus struck me as potentially problematic.
Fortunately, the addition of Lance Lynn means that more than half of the Opening Day rotation is largely on autopilot. Giolito’s working on having his slider be ready for the first inning, rather than the fifth. Lynn is addressing potential weaknesses in case he loses enough power to rely so heavily on a three-fastball attack. Dallas Keuchel sounds like he’s going to teach Katz, rather than the other way around.
PERTINENT: Ethan Katz is the main difference in Dylan Cease’s offseason
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Kyle Schwarber looked like an adequate fit for the White Sox, who needed a left-handed bat with power, patience, and the ability to fake the ability to play left field. He would’ve been a better fit had he not hit .188 with a career-high strikeout rate, but then again, if he came closer to his previous career line in 2020, the Cubs wouldn’t have non-tendered him.
He’s off the board either way, as the Washington Nationals signed him. Unless Schwarber really wanted to stay in Chicago, he might’ve come out ahead. The Nationals signed him for one year and $10 million, which was above the MLB Trade Rumors projection of $9.3 million. He also gets to reunite with former Cubs bench coach and current Washington manager Dave Martinez.
That Schwarber lost nothing from the transition except moving expenses makes me wonder if teams think he’s one of the cases Eno Sarris referred to in his Athletic article last week. Plenty of hitters had uncharacteristically awful years, and two unique circumstances of the season — low workloads for starting pitchers, no in-game video room — should be removed or diminished in 2021.
(Perhaps Schwarber also benefited from being a compelling, young-ish player who was willing to settle for a one-year deal. We’re 10 days deep into January, and James McCann is the only other position player who has netted an eight-figure salary for 2021.)
Schwarber was never going to meet the 2016 postseason hype, and the Cubs’ belief in more burned them, but the size and shape of his 2020 struggles leaves plenty of room for a rebound that contributes to a team. Apparently the Nationals see it that way, rather than a player who peaked early and has to hang on from here. I’ll be adding Schwarber to my list of the most interesting White Sox-adjacent players in 2021 (here was 2020’s edition and postseason review).
PERTINENT: Non-tender deadline gives White Sox more left-handed options
(Photo by Ian D’Andrea)
Schwarber’s deal highlights one of the perversities of the one-year contract with an option/big buyout for the 2nd year structure. If he’s good and “earns” the 2nd year, he’ll be paid $7M in 2021 and $11M in 2022 — which would be on the low-end of his arb projection in 2021 followed by a reasonably priced 2nd year. But if he sucks in 2021, he’ll be paid $10M.
It’s a mutual option, those always get declined by one side or the other.
Yeah, I noticed that after I posted. But that makes it worse in some ways, since it will almost always just be a one year deal, where if he’s good, he’ll be paid $7M (Washington will exercise but Schwarber will decline), while if he’s bad, he’ll be paid $10M (Schwarber will exercise, but Washington will decline and pay the buyout).
Why is that perverse?
He’ll get paid more if he does worse. Seems backwards to me, no?
Presumably if he’s good (and he declines the option) he’ll make a hell of a lot more than 3 mil in 2021, so he’d end up getting more.
But from the Nationals perspective, the deal is effectively only for one year, and they’ll pay him more if he sucks than if he’s great.
I understand he is incentivized to do good so he can get better-paying contracts in the future; it’s backwards from the Nationals perspective regardless.
Katz’ll fix ’em!
Yeah, if true not a good look for Coop.
Katz’s quote about very clearly identifying what’s causing the drift in Cease’s fastball intentionally or not is pretty damning of Cooper