Gerrit Cole

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Gerrit Alan Cole

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Biographical Information[edit]

The first overall pick of the 2011 draft, Gerrit Cole is a three-time All-Star who came of age with the Houston Astros, striking out 326 hitters in 2019. In the ensuing offseason, he signed the richest free agent deal for a pitcher in history, agreeing to a $324 million deal with the New York Yankees. He is the brother-in-law of Brandon Crawford.

High School[edit]

Cole played for Mike Grahovac in high school, hitting 100 mph on the radar gun. 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 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 Cole the 17th best draft prospect. The New York Yankees took Cole 28th overall in 2008 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 the immortal Slade Heathcott with their compensation pick in 2009 for not signing Cole.

College[edit]

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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 Pac-10 overall. 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. The flame throwing 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 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 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 TCU. In the finals, he started Game 1 against the South Carolina Gamecocks 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 draft, taking him number one, ahead of pitchers like Danny Hultzen and Taylor Jungmann with better college stats (neither of whom would have one-one hundredth the career Cole has had thus far) and Anthony Rendon (the top-rated college batter), the other people they were 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 deal 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 pro 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 Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Pirates[edit]

Gerrit was called up 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 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 lost 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 on September 24th, giving up two runs over 6 innings while driving in 2 runs 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 innings 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). Given 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 number one 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 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 in 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 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. 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. Cole gave up 4 runs in 5 innings and the Pirates never had a chance, losing 4-0 and making an early exit.

Heading into his third season in the majors in 2016, Cole was barely making above the minimum salary of $507,500 despite 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, pitching a total of 131 innings.

Despite 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]

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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 three starts, even after having pitched 7 innings in each and putting up a 1.29 ERA, but the Astros won all three games. In his final April start on April 29th, he struck out 12 batters to finish the month with 61 punchouts, 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 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 a run in 7 innings to receive credit for a 3-1 win, but he 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, striking out 49 batters in 38 innings. He was 8-5, 3.28 in 18 starts over 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 teammate Justin Verlander's no-hitter with a 14-strikeout performance; this was the first time ever that two pitchers for one team notched 14 or more strikeouts in consecutive games­. His next start, on September 8th, was another beauty as he went 8 innings, allowed just a 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 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, and was a close second to Verlander in the voting for the 2019 American League Cy Young Award. In the postseason, he was 2-0, 0.56 when the Astros defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in the Division Series and 1-0 with no runs allowed in 7 innings against the New York Yankees in the ALCS. His string of winning starts ended in Game 1 of the 2019 World Series against the Washington Nationals on October 22nd, when he was charged with a 5-4 loss, but he came back to defeat them 7-1 in Game 5 with another strong performance. There was some controversy around the fact that he was not used at all in Game 7, which the Astros lost at home to the Nats, although it is pure speculation whether his coming in the game in an unfamiliar relief role would really have turned the tide.

New York Yankees[edit]

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Cole became a free agent after the season, and it was clear that he would be in high demand and that it would take a whole lot of money to sign him, especially with his agent being Scott Boras, known to extract every penny possible for free agents he represents. The New York Yankees were said to be interested in him for months, especially after his convincing performance against them in the ALCS. So it was to no one's surprise that that Yankees won the sweepstakes and signed him on December 10th to a nine-year contract worth $324 million. The contract was the longest ever for a pitcher, as well as the richest in total and per annum ($36 million). These last two figures broke the previous record established only two days earlier when Stephen Strasburg re-signed with the Nationals. His first appearance with the Yankees in 2020 was delayed when the start of the season was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. That did not keep him from helping his new hometown, as he made a significant donation through the "Gerrit and Amy Cole Foundation" he set up with his wife to Direct Relief, an organization that assists health workers in the New York area dealing with the pandemic.

He was the Yankees' opening day starter when the season finally started on July 23rd and ended up pitching a rain-shortened one-hitter against the Nationals as the game was ended by a violent thunderstorm in the 6th inning. He was as good as advertised, needing only 75 pitches to get through 5 innings, and allowing only a solo homer by Adam Eaton in the bottom of the 1st. He won his next two starts as well to stretch his regular season winning streak to 19 straight, dating back to the previous season, now the 6th longest in major league history. He finally lost a game on August 26th, 5-1 to the Atlanta Braves, his first defeat in 28 starts and his first loss after 20 straight wins. While he did not win every start, he continued to prove an ace pitcher and on September 16th, he recorded the 100th win of his career by defeating the Toronto Blue Jays, 11-2. He held them hitless for 5 innings, by which time the Yankees had built a huge lead, then let up a bit over the next two innings, allowing a run on 3 hits.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 3-time All-Star (2015, 2018 & 2019)
  • AL ERA Leader (2019)
  • AL Strikeouts Leader (2019)
  • AL Complete Games Leader (2020)
  • 2-time AL Shutouts Leader (2018 & 2020)
  • 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)

Sources[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • David Adler: "Why Cole's fastball is in a league of its own", mlb.com, June 29, 2020. [1]
  • Chris Bumbaca: "From draft to free agency: How New York Yankees signing Gerrit Cole was 11 years in the making", USA Today, December 11, 2019. [2]
  • Bryan Hoch: "Cole joining Yanks on 9-year deal (source)", mlb.com, December 10, 2019. [3]
  • Bryan Hoch: "Cole making 'significant' donations to NYC relief", mlb.com, April 2, 2020. [4]
  • Richard Justice: "Cole the perfect player at perfect time for Yanks", mlb.com, December 10, 2019. [5]
  • Matt Kelly: "Verlander-Cole may be most dominant duo ever: Astros pair could make history with 1-2 finish in ERA, WHIP, K's", mlb.com, September 7, 2019. [6]
  • Sarah Langs and Andrew Simon: "Cole hard facts: 10 stats from otherworldly ALDS", mlb.com, October 11, 2019. [7]
  • Brian McTaggart: "For Cole, best case in Cy race is 'split' with JV: Righty puts flourish on 'incredible' season with another record", mlb.com, September 29, 2019. [8]
  • Brian McTaggart: "With world as his stage, Cole poised to deliver", mlb.com, October 21, 2019. [9]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Gerrit Cole agrees to record nine-year, $324 million deal with Yankees", USA Today, December 11, 2019. [10]
  • Bob Nightengale: "How Scott Boras got Gerrit Cole his $324 million deal with the Yankees", USA Today, December 17, 2019. [11]
  • Bob Nightengale: "'Been waiting for this his entire life': $324 million man Gerrit Cole ready to lead Yankees back to glory", USA Today, February 23, 2020. [12]
  • Jorge L Ortiz: "Revived Gerrit Cole enjoying fresh slate with Houston Astros", USA Today Sports, March 20, 2018. [13]
  • Manny Randhawa: "Cole sends heartfelt thanks to Houston fans", mlb.com, October 31, 2019. [14]

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