In his first three starts as a Yankee, Gerrit Cole is 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA and 0.79 WHIP. Yet if you peruse Twitter, while the love for him is still there (we’re still in the honeymoon phase), many are quick to point out that he hasn’t been that sharp. Those people would be correct.
The fact that Cole’s basic numbers are still very good shows just how good he is. Even on a “meh” night for him, he still goes out and pitches six innings of one-run ball while throwing less than 100 pitches. But Cole hasn’t dominated a game yet. He’s certainly dominated stretches of some games, but he hasn’t pitched a full game masterpiece yet.
I know it’s only been three games, so it is a very small sample size. But let’s see how Cole’s underlying numbers have been compared to his last two seasons.
Hard Hit %
The thing that pops out first is the diminished strikeout rate. It is down 16 percent from last year. Opponents’ expected slugging percentage is way up as well. The same goes for opponents’ hard hit and barrel rates. But all the others are not too far off.
One thing that has been mentioned is how Cole has yet to harness his fastball command. And we all know how good his fastball is. It makes sense that if his command with that pitch was lacking, the above numbers would be inflated. Any major leaguer should be able to do damage to a fastball not properly located.
Specific pitch numbers
Speaking of his fastball, it simply hasn’t been as effective as we know it can be. From last season, his whiff percentage on the pitch is down from 37.6 to 17.1 percent and his put away percentage is down from 32.8 to 16.7 percent. If you look at the movement, however, it is not too far off:
Overall, it looks like his fastball has been similarly located the past two seasons. Yet you can see hitters putting some good swings on the pitch this year.
He also hasn’t been able to throw his curveball for strikes as much. He threw it in the zone 49.5 percent of the time last year, while it has dropped to only 25 percent of the time this year.
However, he has actually been getting more swings and misses with his curveball: 31.9 percent in 2019 and 81.8 percent in 2020 (only 40 pitches).
How about the spin? It’s a little below last year, but still very good:
Am I nitpicking? Yes. Am I worried about Cole? Of course not. He’s on a new team in a new environment with a new catcher. Plus, there’s everything else that has been going on in 2020. I’m sure he’ll find his rhythm sooner rather than later (saying that he hasn’t found his rhythm yet and has still been very good is scary for opposing teams) — he’ll the $326 million man we all dreamed of.