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Cooper: 'Old-school ways' won't bar evolution

Pitching coach partial to starters, but willing to look at newfangled strategies
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- The 2005 White Sox won 11 of 12 postseason games, including a four-game sweep of Houston in the World Series, to claim their first championship since 1917.

White Sox starting pitchers worked at least seven innings in 11 of those 12 games (Freddy Garcia went just five in Game 3 of the ALDS), including four straight complete games in the ALCS.

CHICAGO -- The 2005 White Sox won 11 of 12 postseason games, including a four-game sweep of Houston in the World Series, to claim their first championship since 1917.

White Sox starting pitchers worked at least seven innings in 11 of those 12 games (Freddy Garcia went just five in Game 3 of the ALDS), including four straight complete games in the ALCS.

Jose Contreras threw 17 1/3 innings over two starts in the '05 ALCS. But times have changed: in the 2018 NLCS, three Milwaukee starters combined to throw 20 1/3 innings over the seven games.

Don Cooper oversaw that amazing White Sox rotation effort, and even in the world of the opener and bullpen-reliant contests, the White Sox pitching coach remains partial to his starters 13 years later.

"Why do you pay them all the money? They are still the guys who go out there and take the bulk of the work," Cooper said. "What we did that year was an amazing thing. I said it maybe 10 years ago, 'This will never be matched.' And now, with how they are doing stuff, that's a shoo-in.

"It holds a personal satisfaction for me to be able to have watched all of that and to have gone through it and seen it all. Again, I'm still a believer in those guys are the ones."

Milwaukee, often working for lineup matchups, sustained the starters' lack of depth via an elite bullpen featuring Josh Hader, Corey Knebel, Jeremy Jeffress, Joakim Soria and Corbin Burnes. It was a bullpen somewhat akin to the '17 Yankees or the '14 and '15 Royals, as Cooper noted. Cooper added the White Sox played the matchup game themselves with a young bullpen during the final month of their rebuild's second year.

There have been no talks between Cooper and others in the organization concerning changes of focus on the staff such as using an opener, but Cooper isn't against that idea on certain days, if the team is set up for the following games as well. Cooper believes the foundation starts with a '19 White Sox rotation presently featuring Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and Carlos Rodon, with Dylan Cease, MLB Pipeline's Pitcher of the Year, on the way.

Video: Cease named Pipeline Pitcher of the Year

"I'm not looking for a reason to take them out," Cooper said. "I'm looking for ways to have starters go deeper in the games. But there are some who seem be able to do that. It has to do with what you have personnel-wise.

"Pitching up, spin rate, vertical movement -- I'm into all that, but my eyes can see a lot of that stuff. I'm trying to find ways and look at it in how it will be able to help me or anybody, how is it applicable to me on a daily basis.

"There are certain things that make me laugh. Like when they say the last couple of years, elevating a fastball is good. We've been elevating fastballs for the last 18 years. Higher than higher was our term. Lower than low, farther than far off the plate. But I'm all for numbers. I'm all for looking at stuff, and I'm not going to let my old-school ways get in the way of newfound stuff."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

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