Gerrit Cole sets sight on the world title, hails Carlos Rodon’s intensity, strength

Gerrit Cole is training and speaking at Yankees spring training camp on Feb 16, 2023.

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Yankees ace Gerrit Cole was overlooked earlier this month when MLB Network released its “Top 10 starting pitchers right now.” But the New York Yankees know how important is the starting pitcher for their team. While pitching coach Matt Blake calls Gerrit Cole the centerpiece of their rotation, the pitcher made it clear on Thursday that he was focused on ending the team’s title drought.

Gerrit Cole does a good job of keeping the ball in the strike zone, and he also doesn’t let many runners get on base for free. The Yankees ace set a franchise record with 257 strikeouts last season coming in fifth place among pitchers who threw at least 100 innings. Gerrit Cole only walked 6.3% of batters in 2022, and he was fourth in strikeouts per walk. Cole is still the best pitcher for the New York Yankees.

According to his Yankees pitching coach, the presence of Gerrit Cole “gives us a chance to have an anchor every fifth day and just brings incredible stability to the group. He sets the tone and forces everybody else to recognize the quality of work going on here and that helps pull everyone with him.”

Gerrit Cole’s ERA+ at the end of the 2022 season was 11% better than the league average. He was also great in the playoffs, which put to rest any questions about his ability to pitch in big games. Cole gave up a total of three runs in Games 1 and 4 of the American League Division Series against Cleveland. This helped the Yankees avoid being swept on the road. Even though Gerrit Cole gave up three runs in five innings in Game 3 against the Astros, some of that was because he was taken out of the game too soon after letting some soft hits get through.

From the time Gerrit Cole moved to the Bronx in 2020 until the end of last season, he led Major League Baseball in strikeouts (594), and he was fourth in innings pitched (455). His Achilles’ heel, on the other hand, has been home runs. Cole has given up 71 home runs in the 75 games he has started. This is the fourth most in Major League Baseball during this time. He gave up a career-high 33 home runs last season, which was also the most in the American League. However, he needs to be more consistent to bring home a world series.

Gerrit Cole was asked a lot about the lack of home runs a lot last season. When asked on Thursday how he felt about the situation, he said:

“I keep thinking when Justin [Verlander] gave up 36 and won the Cy Young how many questions like this he got…The solo home runs really aren’t [concerning], it’s the late ones that kind of flip the game a little bit or the ones where there are two or three runners on base that kind of sting the most.”

Gerrit Cole’s previous season high for home runs allowed was 31 with the Pirates in 2017. He also said that the long balls are a natural result of the kind of pitches he throws. Cole is a power pitcher who stays in the strike zone most of the time.

“I throw strikes with all five of my pitches,” said Gerrit Cole. “Part of what makes me great is my low walk rate and those two things. So there’s a pretty good chance when you face me I’m going to be in the strike zone, and if you get a good pitch to hit and put a really good swing on it, sometimes those balls can go out. It’s not like I’m going to give up zero home runs this year. I’m always going to give up a certain amount of home runs. So I think just being a bit more vigilant in whatever it is that specific day that needs to be improved, try to get out ahead of it.”

Top Pitching Projections by FanGraphs, 2023

Source: Fangraphs

Jacob deGrom1722.622.345.6
Corbin Burnes1963.082.95.2
Carlos Rodón1783.092.94.6
Aaron Nola2023.523.184.6
Gerrit Cole1993.153.024.6
Shohei Ohtani1713.083.064.3
Zack Wheeler1903.413.234.3
Max Scherzer1863.23.174.2
Justin Verlander1793.13.323.9
Shane Bieber2043.363.293.9
Sandy Alcantara2163.443.483.9

Gerrit Cole, Strike Generation


Best Fastballs, 2022

PitcherFF OverallFF StuffFF Command
Kevin Gausman685271
Carlos Rodón666359
Aaron Nola665168
Gerrit Cole656955
Shane McClanahan656557
Robbie Ray646059
Julio Urías646161
Logan Gilbert615357
Pablo López614262
Zac Gallen606057

Gerrit Cole calls Carlos Rodon an autopilot

The Yankees’ best pitcher, Gerrit Cole, talked to the media in Tampa on Thursday afternoon about his goals for the season and the rest of his career. He also talked about how the Bombers’ rotation got a lot better when they signed Carlos Rodon. Thursday afternoon at the Yankees spring training camp, Gerrit Cole told reporters that he’s looking forward to working with Rodon. By getting Carlos Rodón, the Yankees now have one of the best No. 1 and No. 2 pitchers in all of baseball. In back-to-back seasons, Rodón finished in the top six for the Cy Young Award.

Gerrit Cole told that he met Rodon a few years ago when they were both working out during the off-season. He was impressed by how strong and focused Rodon was. Even though they’ve only been in the same camp for three days, Cole has noticed that Rodon follows a routine, which is similar to how he works.

“He seems like on autopilot,” Cole said. “He knows what he’s doing. I think he’s the real deal. I think he’s got a great work ethic and great stuff. I was struck by his raw strength and his intensity.”

Fans can’t help but think of another famous starting pitching duo that included the Yankees’ best pitchers, Cole and Rodón. Baseball Reference says that Gerrit Cole and Verlander played for the Astros for two seasons and made a total of 133 starts. During those two seasons, they struck out 1,192 batters over 849.2 innings and had a 72-25 record. In 2019, they became only the second teammates since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling of the 2002 Arizona Diamondbacks to each strike out more than 300 batters in the same season. FanGraphs thinks that Gerrit Cole (249) and Rodón (234) will have a total of 483 strikeouts between them this season, with the former having the most in all of Major League Baseball.

When Gerrit Cole teams up with Rodon, they could become the best starting pitching duo in the sport. Baseball-Reference says that the Yankees have only ever had two starting pitchers with more than 200 strikeouts in the same season twice. The last time this happened was in 2001, when right-handed pitchers Roger Clemens (213) and Mike Mussina (214) did it over a total of 67 starts. The other happened in 1904 led by Jack Powell (202) and Jack Chesbro (239).

In 1992, at least 200 innings were pitched by 54 starters. Last year, it was eight. Gerrit Cole has done it five times in his life. No one else in the Yankees camp has done it once. In 2017, Luis Severino pitched 193 ¹/₃ innings, which is more than any other Yankee pitcher. Since then, he has pitched 120 innings in the regular season, which is less than Cole had last year.

Gerrit Cole is proud of how he fights against his aches and pains. In his first press conference of 2023, he talked about how much he “enjoys” pitching and how it was a “blessing” that he remained healthy. Cole has more starts (173), innings (1,070 ²/₃), and strikeouts (1,392) since 2017 than any other pitcher. He said that even the fact that he gave up 33 home runs in 2022, which was the most in the MLB, showed that he was out there enough to give up that many.

At a press conference to introduce Gerrit Cole in 2019, Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner said that he thought the nine-year contract would lead to “multiple championships.” In 2023, he is out to lead a group of starters that could include Carlos Rodon, Luis Severino, Nestor Cortes, and either Domingo Germán or Clarke Schmidt.

On Thursday, Cole said, “My main goal is to win a world championship for this group” and that it was his job to set a good example and lead the way.

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