Gerrit Cole

From BR Bullpen

Gerrit Cole.jpg

Gerrit Alan Cole

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]

Gerrit Cole was the first pick of the 2011 amateur draft despite entering the draft with a losing record.

High School[edit]

Cole played for Mike Grahovac in high school. As a sophomore, he was 1-0 with 14 strikeouts in 14 innings. His junior year, he hit .269 and had a 3-0, 1.21 record with two saves. As a senior, he went 8-2 with a save, a 0.46 ERA, 121 strikeouts and 18 walks in 75 2/3 innings. He had peaked at 100 mph in high school. He was named second-team All-American by Baseball America, behind Brett DeVall, Danny Hultzen, Taylor Jungmann and Jake Odorizzi. DeVall and Odorizzi were first-rounders that year, while Jungmann and Hultzen would go in the top 15 picks in 2011 after their junior years at college. Baseball America ranked him as the #17 draft prospect. The New York Yankees took Cole 28th overall in the 2008 amateur draft but he did not sign. He was the highest pick of the draft to go on to college and the highest-drafted player ever to enroll at UCLA. The Yankees wound up getting Slade Heathcott with the compensation pick in the 2009 amateur draft for not having signed Cole.


Cole had a mere 4-8, 3.49 record as a freshman. He fanned 104 in 85 innings and allowed a .191 average, but walked 38. He set a new school record for strikeouts by a freshman, ranking fourth in the Pacific-10 Conference in that category. That summer, he was 4-0 with a 1.06 ERA for Team USA's college edition, leading them with 46 strikeouts in 34 innings. The team did not play in any major international tournaments that year.

The flamethrowing right-hander made big strides in 2010 at 11-4, 3.37. He struck out 153 in 123 innings but again had control issues, walking 52. He was picked as third-team All-American by Baseball America, alongside Kyle Blair, Asher Wojciechowski and Noe Ramirez. Cole was second in the Pac-10 in strikeouts (behind teammate Trevor Bauer) and was third in the nation (after Bauer and Wojciechowski and just ahead of Chris Sale). In the 2010 College World Series, he struck out 13 in a dominant win over Texas Christian University. In the finals, though, he started game one against the University of South Carolina and was pounded for six runs on eleven hits in seven innings. He had a 1-1, 4.20 record for the Series.

In the summer of 2010, Cole again played for Team USA. He was 2-0 with a 0.72 ERA. In the big event, the 2010 World University Championship, he got the call in the Gold Medal game and battled Cuba's Miguel A. González through seven scoreless innings before Noe Ramirez blew it in relief. For the event, he had a 1.38 ERA, 16 hits and 10 strikeouts in 13 innings, getting two no-decisions for the Silver Medalists.

Cole struggled in 2011, with a 6-8, 3.31 start. He twice carried perfect games into the 7th inning. His control was much better, with 24 walks in his first 114 1/3 innings. The Pittsburgh Pirates decided he was the best player available in the 2011 amateur draft, making him the #1 overall pick, ahead of pitchers like Danny Hultzen and Taylor Jungmann with better college stats and Anthony Rendon (the top-rated college batter), the other people they had been rumored to be considering. He was the first UCLA player picked first overall - the previous high was Tim Leary (#2 in 1979). When teammate Bauer went third overall, it was the first time since 1978 that a team had two players taken in the top three - the last such duo since Arizona State University's Bob Horner and Hubie Brooks. As expected, it took until the final day on which draftees could sign for the Pirates and Cole to come to an agreement; on August 15th, he agreed to an $8 million minor league deal, the largest minor league contract in history. In fact, his bonus was not eclipsed until 2019, when the Baltimore Orioles signed Adley Rutschman for $8.1 million.

Minor Leagues[edit]

Cole made his first professional pitching appearance for the Class A Bradenton Marauders of the Florida State League on April 9, 2012. He allowed only one hit in 4 innings, and struck out 7 while featuring a fastball timed at 97 mph. He made 13 starts at Bradenton, with a record of 5-1, 2.55, and 69 strikeouts in 67 innings. He was then promoted to the AA Altoona Curve of the Eastern League. There, he gave the Pirates a scare in his second start on June 26th, twice being hit by batted balls in the 1st inning of a start against the Harrisburg Senators. Destin Hood's line drive ricocheted off his glove and struck him in the face, then, two batters later, Sean Nicol again struck him with a line drive. He completed the inning, but left the game immediately afterwards to receive x-rays. It was the shortest start of his professional career, and his first loss at the AA level. He had been named to the 2012 Futures Game shortly after his promotion to Altoona. He finished the season with a combined record of 9-7, 2.80 in 26 starts, having complete the year with one appearance in AAA with the Indianapolis Indians. He pitched 132 innings, giving up 113 hits and striking out 136 against 45 walks.

In 2013, he was back at Indianapolis to begin the year, going 5-3, 2.91 in 12 starts, before getting the call to Pittsurgh.

