White Sox Scorecard: Is Michael Kopech the best Winless Pitcher in MLB?

When you scroll through the pitchers of the daily games you typically disregard those where they have weird records.  Like 0-1 or 1-2, you typically figure it is a reliever who was nudged into the rotation due to injuries or some weird scheduling trick.  In the case of Michael Kopech, his 0-0 record speaks volumes about how his year as a starter has unfolded. As the White Sox have been stretching him out, increasing his endurance to go deeper in games, he hasn’t always gone the requisite five innings for the win.

However, his ERA of .93 and a WHIP of .97 show the quality of those starts and those 29 innings pitched (30 strikeouts by the way). According to MLB.com, as of May 12 across all of MLB, Kopech was first in ERA, 14th in WHIP (though 6 guys are all clustered around .91 and .97), and second in batting average against (.153) right behind Verlander. Kopech is on all batters’ minds right now.

Whenever there is a new name in the mix, like Kopech, it seems valid to compare against the names that everyone is talking about.  Let’s compare:

·       Pablo Lopez – 4-1, 36 IP, 1.00 ERA, .89 WHIP, .482 OPS against, 8.75 K/9.  

·       Justin Verlander – 4-1, 40.2 IP, 1.55 ERA, .64 WHIP, .439 OPS, 7.97 K/9.

·       Clayton Kershaw – 4-0, 30 IP, 1.80 ERA, .73 WHIP, .478 OPS, 9.6 K/9

·       Carlos Rodon – 4-1, 35 IP, 1.80 ERA, .91 WHIP, .459 OPS, 13.63 K/9

·       Corbin Burnes – 1-2, 38.2 IP, 1.86 ERA, .80 WHIP, .537 OPS, 11.64 K/9

·       Walker Buehler – 4-1, 36.2 IP, 1.96 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, .588 OPS, 7.85 K/9

·       Max Fried – 4-2, 37 IP, 2.68 ERA, .84 WHIP, .539 OPS, 8.51 K/9

·       Nestor Cortes – 1-1, 32 IP, 1.41 ERA, .97 WHIP, .542 OPS, 11.81 K/9

For Kopech, though his innings are little less than some and a lot less than Verlander, his .448 OPS and 9.31 K/9 along with his ERA and WHIP put him right along side everyone. Rodon and Verlander may be in the lead for Cy Young awards early in the year, but Kopech is in the conversation.  If these numbers continue, there is no reason he wouldn’t have a real shot at the Cy Young or at least an All-Star nod.

Kopech began at Mount Pleasant High School in Texas.  Though he was a Perfect Game All American 2014, he was overshadowed by a local rival, Patrick Mahomes.  Clearly, Kopech won the long term battle as Mahomes is nowhere to be seen in Major League Baseball or the minors. Foregoing college, Kopech was drafted in the first round by the Boston Red Sox.  But after two years and a couple of minor league All-Star games, Boston traded Kopech to the White Sox along with Yoan Moncada to get Chris Sale. After becoming the 13th best prospect in all of MLB in2018, Kopech underwent Tommy John which put him out for 2019.  After sitting out 2020 due to Covid, Kopech pitched 69 relief innings in 2021 with a 3.50 ERA.

Kopech throws a four-seamer 66% of the time which sits at 95.8 and maxes out around 98.5.  Batters see his slider around 20% of the time and a curveball that sits at a dangerously slow 79 mph about 14% of the time.  The changes of speed have been confusing batters all year as they have rarely guessed correctly.

As Kopech stares at a 0 in the win column to start the year, the statistic talks more about the White Sox hitting than Kopech’s pitching. White Sox fans will continue to second guess letting Carlos Rodon go to the Giants, especially when they think of a starting rotation of Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, Cease, and Rodon.  But replacing Rodon with Kopech has been a stroke of genius for the White Sox front office that looks like it will pay dividends for years.

Author

  • Larry Goldman

    Larry spends his nights and days watching, researching, and writing about sports in Chicago and the national conversation.

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