Yankees look to Gerrit Cole, the ace has his sight on 4,000 strikeouts

Gerrit Cole becomes the 3rd fastest pitcher in MLB history to 2,000 career strikeouts on Mya 24, 2023.

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LOS ANGELES — The New York Yankees look to their ace Gerrit Cole to make a comeback in the series against the Dodgers after losing Game 1. They expect their best starter to reverse the impacts of Luis Severino’s disastrous outing. Meanwhile, Gerrit Cole, who reached a major milestone of 2,000 strikeouts last week, aims at taking his career to a new MLB high.

He accomplished this record by playing for three different teams, working with 17 catchers, and striking out 660 batters. After the significant milestone of 2,000 career strikeouts, Gerrit Cole reflected on his achievements thus far. However, he made it evident that he is not content with just reaching this milestone. His ambitions extend beyond joining the exclusive 3,000-strikeout club, as he strives for further accomplishments in his career.

While Gerrit Cole conveyed his dissatisfaction with his current position during the Yankees game at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, he revealed his ambitions, stating that he aspires to achieve the impressive feat of reaching 4,000 strikeouts in his career.

Gerrit Cole’s record is amazing

Only 87 pitchers have accomplished the milestone of achieving 2,000 career strikeouts in MLB. However, a more exclusive group consists of only nineteen players who have reached the impressive mark of 3,000 strikeouts. Among these, a select four players—Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and Steve Carlton—have managed to surpass the remarkable threshold of 4,000 career strikeouts.

Gerrit Cole acknowledged the significance of reaching the milestone of 2,000 career strikeouts as he prepared for his start against the Dodgers on Saturday. He recognized that the number of strikeouts would become more limited as he progresses in his career impacting the weight and significance associated with this achievement.

However, Gerrit Cole humbly stated that he cannot solely take credit for this accomplishment. He emphasized that strikeouts are not the only measure of success in baseball. He pointed out that his career innings pitched are approximately 1,700, and if he were to double that, it would amount to 3,400. If he were to triple it, it would be 5,100. Therefore, out of the 5,000-plus outs he has recorded, approximately 2,000 of them have come through strikeouts.

In his initial five seasons with the Pirates, Gerrit Cole maintained a solid average of 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings. However, his strikeout rate experienced a significant surge during his two-year tenure with the Astros, reaching an impressive 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

Gerrit Cole expressed his perspective on his role as a pitcher, stating that his primary focus is on collecting outs. He acknowledged that reaching the milestone of 2,000 career strikeouts is significant and holds personal value for him. However, he emphasized that he is not content with the current number and aspires for more. Despite this, Gerrit Cole expressed gratitude and appreciation, recognizing that his achievement is a result of the collective effort and support from the people around him throughout his career.


Gerrit Cole’s reflection on his journey

Prior to contemplating the future path, Gerrit Cole expressed his desire to reflect on the journey that led him to his current position.

When asked about the catcher who has caught the most of his strikeouts, specifically mentioning Kyle Higashioka with 329 strikeouts and Chris Stewart with 316 strikeouts, Gerrit Cole admitted that he was uncertain about the exact answer. However, he expressed an eagerness to attempt to recall and name all 17 catchers who have caught him throughout his career.

The Yankees ace proceeded to list several catchers who have worked with him during his time with the Pirates, starting with Russell Martin, Michael McKenry, Chris Stewart, Elias Diaz, and Francisco Cervelli. He swiftly mentioned these names, referring to them as part of the Pirates delegation.

Continuing with his list, Gerrit Cole mentioned Brian McCann, Max Stassi, Martin Maldonado, and Robinson Chirinos, referring to them as nearly all of the catchers he worked with during his time with the Astros.

He proceeded to mention Jose Trevino, Kyle Higashioka, and Gary Sanchez as catchers who have worked with him. He paused briefly, contemplating if there were any other Yankees catchers who had caught him during his career.

Kyle Higashioka holds the record for catching the most strikeouts from Gerrit Cole, with a total of 329 batters put away with the Yankees ace. Eric Fryer is another catcher who had the opportunity to catch 10⅔ innings from him. This occurred primarily during a game against the Cubs on May 15, 2016, where Gerrit Cole pitched eight shutout innings and recorded seven strikeouts.

Gerrit Cole showed genuine appreciation and enjoyment as he went through the list, expressing his gratitude by stating that it was “pretty cool” and thanking the person for the opportunity. He mentioned that he had spent a significant amount of time thinking about it and that he remembered all the games.

The best strikeout moments

Returning to the topic of strikeouts, it is worth noting that Gerrit Cole has clear recollections of his first one. This memory holds particular significance as it occurred during his Major League Baseball debut on June 11, 2013, against the very first batter he faced.

In his MLB debut on June 11, 2013, the Yankees ace remembered facing Gregor Blanco as the first batter. He struck him out with three fastballs down the middle. Gerrit Cole’s first strikeout in the major leagues came against the very first batter he faced. Interestingly, in his debut, the starter managed to tally as many strikeouts as RBIs, which was two against Tim Lincecum.

Gerrit Cole mentioned that he also managed to strike out Buster Posey on that day, possibly with a curveball. After being prompted, the ace recalled his 1,000th strikeout, which occurred on September 21, 2018. He was able to recall the specific pitch—a curveball—thrown to Kaleb Cowart of the Angels. He described his 1,000th strikeout as a curveball that was looking, specifically a high, away curveball.