With the Pittsburgh Pirates[edit]

Gerrit Cole was called up by the Pirates on June 11, 2013, to make a start against the San Francisco Giants in place of the injured Wandy Rodriguez. He was excellent in his debut, starting the game by striking out Gregor Blanco on three pitches, and then hitting a two-run single off Tim Lincecum in his first career at-bat in the bottom of the 2nd. He gave up 2 runs on 7 hits and no walks in 6 1/3 innings, striking out 2, and was credited with the Bucs' 8-2 win. When he beat the Angels, 5-2, in his third start, he became only the second pitcher in Pirates history to start his career with a win his first three starts, after Myrl Brown back in 1922. He hit 101 mph on the radar gun in returning to Anaheim Stadium, the ballpark where he had attended many games as a child. He gave up his first career walk in the 7th inning to Mark Trumbo, his 18th inning in the majors. He made it four wins in four starts when he defeated the Milwaukee Brewers, 10-3, on June 28th (no Pirate had done so since Nick Maddox 106 years earlier), but the streak ended when he suffered his first loss on July 4th, 6-4 to the Philadelphia Phillies. On September 9th, he defeated Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers, 1-0, pitching 7 shutout innings, to improve to 7-7 on the year. The win was a historic one, as it was the 82nd for Pittsburgh that season, ensuring that the team would have its first winning season since 1992. He had another great performance down the stretch on September 24th, giving up two runs over 6 innings and drove in two runs himself in an 8-2 win over the Chicago Cubs that improved his record in September to 4-0. He was named the NL Rookie Pitcher of the Month for September and finished the season at 10-7, 3.22 with 100 strikeouts to 28 walks in 117 1/3 IP and a 109 ERA+. Additionally, he hit .206 with 5 RBI. There had originally been talk of cutting Cole's workload down late in the year but the struggles of Jeff Locke and Cole's dominant performance won him a spot in Pittsburgh's four-man rotation for the playoffs (their first postseason appearance in 21 years) alongside veterans Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett and Charlie Morton. He excelled in a crucial Game 2 in St. Louis in the NLDS. With the Bucs having lost the opening game, he allowed two hits and one run (a Yadier Molina) homer in six innings plus he singled in Pedro Alvarez for the first run off Lance Lynn. His win meant Pirate rookies were now 6-0 in postseason history, following Babe Adams (3-0 in the 1909 World Series) and Tim Wakefield (2-0 in the 1992 NLCS). Giving his Game 2 outing, Clint Hurdle turned to him for the deciding Game 5 rather than veteran Burnett, who had struggled in Game 1. He took the loss but pitched well with two runs (both on a David Freese homer) in five innings, only to be outdueled by Adam Wainwright. Cole was the third former #1 overall draft pick to start an elimination game in the postseason, following Andy Benes and David Price.

In 2014, he pitched very well when healthy, but was limited to 22 starts. During those, he put up a record of 11-5, 3.65 with 138 strikeouts in 138 innings. The Pirates returned to the postseason, hosting the Wild Card Game, but he did not pitch in the contest, which Pittsburgh lost to the San Francisco Giants. Cole was named the National League Pitcher of the Month in April of 2015. He went 4-0 with a 1.76 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings. He continued to pitch well through May and early June, as he was credited with a 3-0 win over the Atlanta Braves on June 7th ion which he pitched 7 scoreless innings, to bring his record to 9-2. His 9 wins tied him with Felix Hernandez for most in the majors at that point, and he became the first Pirates pitcher since Emil Yde in 1925 to pick up 30 victories in his first 53 career starts. He then became the majors' first ten-game winner with a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on June 13th. He was named to the All-Star team for the first time and pitched a scoreless inning in the game. By winning his 14th game on July 26th, he became the first Pirates pitcher to have that many wins before the end of July since Dock Ellis in 1971. He finished the season with a record of 19-8, 2.60 and was designated to start the Wild Card Game at home against the Chicago Cubs on October 7th. In that game he faced Jake Arrieta, who had had an amazing second half and had beaten him in a head-to-head match-up just ten days earlier. He gave up 4 runs in 5 innings and the Pirates never had a chance, losing 4-0 and making an early exit from the postseason after a great year.

Heading into his third season in the majors in 2016, Cole was barely making above the minimum salary of $507,500 in spite of all of his success. As an illustration of the lack of bargaining power of players not yet eligible for arbitration, the Pirates proposed a salary of $538,000, or a $7,000 increase over his 2015 salary. Problem was, the Pirates had forgotten to figure into his base salary the $10,000 bonus he had earned for making the All-Star team the previous year, meaning the contract offer was actually lower that what he had earned the year before! When Scott Boras, Cole's agent pointed out the mistake, the Pirates readjusted their offer upward by a tick. He started the season pitching well, although he found it harder to record wins than the previous season. After 12 starts, he was 5-4 with a 2.77 ERA when he was placed on the disabled list on June 14th with a strained right triceps, retroactive to June 11th. Top prospect Jameson Taillon took his spot in the rotation. He returned on July 16th but lost his first two starts, then on July 26th, he registered the first complete game of his career in defeating the Seattle Mariners, 10-1, on a three-hitter. He continued to experience problems over the next few weeks, and on September 13th, the Pirates announced that he had been placed on the 60-day DL because of inflammation in his right elbow, ending his season. He was 7-10, 3.88 in 21 starts and had pitched a total of 131 innings.

