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Grading the White Sox: Ethan Katz

The 2022 White Sox of MLB pitching coaches

Not sure how much he had to do with the success of an iconoclast like Johnny Cueto, but Ethan Katz can count the veteran as a stunning triumph in 2022.
| Ron Vesely/Getty Images

At midseason, the SSS staff graded the 46-46 White Sox, from the head of the class Dylan Cease down to Dallas Keuchel. We invented a WARsss metric that could very well be just a cute way to trot out our special site grades — but really for all you know could be the product of years of research in a stats lab.

Our expanded report card will take us through everyone who saw time in uniform for the White Sox, plus some front-office types. Most of our writers will take on a couple of players, with final grades and short writeups, running through the end of November. Enjoy!


Ethan Katz
Pitching Coach
Midseason: 1.8 WARsss
Final: 4.3 WARsss

The 2022 White Sox were a lot of things: Disappointing. Mediocre. Infuriating.

One thing they were certainly not: Well-coached.

That being said, Ethan Katz is the winner of the illustrious prize of best coaching performance on a badly-coached team.

Katz certainly deserves his share of praise for the continued development of young pitchers like Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease, with Cease alone achieving success to the level that Katz would already get a passing grade from most casual Sox fans.

Add in the inescapable shadow of Tony La Russa, and it becomes pretty easy to avoid the wave of criticism as long as you are remotely doing a competent job.

(looking at you, Joe McEwing …)

That said, grading coaches is tricky.

The easiest and fairest way to grade Katz in 2022 is by using the results of the pitchers he was charged with coaching, then try to figure out what role he played in the results.

I first broke all pitchers into groups based on their final 2022 bWAR into good, bad, and the rest. From there, we go deeper into each and make a call on Katz’s part in the puzzle to decide if it was a win or a loss for Ethan as the pitching coach.

Sound complicated? Yeah, probably.

But so is trying to figure out exactly how much a coach does.


The Good: Dylan Cease (6.4 WAR), Johnny Cueto (3.5), Michael Kopech (2.2), Liam Hendriks (1.7), Reynaldo López (1.5), Kendall Graveman (1.0)

Dylan is obviously the crown jewel here. Cease followed up a pretty great year in 2021 with a stellar year in 2022, with Katz fingerprints all over him. Big win.

Cueto came out of nowhere for one of the great turn-back-the-clock performances in White Sox history. How much input a 15-year vet needs from the pitching coach is debatable, but Katz had worked with Johnny previously in San Francisco, so we will call this another Katz win.

Kopech made the leap from elite swing guy to pretty good starter, but along the way missed a lot fewer bats and struggled at times to find the strike zone. The big issue here is Kopech was clearly allowed to pitch hurt late in the year and I can’t let Katz off the hook for his role in that fiasco. Due to being unable to finish the job he started, Katz gets an incomplete for Kopech.

Hendriks was good again. That’s not a surprise. Liam also admitted to fully changing his pitching approach to try and strike everyone out due to not trusting the team’s defense. This extra pressure to be precise hurt Liam’s performance, and ultimately the team’s. If Ethan wasn’t privy to Liam’s plan, he should have been, and if he was part of it, that’s not good. Any way you cut it, taking an elite closer and getting less out of him is a loss.

López was the most impressive member of the White Sox pitching staff for stretches in 2022. That’s a massive compliment, when you have a teammate who finishes as the runner-up for a Cy Young. Reynaldo can also actually see the catchers mitt clearly for possibly the first time in his life. Working with Katz certainly didn’t hurt, but the Lasik surgery combined with a role where he can really fall back on being a two-pitch pitcher really seems like a bigger part of López’s unexpected success than the pitching coach. Can’t give Katz a win, or loss. This one is another incomplete.

Graveman is one of many starter-to-reliever arms for the Sox ,and had a solid season as the primary setup man for Hendriks. As far as being the White Sox biggest free agent acquisition prior to the season, though, Graveman’s performance in 2022 (much like the team as a whole) feels a little mediocre. With Graveman, Katz took a really talented guy and got about the minimum out of him; calling that a loss.


The Bad: Anderson Severino (0.0 WAR), Ryan Burr (-0.2), Josh Harrison (-0.2), Joe Kelly (-0.6), Jake Diekman (-0.6), Bennett Sousa (-1), Dallas Keuchel (-1.1)

Severino was on the team. That’s about the best we can say about him. The 2022 Sox were really desperate for left-handed bullpen arms, but Severino (and by extension, Katz) couldn’t make it work, even on a short-term basis. Loss

Burr wasn’t ever going to match his ERA from 2021. I can’t blame anyone for that, let alone Katz. He only appeared in eight games in 2022, so let’s call that a win.

Harrison isn’t a reliever, but pitched in multiple games and wasn’t the worst pitcher on the staff. I don’t like how it feels to say that. Then again, not sure Ethan gave him any pointers. Voting incomplete for Katz

Kelly was hurt before he even put pen to paper for the Sox. The numbers are bad, but the underlying peripheral stats paint a less grim picture. Katz helped here, but it’s hard to prove it based on results, so we will go with an incomplete due to injury.

Diekman was the only pickup at the trade deadline, and we are being kind to describe it as not working. While his FIP remained the same after the trade, Diekman’s increase in ground ball rate was pretty impressive, but unfortunately cancelled out by a BABIP of .404. Success wasn’t there, but a lot of peripherals changed in Diekman’s favor after the trade, and I call that a win for Katz.

Sousa had a a season of ups and downs. As the main lefthander out of the pen for early stretches of the year, Sousa showed a decent amount of promise at times, but often if he was giving up runs, he was giving up several. That being said, after middling April he had a really solid month of May (outside of a single, five-earned outing against Boston) before the wheels fell off in June. All in all, Sousa is the bizarro Graveman, in that you got about the minimum out a guy without much overall talent. Win for Katz.

As with Cueto, not sure how much input a pitching coach has for a vet of his stature, but however much it was in Dallas’ case, it wasn’t enough. In the end, you can’t credit Katz for Johnny and let him slide on Keuchel. Dallas is a loss for Katz, and a loss for anyone who had to watch it happen.


The Rest: Jimmy Lambert (0.8 WAR), Lance Lynn (0.8), Aaron Bummer (0.6), Lucas Giolito (0.5), Tanner Banks (0.4), Vince Velasquez (0.4), José Ruiz (0.3), Matt Foster (0.2), Kyle Crick (0.2), Davis Martin (0.1)

Jimmy Lamborghini’s confidence is through the roof going into 2023. Lambert is an easy win for Katz.

Lynn’s health (or lack thereof) most of the season makes him an incomplete.

Bummer’s ERA was great, but he gave up more line drives than in any year of his career. Something is also clearly not right with his delivery. Count this one as a loss.

Gio was the win that got Katz the gig, so 2022 Giolito was arguably the biggest loss of Katz year.

Banks had some really impressive moments for a guy with very low expectations. Win for Katz.

Velasquez was signed to either replace Carlos Rodón in the rotation or Kopech in the swing role. He didn’t succeed at either, but we will always remember him dealing against the Angels at home. Blame the bar that was set for him, but VV had a guaranteed roster spot and barely earned it. This is a loss for Katz.

Ruiz is a guy who’s been outperforming his peripheral stats for years, and it finally caught up to him. Can’t fully blame Katz for this one, but Ruiz’s FIP and ERA both jumped on his watch. Loss.

Foster looked good at times, but not good enough to capture the promise he showed in 2020. Loss for Katz Magic.

Crick had a rough start, but really started to look like he found something in June, but an injury ended his season and White Sox career. Could have been a win, but we will go with incomplete.

Martin went from low expectations in the organization to a guy who looks destined to log too many innings in 2023 due to a shoestring free agent budget. Either way, that’s a win for Katz.


Final Tally time!

Performance
Good (≥ 1 WAR): 6
Bad ( ≤ 0.0 WAR): 7
Meh (.01-0.9 WAR): 10

Katz Magic W-L
Win: 8
Loss: 9
Incomplete: 10


So, where does that leave us on Ethan Katz?

Would it surprise you to learn his basically-average performance was befitting an 81-81 team?

He did a pretty good job, but like the team he worked for, everything just ends up in a mess of mediocrity. Ethan is certainly a talented coach and like his predecessor Don Cooper, has already proven very capable of turning budget options into contributing pieces.

That being said, the ascent of Cease really helped to cement the rose-colored glasses on the season as a whole. In particular, the consistent struggles of previous success story Giolito really put the Katz Magic narrative into jeopardy.

I have seen some people give Katz an A for the past season, but I just can’t get there myself when breaking everything down, despite how much I personally like him.

I am personally happy they kept him on for the future. In the end though, he did a little better than average in 2022, and for that I will give him a B- overall.


2022 White Sox Grades

Ethan Katz, PIT COACH, 4.3
Tanner Banks, LHRP, 4.27
Andrew Vaughn, “LF,” 4.25
Davis Martin, RHSP, 4.1
Seby Zavala, C, 4.0
Luis Robert, CF, 3.7
Lance Lynn, RHSP, 3.5
Miguel Cairo, Bench Coach/MGR, 3.48
Tim Anderson, SS, 3.43
Kendall Graveman, RHRP, 3.1
Josh Harrison, 2B, 3.0
Gavin Sheets, RF-1B, 2.5
Jake Burger, 3B, 2.2
Romy González, IF, 2.0
Aaron Bummer, LHRP, 1.8
AJ Pollock, OF, 1.3
Matt Foster, RHRP, 1.2
Yoán Moncada, 3B, 0.92
Lenyn Sosa, SS, 0.85
José Ruiz, RHRP, 0.83
Mark Payton, OF, 0.6
Carlos Pérez, C, 0.399
Lucas Giolito, RHSP, 0.392
Adam Engel, OF, 0.237
Vince Velasquez, RHP, -0.4
Reese McGuire, C, -1.1
Kyle Crick, RHRP, -1.65
Joe Kelly, RHRP, -1.75
Daryl Boston, 1B Coach, -2.0
Anderson Severino, LHRP, -2.2
Jerry Reinsdorf, OWN, -2.321
Jake Diekman, LHRP, -2.366
Rick Hahn, GM, -2.401
Bennett Sousa, LHRP, -2.425
Frank Menechino, BAT COACH, -2.469
Yasmani Grandal, C/DH, -2.549
Leury García, UTIL, -2.7
Adam Haseley, OF, -3.146
Joe McEwing, 3B Coach, -3.167
Ryan Burr, RHRP, -3.4
Tony La Russa, MGR, -3.5
Dallas Keuchel, LHSP, -3.9

Poll

Ethan Katz is heralded with every move he makes, it seems. How is our grade for him?

  • 25%
    Too harsh, the pitching staff carried the team, I don’t care what the numbers say.
    (9 votes)
  • 16%
    Too easy, the staff took a step back, sorry.
    (6 votes)
  • 58%
    No clue, so I guess this ranking is pretty good. He certainly was the best coach on this terrible team.
    (21 votes)
36 votes total Vote Now
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