Cards face variety, unpredictability in Pirates' Gerrit Cole -

Cards face variety, unpredictability in Pirates' Gerrit Cole

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By John Bailey By John Bailey

(BaseballStL) — When the Cardinals faced Tony Cingrani Wednesday, they were dealing with a one-pitch specialist. The young Reds hurler has an elite fastball, and it moves enough that he can throw it nearly 85 percent of the time. 

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Friday’s starter for the Pirates, Gerrit Cole, is the opposite. He certainly has a plus fastball (clocking in at an average of 97 mph), but he has far more in his bag of tricks. 

There’s not a sea of data to pull from, but Cole’s only season in the majors painted the picture of a man who likes variety. 

According to Brooks Baseball, Cole mixes pitches fluidly, only slightly favoring his fastball over the others. His 97 mph fourseam is backed up by a 97 mph sinker. The two are his primary pitches, but only make up 64 percent of his pitch selection. 

He uses a slider, curveball and change behind his high-velocity stuff to keep hitters off balance and unable to predict his pitches. 

Righties see the slider far more than lefties, and see it on two strikes nearly 30 percent of the time. Lefties get less sliders, but have to contend with a healthy mix of the change up and curve. Cole likes the curve ball when he’s ahead of southpaws, throwing it a quarter of the time. 

His variety makes him a difficult pitcher to contend with, since on two-strike counts, he only throws his fastball 30 percent of the time. For righties, he throws his slider just as often and lefties see a curve 24 percent of the time on that count.

His sinker doesn’t start out many at bats, but Cole loves to through it when batters get ahead of him in the count. When he falls behind, he puts the breaking stuff away and deals primarily in heat. 35 percent of time he trails a lefty he throws a sinker, and it’s even more frequent to right-handers. Even when batters are ahead of Cole, they can’t predict what’s coming. 

His tendency to pound the zone low and outside to hitters makes decision making even tougher. His pitch depth is an absolute nightmare to contend with, and he will presumably only improve his command of his arsenal. 

The best chance teams have against Cole is their first crack at him. In 2013, the Pirate’s starter’s weakest numbers were in his first 25 pitches. In the first inning, teams hit .359 off him. Batters also hit 100 points better in their first plate appearance against Cole compared to their second.

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