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October 9, 2013

Advance Scouting Series

Gerrit Cole

by Jeff Moore


Advance Scouting Report

Filed by: Jeff Moore

Player Name: Gerrit Cole

Report Date: 10/8/13

GS/G

IP

ER

H

K

BB

HBP

WHIP

ERA

6/11-9/3

15/15

91 1/3

38

90

66

19

3

1.226

3.74

9/9-10/4

5/5

32

5

21

39

10

0

0.969

1.41

Context:

This report samples Cole’s entire season, but is broken down into two sections: June 11th (his call-up) through September 3rd (15 starts) and the five starts (four regular season and one playoff) from September 9th to the present. The start on September 9th is used as the dividing point because in those last five starts, Cole was effective in a much different way, striking out more than a batter per inning in four of five outings. Prior to September 9th, he did it just twice in 15 starts.

SCOUTING BREAKDOWN

Physical/Health:

Healthy, but is entering uncharted territory in terms of innings pitched in a single season.

Fastball

Cole’s fastball is one that you can’t teach. It comes out of his hand effortlessly with natural velocity, helping to create the illusion of additional explosion.

Cole throws two fastballs – a four-seam version that routinely averages 96-97 mph throughout the course of a game and can hit as high as 100 mph, and a two-seam sinker, which typically averages 94-96 mph and can get as high as 98 mph.

Cole’s fastball is a true 80 pitch, not only because of the velocity, but also because of his ability to command them both. He throwsthem both for strikes and locates them well within the strike zone, allowing his velocity to play up even further.

Cole’s two-seam fastball has enough movement that he could function as a sinkerball pitcher with it alone. It bores into right-handed hitters, inducing poor contact, and left-handers have trouble doing anything but beat it into the ground when he keeps it down in the strike zone.

As you can see from the charts below, Cole stays away from right-handed hitters with his four-seam fastball, but runs his two-seam fastball down and in on their hands. The exact opposite is true when he faces left-handed hitters, against whom Cole comes inside more with his four-seamer but keeps his two-seamer on the outer half or further outside.

vs. LHB

vs. RHB

Before 9/9: Used 65 percent of time (43 percent for-seam, 22 percent two-seam).

After 9/9: FB used 53 percent of time (41 percent four-seam, 12 percent two-seam).

Before 9/9: FB used 68 percent of time (45 percent four-seam, 23 percent two-seam)

After 9/9: FB used 65 percent of time (46 percent four-seam, 19 percent two-seam)

Four-seam FB vs. Two-seam FB against RHH (2013 season)

Four-seam vs. Two-seam FB against LHH (2013 season)

Breaking Pitches

Cole throws both a curveball and a slider, but it is often difficult to differentiate between the two. His curveball averages 84 mph while his slider averages closer to 89 mph, but there is overlap between the two. He changes speeds on both to keep hitters off balance, and only he and his catcher know which one he is throwing, even after he’s thrown it. Below are the usage rates according to PITCHf/x, but there is sure to be some overlap in the identification between the two pitches.

The harder version of the breaking pitch, in this case his slider, grades out as a 70 pitch, able to generate swings and misses, especially when down and out of the strike zone.

Right-handers have trouble laying off of Cole’s slider out of the strike zone, but it was the increased usage of it against left-handers that coincided with his spike in strikeout totals.

The biggest difference between the groundball-inducing Cole from earlier in the season and the high-strikeout pitcher he’s been lately is the increased usage of his breaking pitch against left-handed hitters.

With two strikes, hitters know exactly where Cole is going to throw his breaking ball. The trouble is identifying it. He almost never leaves it in the strike zone, so there is no fear of taking it for a called third strike. Against left-handed hitters, the concern is just getting it down in the zone. Against right-handed hitters, he is very successful at running it down and away and getting them to chase. His ability to locate it and almost never leave it up in the zone makes him extremely difficult with two strikes.

vs. LHB

vs. RHB

Before 9/9: Used 21 percent of time (12 percent CB, 9 percent SL).

After 9/9: Used 36 percent of time (25 percent CB, 11 percent SL).

Before 9/9: Used 30 percent of time (8 percent CB, 22 percent SL)

After 9/9: Used 32 percent of time (11 percent CB, 20 percent SL)

Breaking Pitch Locations for LHHs vs. RHHs with two strikes (2013 season)

Off-Speed Pitches

Cole throws a changeup, the movement of which mirrors his two-seam fastball. It has good downward sink and arm-side run, but he is still inconsistent with it (at least compared to his other pitches). It’s an average major-league pitch, but it lags behind his other pitches in effectiveness and thus is used sparingly.

Cole uses his changeup as a weapon against left-handed hitters, but used it slightly less often after September 9th, when he began to strike out more batters.

Cole rarely uses his changeup against same-side batters

vs. LHB

vs. RHB

Before 9/9: Used 14 percent of time.

After 9/9: Used 11 percent of time.

Before 9/9: Used 3 percent of time.

After 9/9: Used 3 percent of time.

Notable Games

Date

Description

9/19 vs. San Diego

Cole struck out 12 batters in six innings, six of which came on breaking pitches, five of which were swings and misses. He also froze three hitters with four-seam fastballs.

Fielding/Pickoff

Cole is a good athlete for his size and is fundamentally sound. He fields his position well and takes care of the balls hit back to him or bunted his direction, but is not exceptionally quick getting off the mound. In the running game, Cole does a good job of mixing up his looks to the plate and managing jumps, but his size (6’6”) keeps him from being quick to the plate. He can be run on.

Conclusions and Means of Attack

It’s not often that the plan of attack against a pitcher is to go after his plus-plus fastball, but that is the best opportunity to get to him. Hitters from either side of the plate must enter their at-bats looking for a pitch elevated in the strike zone. This is the only chance to do real damage against Cole. When down in the zone, both his four-seamer and two-seamer generate high groundball rates. While Cole was content to get these groundballs earlier in the year, his approach has changed and he is using his slider more often to get swings and misses, especially against left-handed hitters and especially with two strikes.

Because of Cole’s put-away ability with two strikes, it is important to get to him early in the count. This is a dangerous strategy because it can lead to short at-bats, but hitters with two strikes have hit just .183/.239/.225 against Cole, so it’s still a better bet than getting deep into the count. Cole doesn’t give up many free passes either, so it’s important to jump on something early if he makes a mistake. Hitters may get one hittable pitch in an at-bat, so they’ll need to jump on it even if it comes early.

Additional Notes

Mechanics

Cole controls his body well for a big guy and repeats his delivery flawlessly. When he gets wild, he pulls fastballs to the first base side, but it’s a mistake that is often quickly corrected.

Mound Presence

Cole is an intimidating figure on the mound and his velocity plays up because it comes out of his hand so effortlessly. He handles pressure situations like a veteran and is in control on the mound, even when things go wrong. He does show emotion from time to time, especially when things go wrong or with a big strike out to end an inning, but does not show up teammates.

Jeff Moore is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jeff's other articles. You can contact Jeff by clicking here

Related Content:  Scouting,  Advance Series

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