Gerrit Cole could have a start to the 2018 season that has not happened in the history of the Astros.
When the Astros traded for Gerrit Cole this offseason, we all knew he would be good. We also believed this was the answer to Dallas Keuchel’s impending departure to free agency after 2018. Instead, Cole has stabilized the rotation behind a shaky Keuchel this year. Justin Verlander is the ace of this staff, but Cole is impressing.
Verlander is an unlucky 7-2 with a 1.24 ERA while striking out 104 batters in 87 1/3 innings pitched. The bullpen and offense have failed Verlander in his two loses in May. But Verlander has pitched well enough to be the AL pitcher of the month.
On the other side, Cole is 7-1 with a 2.16 ERA while striking out 124 batters in 87 2/3 innings pitched. As you may imagine, Cole has the most strikeouts in baseball with 124, and the highest strikeouts per 9 innings pitched at 12.7.
There is more to the story.
After last night’s game, the Rangers do not love the Astros acquisition of Cole. Evan Grant tweeted that Cole has pitched 20 innings versus the Rangers this year and had 33 punchouts. That’s a 14.9 k/9 rate versus the Rangers. In those three starts, Cole is 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA. The one plus for the Rangers is that he has allowed three homers in those three games, none last night.
Not only is Cole making Rangers hitters have nightmares, but he also broke an Astros franchise record. This record is impressive because it’s the most strikeouts before the All-Star break since 2004. Yes, it is still only June 8th. That was Roger Clemens in 2004 with 121. This is according to Chris Peixoto’s tweet before the game last night.
More to come…
Coming into last night, Cole was tied with Roy Oswalt, in 2004 as well, at 116 strikeouts. With his eight strikeouts last night, he now seeks the new team record. There are still 35 games left before the All-Star break, meaning he will have about seven starts before then. If he averages eight strikeouts per game, he could finish around 180 strikeouts. He would then hold the Astros record, here are some other pitchers first-half numbers.
Mike Scott had 167 strikeouts in 1986. (current leader)
Richard had 157 strikeouts in 1978 and 1978.
Don Wilson had 149 strikeouts in 1969.
Scott had 148 strikeouts in 1987.
Nolan Ryan had 143 in 1987 and 124 in 1982.
But why limit him to only eight strikeouts per start when he is averaging 9.5 per start? This could mean that he will set a record that could not be topped again at around 190 strikeouts. Unless Cole breaks his own record in 2019 or beyond. Cole started the year as the Astros fourth starter but now looks like he could start for the AL squad in the All-Star game.
In terms of the highest strikeouts by a starter in a season, he has a while to go to catch up to the current record holder by a starting pitcher. I was not old enough to be aware of this season, but J.R. Richard currently holds the club record with 313 in 1979. Cole is on pace for about 305 strikeouts, but who knows what he can do. Isn’t this exciting to watch?
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***