While it’s still early, it looks like the Astros got a steal in Gerrit Cole.
It’s hard to get too excited after two starts about a starting pitcher. Two games is not a large enough of a sample size to project what a pitcher will do for the rest of the season. The results depend on other factors like defense and strike zone. However, Astros starting pitcher Gerrit Cole seems to have the right stuff.
When a pitcher flashes ace-type stuff, it shows that he could be in for a great season. In Cole’s first two starts with the Astros, he has set a franchise record for strikeouts in his first two games with the team. This is more than Randy Johnson and J.R. Richard had in their first two starts.
How is he doing it? He has the hitters swinging and missing at a higher rate than his career highs. According to Daren Willman, his previous high in swings and misses was 19. He set a new career high in his first start with 21 swings and misses. Cole followed that by matching his previous high last night with 19. You can see why he had 11 strikeouts in each game.
According to Chandler Rome, seven of his curveballs and 11 fastballs were whiffs. The last one was a slider to A.J. Ellis which resulted in his 11th strikeout. Via Fangraphs, Cole throws his slider 87 mph, a little slower than he did in 2017.
What is Cole doing early in the season different than the past two seasons?
As the experts predicted, Cole is throwing the fastball 5% fewer this year, working in more breaking pitches. He has increased his slider percentage by 7.8% and his curveball by 2.5%. Cole still relies mostly on the fastball, 54.9 % of the time. However, it’s pretty close to being 50-50 for him to use a fastball or breaking pitch. Because hitters have to gear up to hit his upper 90’s fastball, his curveball gets the most swings and misses.
It’s still early, but Cole is averaging 14.14 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. His walks are also down, and he has only allowed one homer so far.
Didn’t give up top prospects to get him.
While we gave up some good players to get him, they really weren’t part of the plan, outside of Joe Musgrove. Collin Moran has potential, but not a place on the Astros 25-man roster. Michael Feliz never stuck in the bullpen and outfield depth in Jason Martin. As much as Musgrove could have helped, the team should still win a lot of games.
This Cole trade could go down as one of the best trades in franchise history, but it’s too soon to make those claims now. For now, let’s enjoy watching this emerging ace and remember that we have him for 2019 as well. Great move by Jeff Luhnow to get Cole for players that didn’t hurt the team.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs***