The Astros newest pitcher had a home run problem in 2017.
Instead, I would like to briefly concentrate on Cole’s home run issue from last season. The now-former Pirate pitcher was essentially Mike Fiers in terms of home runs allowed in 2017.
Home runs allowed by Cole in 2017: 31
Home runs allowed by Fiers in 2017: 32
Both pitchers, Cole and Fiers, ranked in the top eleven of home runs allowed by starters with at least 100 innings pitched last season. That’s obviously not good company. Only Ervin Santana of the Minnesota Twins finished with an ERA below 4.00 under the same set of criteria as I mentioned just a moment ago. And he allowed 31 home runs.
Simply put, no, Cole isn’t the same pitcher as Fiers. He is better than Fiers. And Santana. Just don’t use the 2017 metrics as your only research material.
If you hop over to Brooks Baseball, you can see that Cole allowed 12 home runs via his four-seam fastball last season. In each of the preceding four seasons, Cole never allowed more than 11 home runs in a single season. In his notable 2015 season, he allowed just six home runs via his four-seam fastball.
Needless to say, Cole’s four-seam fastball was an issue. It is a high velocity pitch, however, little movement. More of a flat fastball, if you will. At the same time, Cole’s secondary offerings like his sinker, change up, slider and curveball all surrendered at least three home runs last season. If I could revise my last statement, all of Cole’s pitches were issues last season. Of course, the “juiced” ball could be one reason behind Cole’s sudden home run issue. And, yes, I do believe the ball was “juiced” last season.
All of that said, Cole’s home run issue shouldn’t be an immediate concern. For one, it is very well possible that a regression to the mean is in order. Cole never allowed more than eleven home runs in a season before 2017, and sometimes players have an outlier year in a certain category. Like, home runs. But it is something to watch in 2018 along with an adjustment to the baseball.
**Statistics and information courtesy of Fangraphs, Baseball Reference and Brooks Baseball**