Marlins young ace Jose Fernandez has received all the love from the media this season, and for good reason. He might have been the best starter in baseball in the second half, and maybe longer. But, there is another rookie starter, who is pitching in a pennant race, that is pitching very well also. Pirates starter, and future ace, Gerrit Cole, has pitched under the pressure of the Pirates first winning season and their first playoff appearance in two decades this season. And he has pitched great.
What he has done seems to be going unnoticed, but in his 17 starts this season, he is 8-7 with a 3.33 ERA, 3.13 FIP, 3.32 xFIP, 1.16 WHIP and a 82-24 strikeout to walk ratio in 105.1 innings. In addition, as he did in the minors, Cole has been stingy to the ball leaving the yard. He has given up just seven home runs in his 17 starts, for a 0.60 home runs per nine innings.
He has given up two runs or less in nine of his seventeen starts thus far, including a seven shutout inning gem in Texas back on September 9th. He's gone 7 innings or more in 6 of his 15 starts this season, which might be more than Stephen Strasburg coming into this season. He has also gone 6 or more innings in three quarters of his starts, which tells me he is going to be a workhorse for the Pirates rotation down the road.
He throws a fastball that averages 96 mph, but he isn't striking out a ton of batters. His 7.00 K/9 rate and low 2.05 BB/9 is solid for a very young pitcher in his first look at major league hitters. He keeps the ball on the ground at a 49% rate, which combined with his K/9 and BB/9, is the recipe for a very good starting pitcher, or even an ace.
He likes to get ahead of hitters, as he throws first pitch strike 63.6% of the time, good for 37th among starting pitchers with 100 or more innings this season. You would think his 96 mph fastball would result in more swinging strikes, but it does not, as his SwStr% is just 8.9%, so Pirates fans and his fantasy owners certainly would like to see that rate increase in 2014.
With the offseason not far away, my thoughts move to wondering where I am going to rank Cole in my starting pitcher rankings for 2014. If his strikeout rate were a bit higher, I would consider ranking him in my Top 30-35 starting pitchers. Cole pitches in one of the more pitcher friendly ball parks in baseball. PNC Park depressed runs scoring by 12%, home runs by 34% and doubles by 15% in 2013. In fact, PNC Park was the toughest park to hit a home run in in 2013, followed by Marlins Park and AT & T Park in San Francisco, which certainly bodes well for Cole, and all other Pirates pitchers.
Heading into 2014 drafts, make sure you list Gerrit Cole high on your list of starting pitchers, and don't be afraid to draft him a round early. He will be worth it.