The Ron Guidry factor in Gerrit Cole’s Cy Young win

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

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With his Cy Young award win, Gerrit Cole ended the Yankees’ 22-year drought for the award. He joins the exclusive club of the Yankees pitchers, who had won it as its sixth member. However, his Cy Young season was incomplete without a mention of Ron Guidry, who himself won it in 1978.

Bob Turley (1958), Whitey Ford (1961), Sparky Lyle (1977), and Roger Clemens (2001) are the other four Yankees to have this honor.

Ron Guidry became the friend, philosopher, and guide for Gerrit Cole while the Yankees ace ended his incredible 2023 season with this prestigious honor.

Ron Guidry’s support to Gerrit Cole

It all began in the 2023 spring season. From the onset of the camp in Tampa, Gerrit Cole and Ron Guidry engaged in an ongoing conversation about the goal of pitching more extended innings. The Yankees ace aimed to shoulder a significant workload for the Yankees’ pitching staff in 2023, emphasizing precision, efficiency, and pinpoint command to preserve his pitching resources.

As a Yankees spring training instructor, the 73-year-old Ron Guidry made a habit of calling Gerrit Cole after every start throughout the season. He offered praise for stellar outings, like Gerrit Cole’s September 27th gem. Or he broke down flaws after rougher starts, like Gerrit Cole’s May meltdown against the Rays.

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole gets a standing ovation from the crowd after pitching against the Blue Jays on Sept 21, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.
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This conversation, taking place with only a few days left in the regular season, went beyond mere congratulation. Alongside acknowledging Gerrit Cole’s achievement, essentially embracing him into one of the Yankees’ most exclusive clubs in franchise history, Ron Guidry transformed the ace’s second shutout of the year into a comprehensive teaching opportunity.

Following Gerrit Cole’s brilliant final start of the 2022 season, a two-hit shutout of the Blue Jays on September 27th, drew rave reviews from his Yankees teammates. Captain Aaron Judge called it the perfect capper to Cole’s Cy Young-caliber campaign. Manager Aaron Boone said it embodied everything that made Cole baseball’s top starter this year.

Despite a disappointing season for the team, Cole’s dominance gave them reason to celebrate. Even watching from afar, Yankees legend Ron Guidry was thrilled by Cole’s performance. In fact, Guidry gave Cole a congratulatory call the very next day.

Ron Guidry reflected on the changing landscape in baseball, noting that in modern times, the pitching coach might be the only role a manager considers letting go. He shared a conversation he had with someone this spring where the question arose: “What actions did you take?”

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Gerrit Cole embraced Ron Guidry’s guidance

Throughout his 14 seasons with the Yankees, “Gator” registered an impressive 95 complete games, including 26 shutouts. His stellar performance earned him the American League Cy Young Award in 1978, a season where Ron Guidry struck out 248 batters—a single-season franchise record that endured for 44 years until Gerrit Cole surpassed it last October. As a seasoned southpaw, Guidry possesses valuable insights into the art of consistently pitching into the late innings.

The statistics indicate that Gerrit Cole embraced Ron Guidry’s counsel, showcasing his pitching expertise by elevating his game. This season, the right-hander achieved a career-high by delivering a first-pitch strike 67.7 percent of the time. Although his whiff rate and strikeout rate experienced a slight dip compared to the previous year, Gerrit Cole faced a higher number of batters (821) than he had since his tenure with the Pirates in 2017, leading the league with 209 innings pitched. Despite throwing more pitches (3,281) than any other player in baseball this year, he simultaneously reduced his average pitches per inning.

While prioritizing an aggressive approach in attacking the strike zone—utilizing his four-seam fastball at a career-high rate of 53 percent— Gerrit Cole effectively addressed a significant vulnerability. After leading the American League in home runs allowed the previous year, his home run rate dropped to its lowest since 2018. Additionally, his .263 batting average on balls in play marked the lowest in a full season in his Major League Baseball career.

Ron Guidry recalled asking if the pitcher would prefer inducing three ground balls and flyouts with just three pitches per inning rather than throwing 15 pitches to strike out three consecutive batters, acknowledging the pitcher’s ability to surpass his strikeout record the previous year. The pitcher’s response favored the efficiency of three-pitch innings, indicating a preference for such an approach to extend their presence in the game.

Gerrit Cole, player of the New York Yankees

Gerrit Cole’s performance in the remaining games speaks volumes. The 33-year-old achieved a 2.63 ERA and a 0.981 WHIP, limiting opposing hitters to a .206 batting average and .581 OPS, with an impressive 222 strikeouts. Out of his 33 starts, Gerrit Cole delivered six-plus innings in 26, surpassing all other pitchers in quality starts this season (24). In the American League, he emerged as the standout, and as the AL Cy Young Award results are anticipated on Wednesday night, there is a strong possibility that the Yankees ace will secure a unanimous victory.

In the face of consistent challenges within the starting rotation, including injuries and underperformances that strained an elite bullpen, Gerrit Cole exhibited durability and dependability. Every fifth day, the Yankees could rely on him, making a case for the Yankees ace being potentially underrated, considering the expectations associated with his hefty $324 million contract.

Guidry remarked that Cole stands at a level akin to the greatest Yankees starters in history, emphasizing his determination to excel. He highlighted the work ethic of such top-tier players, noting their commitment to putting in extra effort and time and working in unique ways. Guidry expressed confidence in Cole’s continuous learning, attributing it to his current level of expertise. Anticipating Cole’s approach in the upcoming spring training, Guidry affirmed his belief that Cole would strive to improve further by focusing on refining different aspects of his game.

The September 27th game marked the pinnacle of Gerrit Cole’s Cy Young-winning season. Despite registering just five strikeouts in the 6-0 victory over the Blue Jays and issuing no walks, he effectively controlled the strike zone with 24 balls in play, concluding with 105 pitches.

Ron Guidry reminisced about Gerrit Cole characterizing it as the “easiest game that he pitched” all year. This ease is a manifestation of the mindset they had discussed—an approach that Cole can master when he’s in the groove with his dominating fastball and effective off-speed repertoire.

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2 thoughts on “The Ron Guidry factor in Gerrit Cole’s Cy Young win

  1. CONGRATULATIONS to a Great Pitcher who was sometimes underrated by fans & supposed baseball experts.

    Thank You, Cole, for adding another illustrious chapter to the Yankees illustrious history!

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