Cortes or Cole?
by Paul Semendinger
October 2, 2022
The big question that we'll all be wondering until the Game One starter of the American League Division Series is announced is, "Who will it be?"
The question comes down to who deserves the start more, the big money big name pitcher (Gerrit Cole) or the better pitcher in 2022 (Nestor Cortes).
Last year, Gerrit Cole got the playoff start. There were some at the time (I was not one of them) that argued that Nestor Cortes, who had come out of nowhere, should start Game One.
Last year, Cole came off his best season as a Yankee. He was the "Ace." There was no question about who the team's top pitcher was. Last year, a lot of people assumed that Cortes' stats were fluky. Some might have argued that they were a mirage. How did he get that good? (Again, to be fair and clear, I was not a believer.)
When one looked at their stats, an argument could have been made that Cortes, in many fewer innings (Cole pitched 181, Cortes just 93), was as good as Cole was.
Looking closer, one could have even argued that in the second half of the season last year that Cortes was the better pitcher.
The only areas where Cole was better was in wins and strikeouts. Nestor Cortes, in 12 starts, just as Cole had, had a better WHIP and a better ERA. And, while his strikeout rate was lower, a 9.6 strikeout rate per nine innings is still very very good.
Still, as noted, Cole was the big money pitcher and Cortes was the novelty. Cortes was probably the better pitcher, but the logical decision, all things being equal, was to go to Cole. And that's what the Yankees did.
Cole got the start, didn't do well, and winter came early for the Yankees.
Now, a year later, they have to make a similar choice. The Yankees have to decide who should start Game One (and be the pitcher most ready for a second start in a playoff round or World Series should a series go that far)?
This year, there is no question who has been the better pitcher.
Nestor Cortes is no longer a novelty. He is no longer a pitcher who came out of nowhere and did well for a short period. He has out pitched Gerrit Cole this season. But not only that, he's out pitched Gerrit Cole for the last season and a half.
One might note that since "sticky stuff" was outlawed, the clear ace of the Yankees' pitching staff has been Nifty Nestor.
But, if one were to look even closer, the case becomes even more clear. In the second half of 2022, Nestor Cortes stands even taller as the better pitcher.
Breaking it down even further, Cortes has pitched great in September, and, again, he did better than Cole.
To sum it all up, Nestor Cortes has been the better pitcher in September 2022. Cortes has been the better pitcher in the second half of 2022. He has been the better pitcher for the entire season of 2022. And since the All-Star game in 2021, he's also been the better pitcher.
Now the question is, will the Yankees make the right call and use their best starting pitcher, Nestor Cortes, in Game One, or will they defer to Gerrit Cole's veteran "leadership" or his "ace status" or whatever?
This isn't a difficult decision to make if one looks at the numbers. The better pitcher is Nestor Cortes. That means that the pitcher who will gave the Yankees the best chance to win will be Nestor Cortes.
What the Yankees do in this decision will go a long way toward determining how this post season plays out.
The choice is simple - Give the ball to Nestor. I want him in Game One and then as often as he can pitch throughout the postseason. He is the true ace. He's the best starting pitcher the Yankees have.