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Astros: Gerrit Cole could set some club strikeout records

CLEVELAND, OHIO - JULY 09: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Houston Astros during the 2019 MLB All-Star Game at Progressive Field on July 09, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - JULY 09: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Houston Astros during the 2019 MLB All-Star Game at Progressive Field on July 09, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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Gerrit Cole could break some Astros club records that have stood for 40 years.

When Astros starter Gerrit Cole struck out the Athletics’ Matt Olson in the fourth inning on Monday, it was a bit more notable than most of his strikeouts. This was Cole’s 200th strikeout this season, making him the second-fastest in major league history to reach that mark in a season.

Cole leads the majors in both strikeouts and strikeouts per nine innings and is actually on pace to set a new major league record in strikeouts per nine. He’s been on an absolute tear lately, and if he’s able to keep it going, he could become the first Astros pitcher to strike out 300 batters in a season since Mike Scott in 1986.

What Are the Chances?

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By my count, if he doesn’t miss any turns, Cole should have another 12 starts this season. The Astros might be able to give him a 13th if they use off days advantageously. For the purposes of this, however, I’ll stick with 12.

With 205 strikeouts over 22 starts, Cole is averaging 9.318 strikeouts per start. Over 34 total starts, that comes out to 316.8 strikeouts. Not only would that surpass Scott’s total, but it would actually break the club record of 313 set by the great J.R. Richard in 1979.

He’s also in good position to break Richard’s club record of 14 double-digit strikeout games in a season, as he has 12 such games thus far. It’s amazing that Cole could end up having the best season in club history in terms of strikeouts for a franchise that has had Richard, Nolan Ryan, Justin Verlander and other impressive names.

What It Means

We all know Cole is set to be a free agent after the season, so a record-setting strikeout total and possible Cy Young Award (or at least a Top-3 finish) would set him up for a huge payday. Considering he’ll only be 29 when he hits the market, there’s a chance he could command a $200 million-plus deal. Agent Scott Boras will surely be pushing for that.

How the market will play out is a huge unknown, considering how stale the free agent market has been the past couple of years. Still, Cole is clearly the best starting pitcher to hit free agency since 2015, in which David Price and Zack Greinke both secured $200 million-plus guarantees.

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The market has stagnated for mid-tier free agents, but the top guys have still gotten paid. Someone, whether it be the Astros or another team, will give Cole that kind of money to be an ace. If he keeps racking up the K’s, he’ll be racking up the dollar signs as well.

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