Chicago White Sox starter Gavin Floyd (7-8) made quick work of the Oakland Athletics on Sunday. He took a perfect game into the sixth inning before allowing just one run and four hits in seven-plus innings, improving to 5-2 with a 1.06 ERA in his last 11 starts. All in under 2.5 hours. The 6-foot-6 right-hander hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in a game since a loss to Texas on June 2.
And Floyd is like many of the other Sox pitchers, and Sox system pitchers- developed to work with speed and efficiency. I recently was on conference call with Sox minor league pitching coordinator Kirk Champion (for more on Champion’s insights into the Sox organization’s top pitching prospects go here) and he discussed the organizational practices regarding this trait.
By Paul M. Banks
JM: Watching some pitchers come up through the Sox system, one common trait they have is that they all work pretty fast. Hudson is a pretty quick worker; and Gavin Floyd was a pretty slow worker with Philly, but then we he made his way up through Charlotte he started speeding up his tempo. Is that something that is taught or a philosophy that is preached throughout the organization, maybe a Mark Buehrle trickle-down affect, or is it just a coincidence?
KC: It’s not a coincidence. I think that Mark’s had so many good outings and works fast, the defense seems ready behind him. And he’s certainly an easy guy to point to because of the success he’s had. We do address it and we go back to John Ely and Clayton Richard, guys who aren’t in our system any more and we certainly emphasized it. Clayton was a fast worker. We’re trying to get a lot of our younger guys to realize that if we can cut some time down between pitches that it’s a good trait that more pitchers in our system need to stick to. We don’t force it on guys. There’s been a lot of times where you can see a slow tempo and we certainly want them to be a little more aggressive.
SSS: Adding on to Jim’s question, it seems like the cutter is the pitch of the White Sox system. Does this just start with Don Cooper, or do they try to start teaching it down in the minors?
KC: Yeah, with different organizations, we’re talking about different philosophies. It’s a trendy pitch, like the split finger years ago. I think the ability to locate your fastball up and down is our first priority at the lower levels, being able to change speeds and throw your best stuff more often. I like to think that at high-A, AA, AAA, if we’re ready to add that pitch we’ll do it.
But one trap that you can fall into, is that guys will get “cutter happy” because they’ll have a little success with it at the lower levels and then get away from locating their best fastball. That’s just something we have to monitor. There are some guys we’ll allow at the lower levels a survivor pitch, maybe. Some guys we don’t want to throw too many till they get to the point where they can do other things really well first, and then maybe we’ll add that pitch. I know a lot of organizations don’t even add that pitch til AAA. Coop talks about it a lot and it certainly gets a lot of attention.
It helped Jon Garland back when Jon was having a hard time getting it going sometimes. Thing is, sometimes it becomes a slider rather than a cutter and that is one thing they truly have to understand. It’s no good to have five pitches if you can’t control all but one of them. We want to avoid developing four mediocre pitches as opposed to three quality pitches.
Thanks to Marty Maloney, the Coordinator of Public Relations for the White Sox for setting this up, and Kirk Champion for taking the time to answer our questions
Paul M. Banks is President and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank and @bigtenguru