Gerrit Cole made his 6th start as a pro on Sunday against the Tampa Yankees. His overall numbers were good but not great: 5 innings, 80 pitches (56 strikes), 2 runs, 3 hits, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts.
Cole was throwing all his pitches for strikes. He was consistently ahead in the count. I don’t believe he went 2-0 on any batter, and was only 2-1 on 2 batters.
After the first couple of batters in the game (both of which resulted in hits on high fastballs), he settled down in the zone. It looked like he was really trying hard to keep the ball down. By my count, he missed high only 3 times, compared to missing beneath the zone about a dozen times (although about half of those were breaking balls that were supposed to drop out of the zone).
Of his three walks, one was an 8-pitch at bat and one was an 11-pitch at bat. In other words, 3 walks in 5 inning sounds like a lot, but it wasn’t due to a lack of control. His biggest issue in those two at bats was that he couldn’t put the batter away after starting with a 1-2 count both times. In his defense, on one of those walks, the 1-2 pitch looked like it was on the outside corner, but you can’t depend on getting the call every time. He still had opportunities after that to put the batter away.
He got strikeouts in a variety of ways — swinging curve in the dirt; back door curve looking; changeup swinging; fastball looking; fastball swinging. This was great to see, as it showed he can get a strikeout with any of his pitches, both looking and swinging.
Very few balls were hit hard against Cole after the first two batters. There were only two fly outs to the outfield during the game, compared to six ground outs and an infield pop up. Again, this shows the control Cole had down in the zone, forcing ground ball contact when he didn’t get the strikeout.
His pitch count was very good as well, except in one inning. His counts per inning were 12, 14, 28, 12, 14. Obviously the “28″ sticks out and is what caused his outing to end after five innings. In the 3rd inning, he just couldn’t come up with that one pitch to put a batter away, and gave up a run on 2 walks, a ground out and a sacrifice fly. In those four batters, he was in a 1-2 count three times, but couldn’t come up with the strikeout pitch he needed. If he’s able to strike out the batter on the 1-2 pitch, instead of ending up with an 11-pitch walk, he most likely ends up giving up only 1 run in the first 5 innings, and puts himself in a position to be able to pitch the 6th inning.
Overall, Cole showed me three quality pitches that he can control and get swings & misses. He kept the ball down in the zone resulting in a lot of ground balls. He only gave up three hits, two of which were in the first two batters of the game. For his 6th start as a pro, he looked much more in control than I was expecting. To get to that “next level”, he needs to be able to make that exceptional pitch on a 1-2 or 0-2 count in order to escape a jam.
Phil Irwin Note: As you may know, Phil Irwin made his 2012 debut on a rehab assignment for the Marauders on Saturday night. Irwin was two bad plays from Justin Howard away from pitching 5 perfect innings. Irwin had excellent control, hitting both sides of the plate with all his pitches and keeping the Yankees completely off-balance. He did get a little lucky with 2 line drives hit right at infielders, but ended up with three fly outs to the outfield; six strikeouts; and six infield outs.