Gerrit Cole achieved his 2,000th strikeout on May 24 by making the Orioles’ Jorge Mateo swing and miss at a 97-mph fastball.

While Gerrit Cole considered the strikeout of Blanco as his favorite, he also mentioned the significance of striking out Matt Holliday in Game 2 of the 2013 NLDS. It was his first postseason appearance, and it helped him establish his presence on the grand stage. He also recalled the ‘favorite’ moment when he struck out Shin-Soo Choo with a changeup, marking his 300th strikeout of the 2019 season.

Higashioka, pitching coach Matt Blake, and manager Aaron Boone all shared the same favorite strikeout.

Gerrit Cole’s standout moment came during a commanding shutout performance against the Astros on July 10, 2021. On his 127th, 128th, and 129th pitches, he unleashed a series of three consecutive fastballs (clocking in at 98, 99, and 99 mph) that left Yordan Alvarez unable to make contact. Gerrit Cole acknowledged that he may have been fortunate to get three consecutive fastballs past Yordan Alvarez. He recognized that it was a stroke of luck, stating that he probably got lucky in that situation. He mentioned that it was characteristic of him to be stubborn and take that approach, stating that it sounded about right for him.

Gerrit Cole with his son and wife at Yankee Stadium in April 2023.
Amy Cole/ Instagram

In a memorable moment, Boone made a visit to the mound when there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and the tying run was on first base. However, Gerrit Cole convinced him to allow him to finish the game, marking his first start back in Houston as a member of the Yankees. The strikeout of Alvarez became the 12th strikeout of the game for Gerrit Cole. It was an impressive performance, especially considering the fact that he threw a career-high 129 pitches and displayed great determination amidst the ongoing crackdown on sticky substances by MLB.

According to Blake, the strikeout of Alvarez holds significant importance due to the circumstances surrounding it. It occurred during a crucial phase of the season and took place in Houston, adding to its significance. Gerrit Cole’s ability to finish the game in a dominant fashion by utilizing his primary weapon, the fastball, against a top-tier hitter like Alvarez, made it a notable and memorable strikeout in Blake’s view.

Gerrit Cole has been highly successful in striking out Joey Gallo and J.D. Martinez, two prominent hitters in the league. He has recorded 17 strikeouts against Gallo in 27 plate appearances and 17 strikeouts against Martinez in 45 plate appearances, making them the hitters he has struck out the most. However, Mookie Betts holds the record for the most plate appearances against Gerrit Cole without being struck out. This weekend, Gerrit Cole will have the opportunity to face Betts again and aim to change that on Saturday.

Gerrit Cole considers Joey Votto the toughest challenge

When questioned about the most challenging hitters to strike out, Gerrit Cole pondered for a moment before settling on a former opponent from the National League Central division.

Gerrit Cole mentioned that Joey Votto presents a significant challenge for him. He expressed surprise when he learned statistics a day later, revealing that he has held Votto to a .185 batting average and .565 OPS, with 10 strikeouts and seven walks in 35 plate appearances.

Despite recording 10 strikeouts against Joey Votto in 35 plate appearances, Gerrit Cole considers the veteran first baseman of the Cincinnati Reds to be a formidable challenge.

The Yankees ace reflected on his early encounters with Joey Votto, acknowledging the challenges he faced. He shared how Votto’s ability to work long at-bats would wear him down, leading him to resort to throwing fastballs down the middle. Cole marveled at Votto’s remarkable skill and the impact he had on his pitching approach.

According to Cole, Matt Carpenter and Anthony Rizzo presented challenging at-bats. He also mentioned Mike Trout as another formidable opponent during his tenure in the AL West.

As Gerrit Cole looks to reach the milestones of 3,000 and potentially 4,000 strikeouts, he anticipates numerous upcoming battles on the mound. Despite this challenge, he is excited to tackle it, especially considering he became the third-fastest pitcher to reach 2,000 strikeouts in terms of innings pitched. With 1,714⅔ innings, he trails only Chris Sale (1,626) and Pedro Martinez (1,711⅓) in achieving this feat.

Teams are becoming more cautious about managing the workload of young pitchers. Despite this, Gerrit Cole takes pride in his ability to take the mound every fifth day for the Yankees. If he continues on this trajectory, he believes he will have a chance to reach the coveted 3,000-strikeout mark.

Gerrit Cole acknowledges that in order to have a chance at reaching the 3,000-strikeout milestone, he needs to consistently take the mound and perform. He noted that among those who have achieved 2,000 strikeouts, there is a mix of pitchers who have been dominant for a shorter period of time and others who have had long careers with a slightly lower strikeout-per-nine rate. The common thread among them is their overall excellence as pitchers.

There are currently only two active pitchers according to Cole, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, who have reached the impressive milestone of 3,000 or more strikeouts. He believes that achieving such a feat is within his reach and is a goal he can strive for.

Cole acknowledged that moving forward, it becomes more challenging to accumulate innings, which he believes is a common aspect shared by those who have achieved the next levels, such as 3,000 strikeouts. He emphasized the importance of pitching for an extended period of time as a key factor in reaching such milestones.

At the age of 32, Gerrit Cole’s contract with the Yankees extends until 2028. Based on his current performance, he is projected to end this season with approximately 217 strikeouts. If he maintains his health and performance, he would reach around 2,147 strikeouts by the end of this season. While many factors need to align favorably, it is conceivable that Cole could reach the 3,000-strikeout milestone around the late 2026 or early 2027 timeframe.

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