In spite of his overall success in his first few seasons, Cole had one nemesis - the Cincinnati Reds. He started off his career 0-6 against the Pirates' division rivals, until August 26, 2017, when he defeated them 1-0, the only run coming on a home run off Luis Castillo, as he pitched 7 innings. It was also his 8th straight win on the road. The 2017 season was mediocre for Gerrit, as he went 12-12, 4.26, posting the highest ERA of his career by a wide margin. He did lead the National League in starts with 33, and pitched 203 innings during which he struck out 196 batters, alleviating any lingering concerns about his health. As soon as the season ended, rumors began to circulate about the Pirates being interested in trading him while he had two years left on his contract, making him an interesting proposition for contending teams. There were protracted negotiations with both the New York Yankees and Houston Astros before a deal was announced on January 13, 2018. Cole headed to Houston in return fo four players: Michael Feliz, Jason Martin, Colin Moran and Joe Musgrove.

Houston Astros[edit]

Cole got off to a great start with his new team in 2018 as he set a new major league record by striking out 36 batters, the most by any pitcher in his first three starts for a new team. Randy Johnson had held the record previously, with 34 in his first three starts for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1999. His 14 strikeouts at Minute Maid Park on April 13th tied the record set by Bud Norris in 2010 for most by an Astros pitcher at the ballpark. For all that, he was just 1-0 after those three starts, in spite of having pitched 7 innings in each and putting up a 1.29 ERA, but the Astros had won all three of the games. In his final April start on April 29th, he struck out 12 batters to finish the month with 61 Ks, a new club record for April. On May 4th, he set a personal best with 16 strikeouts when he pitched a one-hitter to defeat the Diamondbacks, 8-0. The only hit is a 5th-inning double by Chris Owings and he issued just one walk. As teammate Carlos Correa stated: "I think it would have been the same outcome if any team in the league would have faced him today. He was just filthy. Hitting the spots, every pitch was working. There is no plan that could work against him today." He was a member of the American League squad at the 2018 All-Star Game and finished the year at 15-5, 2.88 in 32 starts, with a personal best of 276 strikeouts in 200 1/3 innings. In his first postseason start against the Cleveland Indians in Game 2 of the Division Series on October 6th, he gave up 1 run in 7 innings to receive credit for a 3-1 win, but he then lost his only start of the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox, 7-5 in Game 2.

Cole was the American League Pitcher of the Month in June when he went 3-0, 1.89 in 6 starts for Houston, striking out 49 batters in 38 innings. He was 8-5, 3.28 in 18 starts in the first three months and was named to the AL All-Star team for the second straight year. On July 22nd, he reached the 200-strikeout mark for the third time; it took him just 133 1/3 innings, quicker than anyone in history except Randy Johnson, who had done so in 130 2/3 innings in 2001. He repeated as Pitcher of the Month in July, when he went 4-0, 1.85 in 5 starts. On September 2nd, he followed up teammate Justin Verlander's no-hitter with a 14-strikeout performance; this was the first time ever that two pitchers for one team had notched 14 or more strikeouts in consecutive games­. His next start on September 8th was another beauty as he went 8 innings, allowed just 1 hit, walked none and struck out 15 as Houston annihilated the Seattle Mariners, 21-1. It was his third straight start with 14 or more strikeouts, something only accomplished by one other pitcher since 1908: Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez in 1999. On September 13th he set a new team record with 13 straight wins dating back to May 27th when he defeated the Kansas City Royals, 4-1. On September 18th, he recorded his 300th strikeout, his first time reaching the mark. He was also the first Astros pitcher to reach the mark since Mike Scott in 1986. He completed the season with a flourish on September 29th, winning his 20th game and also recording 10 or more strikeouts in his 9th consecutive game, a major league record. He struck out 10 over 5 innings as Houston beat the Los Angeles Angels, 8-5. He was then named the league's Pitcher of the Month for the third time, having gone 5-0, 1.07 in 6 September starts. He finished the year at 20-5, 2.50 and 326 strikeouts in 212 1/3 innings.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 3-time All-Star (2015, 2018 & 2019)
  • AL ERA Leader (2019)
  • AL Strikeouts Leader (2019)
  • AL Shutouts Leader (2018)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 3 (2015, 2018 & 2019)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 1 (2019)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 4 (2015 & 2017-2019)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 3 (2015, 2018 & 2019)
  • 300 Strikeouts Seasons: 1 (2019)


Further Reading[edit]

  • Matt Kelly: "Verlander-Cole may be most dominant duo ever: Astros pair could make history with 1-2 finish in ERA, WHIP, K's",, September 7, 2019. [1]
  • Sarah Langs and Andrew Simon: "Cole hard facts: 10 stats from otherworldly ALDS",, October 11, 2019. [2]
  • Brian McTaggart: "For Cole, best case in Cy race is 'split' with JV: Righty puts flourish on 'incredible' season with another record",, September 29, 2019. [3]
  • Jorge L Ortiz: "Revived Gerrit Cole enjoying fresh slate with Houston Astros", USA Today Sports, March 20, 2018. [4]

Related Sites[edit]