Gator predicts a tough season for Gerrit Cole under Cy Young spotlight

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole with former pinstriped pitching great Ron Guidry.

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Former New York Yankees pitcher Ron Guidry, a previous recipient of the Cy Young Award, shared his perspective on the upcoming season for current ace Gerrit Cole.

Guidry discussed the challenges and expectations Gerrit Cole would face in his role as the team’s ace, acknowledging the increased attention and pressure he will encounter due to his recent Cy Young win. Speaking at Steinbrenner Field before Gerrit Cole’s Grapefruit League debut, Guidry highlighted the potential for opposing teams to target Cole more strategically due to his elevated status as the league’s best.

Guidry added that every team would aim to counter Gerrit Cole now, and every hitter strives to achieve hits against him. He emphasized that it becomes more challenging to defeat such players. Guidry noted that although having a remarkable year, it might be difficult to replicate the same level of performance in the following year due to others potentially having exceptional seasons. However, according to him, this doesn’t diminish one’s abilities and that it is crucial to continue performing the assigned job effectively every five days.

“Everybody’s gonna be shooting for you the next time out because you’re elevated, you’re the best,” Guidry told. “

“Now every team wants to beat you. Every hitter wants to get a hit. Everybody just wants to beat you. It’s harder to beat those guys. … When you have a great, great year, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a good year the next year. It’s just going to be hard to duplicate what you did, because somebody else might have a great year. But it doesn’t diminish who you are. You still gotta go out every five days and do the job you’re supposed to.”

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole with a signed baseball
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Gator draws on his experience to warn Gerrit Cole

Following his Cy Young win in 1978, Guidry encountered increased focus from opposing teams. Although his ERA rose slightly to 2.78, it remained well below the league average. He finished third in Cy Young voting that year, with his teammate Tommy John finishing second and Mike Flanagan of the Orioles earning the award.

The Yankees would certainly welcome a similar outcome for Gerrit Cole, particularly if it meant better overall performance from their pitching rotation compared to the struggles they faced last season.

Guidry expressed confidence in Gerrit Cole’s ability to rise to the challenge of facing teams and hitters specifically targeting him. According to him, Gerrit Cole doesn’t avoid facing tough opponents, which is what is expected of a top pitcher. He emphasized that one performs better when competing against the best players.

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In recent years, Gerrit Cole has surpassed some of Ron Guidry’s Yankees pitching records. Despite this, the two pitchers have developed a strong connection, which is reinforced each spring training as Guidry returns to serve as a guest instructor.

After Gerrit Cole’s unanimous Cy Young Award win in November (the second in Yankees history), he described it as “fitting” and acknowledged Guidry’s influence on his success. The Yankees ace credited Guidry with helping him navigate the pressure and expectations of playing for the Yankees and further refine his pitching style to maximize his impact on the team.

Guidry, in turn, has expressed respect for Gerrit Cole’s approach, noting his ability to combine traditional and modern pitching techniques. The ex-Yankees ace hails the efforts of the current ace to refine his craft on the mound. He brings home the point that Gerrit Cole has embraced the analytical aspects of pitching while integrating elements of traditional pitching methods. Ultimately, Guidry is of the view that Gerrit Cole understands that successful pitching requires a balance between analytics and practical execution on the mound and he has demonstrated this balance, focusing on both aspects rather than solely relying on analytics.

“He doesn’t shy away from anybody, which [is what] a No. 1 is supposed to do,” Guidry told. “You only pitch better when you pitch against the best guys.”

“He works hard to perfect what he does on the mound. He’s taken all the analytical things and then he’s put it together with a little bit of the old style of pitching. He understands analytically there’s a lot of stuff that goes with it, but there’s also the experience part. Because if you can’t do what you want on the mound with the baseball, analytics don’t do you any good. I think he understands that. I think he proved that to himself last year. Instead of worrying all about analytics, it’s a little bit of both.”

Ace is determined to go to the next level in Yankees history

Gerrit Cole, fresh off his unanimous Cy Young Award win, is determined to build upon his success in the upcoming season.

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Known for his dedication to continuous improvement, Gerrit Cole has consistently sought to refine his pitching technique and stay ahead of the competition. This approach translated to an impressive 2023 season, where he recorded a 2.63 ERA and accumulated 222 strikeouts across 209 innings.

Gerrit Cole now faces the challenge of exceeding this level of performance, a goal he is actively pursuing through continued refinement and development.

Guidry remarked, following a mention of Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, David Cone, and CC Sabathia, “I had the opportunity to observe numerous exceptional pitchers during my time here.” He noted that pitchers like Sabathia and Pettitte, being left-handed, typically sought advice from left-handed pitchers like himself who had prior experience. Guidry found it enjoyable to engage in such discussions.

The Gator acknowledges that conversing with Gerrit Cole is unique because he has integrated some of the traditional pitching techniques he had discussed with him into the modern strategies of today’s game.

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