2013 A.J. Burnett vs 2015 Gerrit Cole: Who Had the Better Season?
By Noah Wright
2015 Gerrit Cole
After two solid seasons in 2013 and 2014, the the former number one overall pick finally had a breakout season in 2015. Cole pitched to the tune of a 2.60 ERA, 2.66 FIP and 1.09 WHIP in 208 innings. Cole did not strike out as many batters as he does now, finishing the year with a 8.7 K/9 and 24.3% strikeout rate, but he was a master at locating pitches. He carried a sub-2 BB/9 (1.9) and a 5.3% walk rate. His walk rate was the 17th lowest in baseball, while his BB/9 placed him just behind that year’s NL Cy Young Award winner, Jake Arrieta (1.89) for 15th best.
His K/BB ratio of 4.59 was the 13th best among all pitchers. Like with Burnett, Cole was good at just not letting opponents get hits. He kept them to a 7.9 hits/9 rate, and limited opposing batters to a .239/.287/.336 line.
Cole only allowed 11 home runs all season, and finished with a 0.48 HR/9. That was the 4th lowest home run rate in the MLB in 2015. Cole also finished the season with a 48% ground ball rate. That tied him with Zack Greinke for the 29th best ground ball rate. Combine a home run per fly ball ratio of 6.5%, the 3rd best in baseball, and he was among the best at keeping the ball in the park. With a 20% soft contact rate, he was right in the middle of some fairly good names such as the aforementioned Zimmerman, Kershaw (19.9%), and two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom (19.5%). However, he did struggle a bit with hard hit rate with a 29.5% hard contact percentage. Like Burnett, he induced medium contact at a 50%+ rate at 50.5%.
Cole also excelled at the adjusted stats. SIERA pinned him at 3.23. That tied him with 2015 Comeback Player of the Year, Matt Harvey, while also putting him above Price (3.27), Greinke (3.27), Felix Hernandez (3.38), and Carlos Martinez (3.44). Baseball Prospectus’ DRA actually put him right with 2013 A.J. with 2.96. DRA said he was better than then Oakland A’s ace Sonny Gray (3.20), Atlanta’s Shelby Miller (3.87), and New York’s Masahiro Tanaka (3.27).