Breaking down Gerrit Cole


The Bears enter next weekend’s series against UCLA with a lot at stake. Cal’s 2-2 showing last week led to them dropping out of BA’s Top 25; a strong showing against #24 UCLA would certainly put them back into it. UCLA is led by ace Gerrit Cole, who will likely be the #1 pick in the June draft.

Cole posted a .46 ERA and an 8-2 record while pitching for Orange Lutheran in high school. He was picked 28th overall by the Yankees in the 2008 MLB Draft, but elected to attend UCLA instead. His freshman year was not a perfect one; he had just a 4-8 record. His other numbers were still impressive, as a 3.49 ERA and 104 strikeouts is incredible for freshman. He was overshadowed by teammate and fellow freshman Trevor Bauer, who won Freshman Pitcher of the Year honors. He made strides his sophomore year, improving his ERA to 3.37, winning nearly 3 times more at a 11-4 record, and striking out nearly 50 batters more. He held batters to a low .205 batting average. However, this year has been a bit of disappointment for Cole, as his ERA has regressed to 3.42, he’s under .500 at 5-6, and his rate of strikeouts has decreased. He has cut down on his walks, but that’s about the only improvement he’s made to date. And luck has been on his side, as his FIP suggests his ERA should be closer to 4 than it is.

The scouting report on Cole used to be that he had a fastball and was developing his other pitches. He’s still got the fastball; his 4 seam fastball sits in the upper 90s, touching 99 and 100 while staying consistently between 94-96. He prefers to work off of his 2 seamer, which sits several ticks lower at 91-94. It’s more useful because of its movement, which attacks the hands of a right hander and could break bats, if the college game used wooden bats. He also features three breaking pitches: curveball, slider, and changeup. He doesn’t like to use the curve all that often, but when he does it has a nice 12/6 break and drops off the table. His best off-speed pitch is probably the change. At 84-86, it has good velocity and fades down in the zone. His slider also has super-star potential, mainly because it sits at fastball velocity (88-92). It’s an inconsistent pitch that either lands in the left field seats or is a dominating strikeout pitch. Cole’s ability to use his the slider and change will decide his success moving forward.

After watching some clips of this kid on Youtube, I’m pretty sold on him as a pitcher. He clearly has some warts on him- his offspeed is still not perfect, and his command is a work in progress, but overall he looks like a future ace. What should the Bears do to attack him? When facing a great pitcher like Cole, it’s best to be aggressive. Letting him get you to 2 strikes is a quick road to either a strikeout or a weakly hit ball, neither results that you’re looking for. Swinging early at good pitches is especially important against Gerrit. He likes to establish himself early in the count with either the 2 seam or the 4 seam, as he almost always throws the fastball early. If the Bears sit on the first pitch fastball, as other teams have done with success, then they can do quick damage to the Bruins. On the flipside, they will also have to ensure that they’re not being too aggressive; if you’re swinging at bad pitches early in the count and making outs, then Cole can go deep into the game with a low pitch count. A good balance will be imperative.

Cole may be a top MLB prospect with nasty stuff, but he’s also not an unhittable monster that leaves Cal with no hope for a victory. If the Bears can jump on his fastball early in the count and not let him get to two strikes, then they’ll have a chance to get some runs and ride the arm of Erik Johnson to a victory. Go Bears! Beat the Bruins!