A key acquisition of the Astros during last year’s offseason, Gerrit Cole exceeded all of the expectations placed on him in 2018.
When Houston attained Cole’s services last winter, the prevailing thought was that he would fit right in as the club’s number two or three starter. Let’s say that the former Pirate ended up pitching more like an ace all season long.
Pitching numbers: 200 1/3 IP, 2.88 ERA, 2.70 FIP, 34.5% K%, 8.0% BB%, 6.3 fWAR
The Astros‘ starting rotation was one of the best in baseball. Cole was a major reason for that success. Thanks to a series of changes implemented by he and Houston’s management, the right-hander started throwing more four-seam fastballs and curveballs while limiting the number of sinkers and changeups. Strikeouts went up noticeably while the number of home runs allowed dropped to 19 from a career-worst 31 dingers the season before. The results, which go deeper than the type and quantity of pitches thrown, shows how well the changes that Cole made on the mound in 2018 actually worked.
Cole was consistent all season long as he only had one month — July — an ERA higher than 3.41. Along with Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, and Lance McCullers, the UCLA product helped push the Astros to a franchise-best 103 wins and a trip to the ALCS for the second straight season.
Regular season grade: A+
In the postseason, Cole had a mixed bag of results. In his first postseason start as an Astro, he held the Indians to three hits and only one earned run over seven strong innings of work. Cole was utterly dominant in that start as he struck out twelve Cleveland hitters while walking none. But his next start in Boston wasn’t as encouraging. Not as sharp as he was in the ALDS, Cole labored through six innings against the eventual World Series champions. In what was his final start of the year, he allowed four earned runs — five total — as the Astros started down a path of four straight defeats to end their postseason run. Struggling from the onset of Game 2, Cole walked two Boston hitters while striking out only five.
Postseason grade: B
Despite a disappointing end to the Astros’ 2018 season, Cole help solidified one of the best starting units in baseball. He will be looked to provide similar results next season as Hoston’s rotation is in a state of flux outside of him and Verlander.