Gerrit Cole Is Poised to Win the AL Cy Young

Gerrit Cole

Gerrit Cole is one of the best pitchers in baseball. He is the unquestioned ace of the most successful franchise in sports history. He is also having a fantastic 2021 season. Despite all this, he is not the heavy favorite for the AL Cy Young award. Between his rough numbers after the sticky substance ban to his two-and-a-half-week stint on the COVID-IL, Cole was surpassed in the Cy Young race by Lance Lynn, Carlos Rodon, and possibly even Robbie Ray. What makes the AL Cy Young race so intriguing is that not that many pitchers currently have a legitimate shot at winning the award. It’s really just the four aforementioned players with the best odds. In the National League, there are at least five or six pitchers with a real shot at the award.

Let’s get back to what the ace has done this season to merit great consideration for the award. Unlike the MVP award, which usually comes down to who was the best player against the most valuable player, Cy Young is about the best pitcher in the league.

Gerrit Cole in April and May

By the end of the first two months, Gerrit Cole was easily the favorite for the Cy Young award. Up to that point, he carried a 1.78 ERA over 70 2/3 innings pitched, with 97 strikeouts to only 9 walks. Through his first 11 starts, he struck out double-digit batters in five of them. Cole completed at least six innings in nine of his eleven outings to that point as well. Not only was he putting up some of the best rate stats in the majors, but he was also very durable and flat out dominating the competition.

In one April 24th outing against the Cleveland Indians (now, Guardians), Cole outdueled fellow Cy Young contender Shane Bieber. He threw 111 pitches over seven one-run innings while striking out 11 batters. That outing came in the midst of a stretch in which he struck out 10+ batters in three straight outings and four out of five. On May 12th against the Tampa Bay Rays, Cole pitched his most dominant start through the first two months. He pitched eight shutout innings while allowing four hits and striking out 12 batters. Two starts later, on May 22nd against the Chicago White Sox, Cole shut down one of the best offenses in the sport. In a start in which he was far from his best, he threw seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and three walks while striking out seven. Cole was far from his best that day, yet he was still able to dominate one of the best teams lineups in baseball.

June and July

Cole’s numbers, and reputation, took a dip in June following baseball’s announcement to crack down on sticky substances. The spin rate on all his pitches took a nosedive. It became clear that Cole had benefitted from different sticky substances since the start of 2018. In June, his first start was not so hot as he allowed five runs in five innings against the Rays. In June, his last start was more of the same as the Boston Red Sox hit three homers off Cole and scored six runs in five innings. Sandwiched in between those starts were three outings in which Cole gave up two runs in each. It was a three-start stretch in where he allowed six runs in 21 innings. The alarming part was that he only struck out 19 batters combined. Cole pitched well without any sticky substances; he just was not his usual dominant self.

July was a weird month for Cole as he posted a 4.71 ERA during the month yet struck out 47 batters in 28 2/3 innings. Similar to June, he started and ended the month with abysmal starts. However, he also pitched one of the most impressive outings from a starting pitcher this season. On July 10th, Cole threw a complete-game shutout on the road against the Houston Astros. He struck out 12, walked two, and allowed three hits. Additionally, he threw a season-high 129 pitches. In his next start, he threw six innings, allowed one run, and struck out 11 on a rainy night in the Bronx against the Red Sox. He was set to go out for the 7th inning before the game was called due to rain. While the overall numbers in July don’t look great, two of his best outings of the season come during that month.

Season Review

Gerrit Cole’s last start before he tested positive for Covid-19 came on July 29th against the Rays. He did not return until August 16th in a start against the Los Angeles Angels. In two starts since his return, Cole has thrown a combined 11 2/3 innings, allowing one run, two walks, and 15 strikeouts. He lowered his ERA to 2.92 and reminded people why he belongs in the Cy Young conversation. Even with the time missed and the poor starts in June and July, Cole still leads the AL in several categories.

His 142 innings pitched rank 6th, 2.92 ERA and 149 ERA+ rank 3rd, and 4.9 WAR ranks 2nd. His 191 strikeouts, 2.79 FIP, 0.972 WHIP, 12.1 K/9, 6.37 K/BB are all first in the AL. Cole’s top competitors for this award all have their shortcomings despite strong cases for the award. Gerrit Cole has to stay the course and pitch at this level because he has a complete case of any of the top contenders for this award.

 

Main Image

Embed from Getty Images