Big Mac Quick Take: Michael Kopech’s Debut
White Sox pitching phenom took the mound in a Major League game for the first time last night in Chicago. His outing spanned just two innings, thanks to a 52-minute rain delay, but he showed enough to excite and worry at the same time.
And, yet, we should take it all with a grain of salt.
Big Mac was on hand for the festivities. Though he was not sitting with the scouts, he was close enough to see that CB Bucknor robbed the kid of a couple of strike calls. Though, technically, any fan in the stadium could probably say that – we’re talking CB Bucknor here.
Kopech had the dubious task of facing Joe Mauer as his first big league hitter. He fired a strike on his first pitch and hit 98 mph on the radar gun. Mauer and second hitter Eddie Rosario both notched solid singles to start the rookie with first-and-third with nobody out.
Kopech wiggled out of trouble, and struck out the side in the second inning, around a third hit. But he totaled 52 pitches, and with his final offering fanned Mauer after a long at-bat.
Big Mac’s overall observations:
- Kopech has dominant stuff. At several points in his first two innings, an aggressive Kopech looked untouchable and on the verge of controlling the game.
- Adrenaline or Lack of Focus? Kopech got ahead of some hitters early in the count, only to have his next pitches miss the zone, often wildly. He didn’t walk a batter but he did hit Robbie Grossman with two strikes on him.
- Is the four-seamer really that good? He used his four-seam fastball just about 80 percent of the time and his slider the rest of the time, except for a lone change-up. He definitely brings the heat and overmatched hitters on several occasions.
- No help from blue. CB Bucknor is a terrible umpire. He missed at least three strike calls on two strikes, causing Kopech to work much more than he needed to. Obviously an umpire has to learn a new pitcher as well, but Kopech could have breezed through his first two innings.
- Poise will be a factor. Keep an eye on Kopech’s poise. As mentioned, he got a bit wild after getting ahead of hitters. That could be from being too aggressive, adrenaline, or lack of poise. Kopech whiffed 170 hitters in 126 minor league innings this season, but also surrendered 60 walks, a contributor to his 3.70 ERA. He’s got a bit of Nuke LaLoosh in him.
Kopech very much has a Noah Syndergaard vibe. Though his 6’3” frame is three inches shorter than Thor, he sports similar blonde locks and a dominating right arm. Syndergaard, though he’s always owned very good control, suffered a lack of focus at times early in his career.
We are willing to give Kopech every benefit of the doubt, especially being his first MLB start. We loved how he battled through adversity immediately and came out without a run. His control will be an issue that might cap immediate success, and we’d like to see a greater mix of pitches. He will need more than a devastating four-seamer and occasional slider to compete against major league hitters.
While his debut was a rain-shortened 52-pitch outing, we agree with White Sox fans who know that the future arrived last night on the South Side. Michael Kopech will be a factor for a long time to come.