The Most Important Pittsburgh Pirates in the Season’s Second Half

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 29: John Jaso /
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PITTSBURGH, PA – JUNE 30: Gerrit Cole
PITTSBURGH, PA – JUNE 30: Gerrit Cole /

Gerrit Cole

Thus far, Gerrit Cole has been the single biggest disappointment for the 2017 Pirates.

So far the 2017 season has been a wildly inconsistent one for Gerrit Cole. This inconsistency has led to Cole’s first half being a major disappointment. Gerrit Cole’s first 18 starts this season has been the worst 18 start stretch of his Major League career.

Gerrit Cole has pitched 107 2/3 innings in his 18 starts this season. He is averaging 7.86 K/9 and 2.29 BB/9, both of which are very strong numbers. The issue that has plagued him, however, has been home runs.

Cole has allowed 19 home runs (1.59 HR/9) so far this season. This comes after allowing just 18 home runs combined the previous two seasons and just 36 total in the first four seasons of his Major League career.

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The 19 home runs Cole has allowed this season is tied with Johnny Cueto, Tim Alderson, and Amir Garrett for the sixth-most in the National League. After the All-Star Break, Gerrit Cole must cut down on the amount of home runs he is allowing.

Through his first 18 starts of the season, Cole owns a 4.43 ERA, 4.48 FIP, and a 3.94 xFIP. Minus his xFIP, all of these numbers are career-worsts for Cole.

Through the first four seasons of his career Gerrit Cole was simply one of the best starting pitchers in the National League. He entered 2017 with a 3.23 ERA, 2.98 FIP, and was allowing just 0.56 HR/9 in 579 1/3 career innings pitched. During this stretch, his FIP was third-best in the National League and his home rate ranked fourth.

For whatever reason Gerrit Cole’s slider has lost a lot of bite in 2017. In turn, this has made his fastball less effective. Getting his slider back on track will be key for Cole when play resumes after the All-Star Break.

Getting Gerrit Cole back to his pre-2017 self would be a huge shot in the arm for the Pirates. If this happens, and Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, and Trevor Williams continue to pitch as well as they have, the Pirates could still make a run at a division championship.

Gerrit Cole has been a massive disappointment so far this season. If the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to make a run at winning the National League Central, he must be better after the All-Star Break. In all honesty, he might be the most important.