An Ace, He Is


For some, Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher, Gerrit Cole is an ace, for others he is not. Some are foolish and others see him for what he is. After Edinson Volquez got lit up like a Christmas tree in the 2014 National League Wild Card game, many Pirates fans were upset that the team’s best pitcher, although Volquez was arguably better in 2014, did not start the Wild Card game. In 2015, Hurdle made the call – a call that is still correct to this day – to start the teams best pitcher in the Wild Card game against the Chicago Cubs ace Jake Arrieta. Cole got rocked as well, only going five innings and giving up four runs, as the Pirates dropped the game 4-0. The Pirates had their opportunities to score, they just did not capitalize. After that game, and the game on September 1 against the Milwaukee Brewers where he went four innings and gave up five, some fans declared him as a “non ace” or a “wanna be ace.” Even after his first two starts of the 2016 season, some have already declared this tired notion that Cole is not an ace. There is two trains of thought one could follow, listening to facts or following a notion that you desperately want to believe to fit a narrative.

So here are the facts

In his short career, the former 2011 first overall pick, has started all 75 games that he has pitched in. Cole has performed exceptionally well in those starts, as he has posted a 3.09 ERA, an even better 2.88 FIP, a 1.148 WHIP, a 23.5 percent strikeout rate (20.2 percent is league average), 73.3 percent of his starts have been considered quality starts, and the Pirates are an all time 50-25 in his starts, a 66.7 win percentage. Simply put, Cole has pitched well and the Pirates win, a great deal amount, when he takes the bump. But where is his rank among the games elite and considered by all to be aces?

Active pitchers to have at least 75 starts

ERA that is 3.10 or lower

Clayton Kershaw- 245 starts, 2.42 ERA

Jul 26, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) pitches against the Washington Nationals during the second inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Sonny Gray- 77 starts, 2.86 ERA

Chris Sale- 119 starts, 2.90 ERA

Adam Wainwright- 224 starts, 3.04 ERA

Stephen Strasburg- 135 starts, 3.04 ERA

Kris Medlen- 71 starts, 3.04 ERA

Madison Bumgarner- 183 starts, 3.06 ERA

  • Gerrit Cole- 75 starts, 3.09 ERA
  • Felix Hernandez- 337 starts, 3.10 ERA

    Fip that is 2.90 or lower

    1. Clayton Kershaw- 245 starts, 2.62 FIP
    2. Stephen Strasburg- 135 starts, 2.81 FIP
    3. Gerrit Cole- 75 starts, 2.88 FIP

    Opponent slugging percentage .650 or lower

    1. Clayton Kershaw- 6458 batters faced, .570 OPS
    2. Sonny Gray- 2071 batters faced, .604 OPS
    3. Chris Sale-  3643 batters faced, .624 OPS
    4. Stephen Strasburg- 3216 batters faced, .626 OPS
    5. David Price- 5940 batters faced, .644 OPS
    6. Gerrit Cole- 1914 batters faced, .647 OPS
    7. Yu Darvish- 2262 batters faced, .647 OPS
    8. Chris Archer- 2412 batters faced, .647 OPS
    9. Felix Hernandez- 9330 batters faced, .647 OPS
    10. Jake Arrieta- 3355 batters faced, .648 OPS
    11. Alex Cobb- 2052 batters faced, .650 OPS

    Strikeout to walk ratio of 3.85 or better

    1. Chris Sale- 4.74 K/BB
    2. Corey Kluber- 4.70 K/BB
    3. Michael Pineda 4.67 K/BB
    4. Stephen Strasburg- 4.63 K/BB
    5. Hisashi Iwakuma- 4.26 K/BB
    6. Madison Bumgarner- 4.19 K/BB
    7. Jordan Zimmermann- 4.03 K/BB
    8. Josh Tomlin- 3.97 K/BB
    9. Gerrit Cole- 3.85 K/BB

    Percentage of starts that are considered to be quality starts more than 70 percent

    1. Chris Sale- 74.8 percent
    2. Sonny Gray- 74.0 percent
    3. Gerrit Cole- 73.3 percent
    4. Clayton Kershaw- 72.7 percent

    Average game score better than 57

    Clayton Kershaw- 63.1

    Chris Sale- 61.4

    Jul 10, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) takes the field to pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
    Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

    Yu Darvish- 59.8

    David Price- 58.5

    Stephen Strasburg- 58.5

    Sonny Gray- 58.4

    Felix Hernandez- 58.3

    Madison Bumgarner- 58.2

    Cole Hamels- 57.8

    Adam Wainwright- 57.7

    Hisashi Iwakuma- 57.5

  • Gerrit Cole- 57.3
  • Max Scherzer- 57.1

    Gerrit Cole is in some really, really good company. In the postseason, Cole has started three innings and has a produced a 3.94 ERA. But in that game last year, Cole had a 7.20 ERA, and if that is enough to declare him as a non ace, here are some other ace pitchers in the postseason:

    • David Price- 14 games, 8 starts, 5.12 ERA
    • Clayton Kershaw- 13 games, 10 starts, 4.59 ERA
    • Johnny Cueto- 7 starts, 5.35 ERA

    Many Pirates fans wanted David Price each of the last two trade deadlines, and when Cueto was a free agent, many wanted the Pirates to open up the wallet and sign him, not to mention the one is the best pitcher in the game of baseball.

    Pitchers in their first three seasons that have 70 or more starts, less than a 3.10 ERA, and a 8.5 or better strikeout per nine

    • Herb Score
    • Mark Prior
    • Tim Lincecum
    • Dwight Gooden
    • Cerrit Cole

    These are the facts that we see. Gerrit Cole has pitched like an ace in his career so far. The choice between facts, knowledge, and logical thought or trying to create and fit a false narrative is there. The decision is pretty clear, Gerrit Cole is an ace, and these numbers above prove it.

    *Numbers derived from the baseball-reference play index