Houston’s Gerrit Cole has taken center stage thanks to his strong start on the mound for the defending World Series champions and is proving to doubters he is a Cy Young candidate and a great acquisition by the Astros.
In his most recent start, Cole gave up just one run while striking out nine over six innings. His play thus far has been superb in his first season with the Astros after being traded by Pittsburgh during the offseason.
Of course, not much praise was thrown at him after his nine strikeout game this week since his previous start to that one was when he tossed a one-hitter and struck out 16.
On Wednesday, the Astros won 4-1 and Cole improved his record to 4-1 with an ERA of 1.43. In 56.2 innings pitched, Cole has given up just 30 hits and three home runs while striking out 86 and walking just 12.
In comparison to last season with the Pirates through a month and a half of the season, Cole is now ranked No. 1 in strikeout rate while last season he as No. 23. He is No. 3 in swing/miss rate and last season was No. 37. He is No. 2 in batting average allowed and last season was No. 29. In home run rate he is No. 12 while last season he was No. 48.
His home run rate last season is what caused his ERA to be above normal for the right-hander at 4.26. His swing-and-miss and strikeout rate increase thus far are exceptional.
Much of the change is due to his change in pitching philosophy. In Pittsburgh the coaching staff wanted two-seamers and lots of ground balls, while in Houston they prefer four-seamers and lots of strikeouts.
His actual rate of fastballs has dropped this season from 60.1% in 2017 to a current 53.6%, while he is throwing his slider 4.6% more than last season and curveball 6.6% more.
His strong start to the season could easily be overshadowed on a team with Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel but he is already being considered a legitimate Cy Young candidate with such a strong start to the season.
Current teammate Charlie Morton, who played with Cole for the Pirates, said that Cole looks more relaxed and that might be because of the other talented pitchers that surround him resulting in less pressure weighing him down.