On Friday night, Houston Astros’ starter Gerrit Cole struck out 16 Diamondbacks in rout to his second double digit strikeout game in as many weeks. This season, Cole has already earned an fWAR of 2.5 through 50.2 innings pitched; which is similar to what he’s usually did in Pittsburgh through a full season.
His stat line is unbelievable right now as he’s pitching 1.42/1.55/2.08 through his first seven starts while holding his opponents to a .150 batting average against. The 27-year old has been practically unhitable this season thanks to how he’s been using his slider compared to the previous two seasonal, as his fastball usage has decreased.
Cole’s increased slider usage has led to the highest swinging strike percentage and the lowest contact rate in his career. Which is why the the veteran pitcher is on a history pace right now with a strikeout rate sitting at 41.9%; that number is highly unsustainable for a starting pitcher…but it’s likely that he’ll rewrite his career high for season strikeouts.
When batters are making with Cole’s pitches, they’re not making hard contact when they hit it into the air. As a result, only 7.3% of flyballs hit off of the veteran are turning into home runs — which is why he’s running a xFIP of 2.08 while his FIP is sitting at 1.55. Cole’s had good luck so far this season, and I fully expect that to change as he has never run a higher xFIPs than FIPs throughout his major league career.
Right now, Cole is vastly outperforming his preseason projections because he’s been using his slider more and his fastball less. Because of his pitch usage he’s racking up more strikeouts at a record rate.
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