By The Baseball Beginnings Guy
February 21, 2011
We’re going to begin this look in the seventh inning, where Gerrit Cole showed more signs of becoming a complete starting pitcher than I have seen in the previous two years. I’m still not completely sold that his best fit in the coming years won’t be as a shutdown closer, but in this look, he showed more signs of pitching maturity than he had in many previous looks. He was also the most efficient strike thrower I have ever seen him be.
The situation is a 1-0 lead with runners at the corners. His velocity and stuff are not slipping but his control is. In his first two college seasons, Cole would have reared back and tried to overmatch each hitter. Instead, he did a better job of maintaining his composure and looked like a pitcher instead of a thrower for the first time I’ve seen.
The telling sign in Cole’s increased confidence was when he wiped off a sign with runners at the corners and one out. But instead of going with the fastball, he showed newfound faith in a much-improved change-up. He consistently threw the change at 85-87 with harder sink in this look. He threw it here and got an out.
The development of Cole’s change-up is significant. He’s never really had a true off-speed pitch, usually going with the slider off the fastball. He showed a new feel in this look for alternating the straight change with an occassional sinking change. He’s not perfect with it just yet – in the same inning, he hung a change-up over the plate. It was fouled back to the screen here. It’s a strike at UCLA, it’s a home run ball in the big leagues.
He finished this inning by reaching back and showing that his velocity can hold deep into a game. His final pitch of the frame was a high and heavy life fastball at 97.
Overall in this look, Cole’s velocity maintained and gained steam. He was 94-95 with the four-seam through the sixth inning, 92-94 with the two-seam, and battled through a sixth inning stretch where most of his fastballs were starting up. He’s developing a better feel for alternating both fastballs and for letting the heavy ball movement work for him. If he’s downhill and around the plate, it’s enough. His fastball sometimes has a very hard tail on it away from right-handers, and when he goes inside, you’ll see a very heavy bore. His slider in this look was 85-87, frequently with hard rotation and tilt to it. There was much more depth to it in this look.
After escaping the seventh inning, Cole turned the power on and became his own closer. He showed confidence in an 85 straight change to a left-hander. He commanded 2-seamers at 94-95 and pitched aggressively inside. There is not a lot of speed separation between his change and his slider, so the shape of the slider becomes very important and the deception on the change is amplified. In this look, he succeeded in throwing all three pitches for strikes consistently.
Cole’s last fastball of the ninth inning was 97 with heavy downhill life. He also threw a hard 85 slider with tilt and an 86 straight change. His final pitch of the game was an 82 slider with depth and bite. Overall, Cole threw just 94 pitches and had 58 strikes in nine innings. It’s hard to get much better than that.
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