Gerrit Cole forces his way to No. 1 slot in the latest starter ranking

Gerrit Cole, his wife and son after his dominant performance against the Twins at Yankee Stadium on April 16, 2023
Matthew Maybloom
Saturday April 22, 2023

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After consistently being underrated and sidelined by list makers, Gerrit Cole made it to the top of MLB.com’s Starting Pitcher Power Rankings. The Yankees ace has yet to suffer a loss this season for his team, striking out 32 batters in just 0.95 innings of work.

Before each new baseball season, Gerrit Cole was left off of the list of the top 10 starters in the major leagues. The Yankees’ ace was unconcerned by these rankings since he did not think of himself as the kind to utilize the approval of others as motivation. He earlier told that things like “opinions change.”

Gerrit Cole forced his way to top

The right-hander has thrown 16 innings over the course of two games in the past week. Gerrit Cole only allowed two earned runs while striking out 13 and walking three. On April 11, against the Cleveland Guardians, the Yankees ace allowed just two earned runs in seven innings of work. He had a better outing on Sunday, when he shut out the Minnesota Twins with two hits. Ten of the Minnesota Twins batters were struck out by Gerrit Cole’s fastball. It was his best outing with the Yankees so far this season.

The MLB.com experts voted Cole first overall. Their declaration read:

Will this be The Year for Cole? In Cy Young Award voting, he’s finished second twice, fourth twice and fifth once. He’s led his league in wins once, ERA once, FIP once, strikeout-to-walk ratio once and strikeouts twice. So far, it looks like it’s all coming together this season for the 32-year-old. He’s won each of his first four starts — including a shutout of the Twins in his last outing — posting a 0.95 ERA and allowing opponents to bat a mere .144/.212/.178.

gerrit-cole-new-york-yankees
Corey Sipkin/ NYP

Cortes, Twins hail Cole

After Gerrit Cole shut out the Minnesota Twins on Sunday, allowing only two hits and striking out 10 while walking only one, fellow starter Nestor Cortes was effusive in his praise.

“He’s No. 1 without a doubt,” said teammate Nestor Cortes, highlighting how Gerrit Cole makes a plan with minute details and then follows it to every word.

Cortes said, “I see it firsthand. And this puts the Yankees starter in the best position to speak about how valued is his teammate as a true ace.”

The right-hander struck out 257 batters in just under 200 2/3 innings of work last year, setting a new Yankees single-season record and posting an ERA of 3.50.

Gerrit Cole has had a great start to his 2023 baseball season. His performance led him to be named the American League Player of the Week.

“I think it’s fair to throw him in that conversation, absolutely,” Aaron Boone said. “I do think going into this year I think he’s probably been on some level underrated, underappreciated. He’s great. He’s a great pitcher I believe will end up in Cooperstown one day.”

“He’s definitely one of the best pitchers in the league,” said Twins star Carlos Correa, a former teammate with the Astros who was not officially in this very unofficial poll. “He does his homework. He knows where to attack. He executes. He obviously has his stuff.”

Gerrit Cole does well in all of those areas, but availability is the deciding factor. He never gets off to a bad start, and there’s never even a hint that something might be wrong. His availability is one of the reasons why he is at the top of all the statistical lists.

“We can always talk about who has better stuff, who’s got the biggest strikeout ratio and all that,” Correa said. “But at the end of the day, being available is the most important thing. He always shows up every fifth day.”

Gerrit Cole has huge changes this year — a pitch timer, more offense, and more base-stealing — he’s made quick work of the opposition.

Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes are first and third on the Yankees rotation.

The Twins’ Carlos Correa commended this saying that Gerrit Cole is “definitely one of the best pitchers in the league.”

“I’ve never seen him take the mound and not have dominant-type stuff,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “That doesn’t mean you’re going to be dominant, but he always looks good. First pitch of the game is always crisp; last pitch of his outing is always crisp. Everything in-between, it’s good.”

Gerrit Cole not deterred by the underrated tag

Gerrit Cole has consistently been kept out of the list of top 10 major league starters before the season began. But such ratings failed to bother the Yankees ace, who believed he was not the type to use other people’s opinions as extra fuel to show where he fits in. He then told that opinions fluctuate.

His exclusion didn’t worry Gerrit Cole, but offended his wife Amy, who reminded him what she thought of all those viewpoints.

As catcher Jose Trevino and the rest of the Yankees team congratulated him on Sunday, Gerrit Cole looked toward the field-level seats and waved with his right hand. His wife, Amy, and their 3-year-old son, Caden, were walking toward the first-base dugout. Cole smiled happily as he gave the game ball to his 3-year-old son.

“That was cool. He woke me up at 5:15 this morning, came in, and poked me, and I was like, ‘Dude, what are you doing? We’ve got to get back to sleep,’” Cole said. “He slept, but not quite as long as I did. But he was excited about the game when I left and told me he would see me at the park.”

In fact, it would be a great time for the whole family to go to the ballpark. Gerrit Cole’s strikeout of Correa in the fourth inning moved him past Hall of Famer Whitey Ford (1,956) and into 97th place on the list of all-time strikeouts. This was Cole’s fourth career shutout.

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole is seen with Yankees legend Ron Guidry at Yankee Stadium, April 5, 2023.

Is Gerrit Cole like Mike Mussina?

Aaron Boone predicted that Gerrit Cole will win the Cy Young Award and even predicted that he may win multiple awards. This was the Yankees manager after Cole had just shut out the Twins on two hits and ten strikeouts. Boone’s public backing of his players through thick and thin, through lows and highs, is possibly his greatest strength as a manager.

This led Joel Sherman of The New York Post to compare Gerrit Cole with Mike Mussina. According to him, both remind annual, long-lasting greatness, but so is the feeling of being near to, but just short of, the highest achievements.

Mussina was called “Mr. Almost.” After placing second once, fourth twice, fifth three times, and sixth three times, he never won the Cy Young Award. Cole has placed second on two occasions, fourth on two occasions, sixth once, and ninth once. Both Mussina (with the 2001 Yankees) and Gerrit Cole (with the 2019 Astros) played significant roles in the postseason (Mussina made 21 starts in 23 games) but lost in Game 7 despite their teams having 3–2 leads. Before receiving massive free-agent contracts with the Yankees, both had already proven themselves as outstanding pitchers.

Mussina famously tried his hand at no-hitters but never completed one. Gerrit Cole threw seven innings of no-hit ball on June 20 against the Rays, and six and a third against the Tigers on June 3.

Mussina, who had previously won 19 games twice and 18 games three times, won 20 games in his final season of 2008. Mussina was elected to the Hall of Fame in his sixth year on the ballot due to his steady performance, the same year that Gerrit Cole won 20. So maybe Boone is right and Gerrit Cole can achieve the pinnacle of his professional career.

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole is pitching against the Phillies at Yankee Stadium, April 5, 2023.

The competition

Gerrit Cole threw the most innings in the league (28 2/3), and he also had the lowest earned run average (0.95). Castillo of Seattle had a 0.73 ERA in 24 innings, Gray of Minnesota had a 0.82 ERA in 22 innings, and Ohtani of the Angels had a 0.95 ERA in 21 innings.

Jacob deGrom of Texas had the highest strikeout percentage among qualified starts at 40 percent, followed by Pablo Lopez of Minnesota at 33.7 percent, then Ohtani at 32.9 percent, and Cole at 32 percent.

At this point, Gerrit Cole is the best.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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