The Astros got a good deal last year for Justin Verlander, but the Gerrit Cole acquisition is looking great as well.
When the Astros traded for Gerrit Cole this offseason, we knew that we got a steal. No matter how optimistic you were, no one saw Cole pitching the way he has. Unlike his time with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Astros don’t need him to be the ace. His performance has shown otherwise, he is almost on par with Justin Verlander with a 1.4 WAR compared to 1.6. Cole is impressing Astros and MLB fans alike.
Yesterday, Cole failed to pitch seven innings for the first time this season. That is impressive in itself, this was Cole’s 6th start with the Astros. Cole came close yesterday, but the Athletics came back to tie the game in the seventh inning. With two outs, A.J. Hinch decided to take Cole out in favor of Will Harris. Cole had thrown 100 pitches while striking out 12 Athletics’ hitters.
Verlander has shown that he is the ace of the staff with his 4-0 record and a 1.36 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings. Cole started the season as the fourth starter, but he is pitching as the second ace. At this moment, the order of the starters does not really matter as they pitch on regular rest. With this rotation, there are weak starters for the other teams to face. Even Dallas Keuchel has shown some promise recently.
What Cole has done so far.
Cole has a 2-1 record in six starts so far with a 1.73 ERA with 61 strikeouts in only 42 2/3 innings. With those 61 strikeouts, he set a club record for April. According to Baseball-Reference, he joins a 60+ April strikeout club that consists of Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, and Roger Clemens. He’s now tied with Schilling and Clemens with 61 strikeouts.
While it stinks that he only has two wins in those six starts, that is something out of a pitchers control. They can’t control when Sean Manaea is throwing a no-hitter or the offense strands ten runners in scoring position. The only thing a pitcher can control is his pitches and keeping the ball in play. Not making errant throws can help as well.
Is he the best in the Astros rotation?
Will Cole average 10 strikeouts a game for the rest of the year, that is yet to be seen? Chandler Rome joined Talking Stros last night and mentioned that Cole didn’t get his 61st strikeout until June 2nd last year. He did it in April this year. Cole’s strikeout rate per nine innings pitched is an MLB career-high 13.18. Last year he allowed a career-high 31 homers. He has allowed only three so far this year, none in the last three games.
Someone asked on the show last night how Cole is doing so much better this year? There are many reasons, increased use of the slider, pitching up in the zone more, working with Brett Strom, using the analytics, and pitching with Justin Verlander. There are many more reasons why Cole is pitching better, but the change of scenery to an exciting team helps. Nothing against the Pirates, but Houston is coming off a World Series Championship.
Just sit back and enjoy the Cole Show this year. By the way, the rest of the rotation is pretty good as well. The Astros starting rotation has accumulated nine double-digit strikeout games in 30 games.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***