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Quote of the day: Don Cooper don’t need to think about no stinkin’ biomechanics

Mar 23, 2012, 12:05 PM EDT

Don Cooper, Ozzie Guillen

There’s a long article in the ESPN the Magazine season preview issue about pitching and biomechanics. About how a pitchers’ motion and physical approach could make all the difference in terms of whether that pitcher maintains his health and avoids those visits to Dr. James Andrews.

I’m not gonna say I fully understand this stuff. Even the experts have some disputes among one another and the data is far from perfected yet. But I read this this quote from White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper and I don’t want to live on this planet anymore:

“I’m not going to let new-school ways get in the way of my old-school thinking. I don’t need biomechanics. I have experience. I have my eyes. I just watch and look.”

If you were an executive in a billion dollar business and one of your supervisors took that approach when presented with something that, even if untested, at least claimed to have significant benefits for your business, you would fire him.  Indeed, even if you were skeptical yourself, you would fire that guy if he didn’t at least engage the new information if, for no other reason, than to debunk it.

But not baseball! In baseball, people like Cooper ignore and dismiss new stuff until they have absolutely have no choice but to acknowledge it.  Or, more commonly, until their successors acknowledge it while they sit in the retirement home and continue to talk smack about the new-fangled ways of doing things.

  1. ezthinking - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:12 PM

    Funny, can’t remember alot of Cooper’s players having Tommy John.

    • djpostl - Mar 23, 2012 at 8:33 PM

      No, they just suffer from mediocre ERAs and fail to achieve their talent levels.

  2. El Bravo - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    The White Sox are f@cked in every way for pretty much the next decade anyway. Black and white will be the new Royal blue.

  3. sdelmonte - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:15 PM

    New stuff? The Wikipedia listing for sports biomechanics says “see also Leonardo daVinci.”

    • cur68 - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:27 PM

      FTR…and, seriously, a hat tip for knowing that. I didn’t.

  4. ezthinking - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:20 PM

    When one of the testimonials in the article is from Tim Hudson, he who went to the biomech folks and still ended up with Tommy John, I wouldn’t put too much into the “science” yet as it is clearly unproven.

    Also, an inverted “W” is an “M.” My 6 year old knows that.

    • l0yalr0yal - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:24 PM

      I hate to do this, but…

      An inverted “W” is still a “W”. An upside down “W” is an “M”.

      • ezthinking - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:27 PM

        Definition of INVERT

        transitive verb
        1
        a : to reverse in position, order, or relationship
        b : to subject to inversion
        2
        a : to turn inside out or upside down
        b : to turn inward

        It’s an M. Also look at the pictures their referencing.

      • l0yalr0yal - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:30 PM

        So, if I am using definition 1a, and you’re using definition 2a, we are both correct and will certainly high-five at least twice if we meet face to face.

    • l0yalr0yal - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:25 PM

      However, I still like you and your comments just the same.

  5. If the Shoe Fits - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    I love these guys.
    The ‘get the hell off of my lawn!’ mentality with anything that could possibly threaten the totality of their knowledge is so quaint.
    I’m sure he yearns for days of train rides to games, where this whole silly ‘airplane’ thing didn’t make it so complicated.
    Keep it coming, Coop.

  6. dohpey28 - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:23 PM

    “even if untested, at least claimed to have significant benefits for your business”

    I claim that if you make the background pink, and your print lime green, your site traffic will quadruple. Do I have proof? Should you entirely ignore my claim even though I say it will benefit your business? Hell yes.

  7. Jonny 5 - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:23 PM

    I understand one aspect of biomechanics when pitching.

    1. Inverted “W” bad. mmmmkay childrenn…

    • paperlions - Mar 23, 2012 at 2:13 PM

      Actually, that’s a myth. The inverted W is highly common, it is whether or not a pitcher is late with his arm action, putting stress on his elbow that is more indicative of future TJ surgery. Nearly all over-the-top pitchers will have an inverted W at some point during their delivery.

  8. phillyphreak - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    I think it’s fair to assume that while one would hope (and push for) pitching coaches to embrace new information and things, Cooper is still evaluating biomechanics in at least a limited sense.

    • paperlions - Mar 23, 2012 at 2:20 PM

      Very true.

      It is also true that the MLB pitching coach’s primary job has little to do with evaluating the potential for injury in a pitcher’s mechanics. By the time a guy gets to MLB, he is pretty much a finished product from a mechanics standpoint. The job of the pitching coach is to see what the guy is doing that is negatively affecting the velocity, movement, or location of pitches and to correct those things to maximize productivity.

    • umrguy42 - Mar 23, 2012 at 2:38 PM

      I was wondering about that – I mean, he has years of experience, and even if he doesn’t have all the science and math, perhaps it’s one of those deals where he’s validly at the point where he knows what good and bad mechanics look like, even if he wouldn’t put it in the same terms the researchers use.

  9. Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:32 PM

    Interesting article. There was some more substantive stuff that came out about mechanics dealing with Lincecum, Chapman, and Strasburg but my google ninjutsu is failing me. The short and sweet is that there’s a very real possibility these guys represent the last push of higher velocity in baseball. Multiple orthopedists said that the angle of rotation and speed of rotation in the shoulder, not to mention the ligaments in the elbow, were not capable (on any human not built in a laboratory out of non-organic material, so maybe Bartolo Colon can do it) of reaching higher velocities than the current high speed.

    Anyway, Don Cooper is an idiot.

    • ezthinking - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:36 PM

      Idiot for (1) not buying unproven science to re-train pitchers at the major league level or (2) talking to some ESPN writer about a topic the writer has zero technical or practical knowledge?

      • Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:48 PM

        As to your first point, the point everyone is making is not that these orthopedists have saved the day. It’s that they are actively searching for scientifically based solutions to problems that guys like Don Cooper are ignoring. Did you even read the article?

        As to your second point, Don Cooper’s job is handling major league pitchers. If someone told you that you could save your company millions of dollars and improve the quality of your product, then you are a slack-jawed should-lose-your-job idiot for reflexively dismissing them because you think your antiquated systems work.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 23, 2012 at 1:21 PM

      BBB, this article*, where it talks to physiologists who say that the load on the shoulder is at max so we’ll never see someone throw 120+ mph?

      http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/writers/tom_verducci/07/01/lincecum0707/index.html

      • Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Mar 23, 2012 at 1:28 PM

        That’s the one! Great find, Church, thanks. This article, as well as the one from the NYT where they discuss shoulder angle-of-rotation, are well worth a read.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 23, 2012 at 1:41 PM

        First read that article from an FJM post where they said:
        Tim Lincecum is fourteen years old and weighs 88 pounds. I don’t care if his delivery was designed by NASA torque specialists. He can just relax and let someone else pitch.

        Makes it easy to find via a google search for a phrase in there.

  10. ezthinking - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    Read the whole things. Reads just like the last 12 of these same articles.

    Sorry this is a hard concept, but you can’t just magically change how a pitcher throws and certainly it won’t be done at the major league level. Further a host of other questions are not entertained, you just call Cooper an idiot.

    For example: What is the injury risk if you change them now? How long to change them? Does any of the Whites Sox need to be changed? Does the new style present other problems? Are the players capable of being changed? Do they want to change? If WS players aren’t going on the DL for TJ surgery, where are the cost savings? Does a pitcher that throws “correctly” get batters out at a better rate?

    • dowhatifeellike - Mar 23, 2012 at 3:46 PM

      Most of your questions could be answered by doing the biomechanical analysis. All it takes is to have each pitcher throw 20 pitches in front of a few cameras. Every pitcher in the organization could be done on a particular day during spring training. The Orioles did it in one afternoon at the start of camp.

      Doing the analysis causes zero problems. It can’t hurt to examine the motion more closely. If issues are found, then the discussions can begin. But it can’t hurt to look.

  11. ja4ed - Mar 23, 2012 at 1:07 PM

    The White Sox trainers must be outstanding at their jobs as the Sox are consistently at the top of the list of teams with fewest DL stints and shortest duration of DL stints.

    • jimmyp70 - Mar 23, 2012 at 1:21 PM

      The Sox have great trainers.

      Cooper’s not too bad at his job either. Not many pitchers that work with him get hurt, and he consistently gets guys to outperform their expectations. When it comes to pitching, Don Cooper is far from an idiot.

      • florida76 - Mar 23, 2012 at 1:48 PM

        It is important to have an open mind, and use the best of new ideas and technology to improve evaluations. However, it’s worth noting, Cooper was the guy who correctly predicted Stephen Strasburg would have a major injury because of his pitching style. This was during the hype claiming Strasburg was going to be ok with his pitching motion, and destined to be a future star.

        In terms of being an ace, and future star, Strasburg has a long way to go.

  12. cleverbob - Mar 23, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    More importantly, have they analyzed the biomechanics of trampoline jumping?

  13. The Baseball Idiot - Mar 23, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    So has anyone ever done, or heard, of a study of injuries being done.

    Going back and looking at all the pitchers in the ‘Tommy John’ era (roughly 1975, so 37 years of data) and made a list of all the guys who had the surgery, or serious elbow or shoulder problems, then cross-referenced it to team, manager, and pitching coach?

    Obviously with some variables such as Games Pitched, Innings Pitched, Pitches Thrown, and Complete Games.

    See if there is a pattern where any particular coach, organization, or pitching style leads to more or fewer injuries? I would do it, but someone would have to give me the data. Seems like it should be possible to figure this out.

    Or we could just ignore the possibilities of modern mathematics and just keep arguing about old school vs new school, because, hey, it’s a lot more fun.

  14. markod52 - Mar 23, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    Cooper has been, and is, an exceptional pitching coach and is excellent at tweaking flaws in a pitcher’s delivery (see Matt Thornton…before Coop a Seattle Mariners bust).

    And a previous poster was right, I recall comments from Coop on Strasburg’s delivery and how his mechanics foreshadowed a major injury. So I would think Coop helps the G.M. evaluate pitchers not yet on the roster but his main job is to assist the staff in making adjustments to their existing way of pitching – not redoing their basic pitching mechanics.

    And yes, we all saw “Moneyball” but discounting intuition and experience is no better than discounting statistics and similar metrics.

  15. johnnyru131 - Mar 23, 2012 at 4:30 PM

    First, Calcaterra you are an idiot and obviously have no idea at how good of a pitching coach Cooper is. Rarely ever do his pitchers get hurt and have to have TJ Surgery.

    Second, anyone else ripping on Coop you are just as dumb as Calcaterra.

    Third, what a stretch for an article. Can’t they come up with anything more integrating to write about. Calcaterra you should be FIRED for Writing this idiotic article.

  16. sundevilslegit - Mar 23, 2012 at 8:11 PM

    Coop is the most underrated coach in baseball. This guy is the real deal. He takes reclamation projects, makes them starters and the releases or trades them just before they suck again.

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