Gerrit Cole’s domination of Mets examined

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Apr 24, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Cole (45) looks on at the conclusion of the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Surprisingly, Gerrit Cole does not get many batters to swing at pitches outside of the zone. Coming in at 32.1% on the year, that is good for only 33rd in the National League. One thing he did very well against the Mets was reduce the amount of contact on those pitches out of the zone. Here is a look at all of Cole’s plate discipline numbers, both for the year and against the Mets:

Date O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone%
SEASON 32.10% 63.10% 46.70% 56.70% 87.80% 76.50% 47.20%
5/22/2015 32.20% 61.50% 46.00% 31.60% 90.60% 68.60% 46.90%

All of Cole’s plate discipline peripherals were pretty much on his season numbers except for contact. Looking at O-Contact (contact on pitches out of the zone) alone, Cole put bat on ball considerably less on pitches outside of the zone while still getting batters to offer at it just as much. This maximized the effectiveness ofthose pitches and led to much more chasing, as the previous slide about the slider indicates. I’m no mathematician, but it stands to reason that if the batter can’t put the ball in play, that would favor the pitcher. 

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When we look at the start on the whole, a few thoughts come into focus.

First –  Gerrit Cole is becoming a complete pitcher. From 2014 to 2015, Cole is actually throwing the four-seam more (66.7% in ’14 to 69.5% in ’15), yet has relied less on his curveball in favor of the slider from year to year. Cole is throwing more than half as many curveballs year-to-year (18.6% to 8%) while increasing his slider usage by 6%. The takeaway is this – Cole is using his velocity more effectively by cultivating a pitch that can fool batters with movement. One shutters to think what his arsenal might look like if he further develops his breaking ball.

Second – Cole thrives off of the competition of facing the opposing team’s best hitter. Any Pirate fan will tell you that Cole is as fiery as they come on the mound, and does not shy away from the competition. This is exactly what you want from your ace. And make no mistake about it, Cole is the ace of the Pirates pitching staff.

For Pirates fans, it is truly a treat to watch a pitcher of Cole’s ilk mature and develop right before our eyes with each passing start. Expect for starts like Friday’s outing vs the Mets to become the norm sooner than later.

Next: Charlie Morton tops Marlins in season debut