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  • Writer's picturePaul Semendinger

Tuesday Discussion: Gerrit Cole, Concerned?

May 30, 2023


This week we posed the following to our writers:

Gerrit Cole has not pitched well in May. Should the Yankees be concerned?

Here are their responses:


Paul Semendinger - The one (the only?) constant for the Yankees pitching over the last few years has been Gerrit Cole. I talk (a lot) about the need for start players to... play. The Yankees have a ton of players who spend a ton of time out with injuries. Gerrit Cole is not one of them. The man goes out there start after start and keeps the Yankees in the game. He's been doing this for years.

Gerrit Cole was the Yankees' MVP in April. His May hasn't been as good, but... the Yankees are still 10-2 in his 12 starts. He hasn't been great in May, but he does what an ace needs to do, he goes out and gives his team a chance to win. I am not concerned about Gerrit Cole at this time.

(The 2023 Yankees are 22-25 in games Gerrit Cole does not start. Possibly even more than Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole is the most important player on this team. He's certainly the most important pitcher.)


Dale Mather - Should the Yankees be concerned? Absolutely! There has been a drop off every year with regards to how deep Cole can go in a game. The HRs are proof that he still hasn't reinvented himself all the way yet. I'm hoping this isn't the new normal for Cole. The Yankees aren't getting a solid 7 from Ace Gerrit Cole, and unfortunately the same holds true for the other starters too. The bullpen is already stretched thin, thus Cole's struggles with navigating through the line-up a 3rd time through, is adding pitches to an already used bullpen. Cole's next start will be big test as he will be taking on the Dodgers in LA.


Mike Whiteman - While Gerrit Cole's month of May (5.18 ERA) is certainly disappointing, I'm not overly concerned at this point. He seems healthy, maybe a bit tired (?), but Cole has earned the benefit of the doubt, and the season is a long one with ups and downs throughout.

I think he's more likely than not to end the season with 200 innings pitched with an ERA of around 3.00.


Cary Greene - Personally I think Cole is fine and I don't think there's any two ways about it - he's the man in the Bronx. Cole is the Yankees ace. His strikeout rate this season is 26.2 percent, down quite a bit from last year's 32.4% mark and his walk rate is up to 8.6 percent from last year's 6.3 percent mark. Cole still ranks 7th in MLB in strikeouts though, so it's kind of hard to argue that something might be wrong with Cole or that the Yankees should be worried.

This year's Yankees are all about star players, who are surrounded by a number of stop gap players. With the endgame goal being a World Series title, the Yankees simply need to make sure Cole is in peak form when the playoffs begin, because he'll almost certainly be the tip of the spear for the Yankees 2023's big push to end the championship drought, which has now spanned 13-plus seasons and counting.

Regular season games don't mean nearly as much as they used to, so the Yankees have the luxury of taking a conservative approach with how they want to manage the rotation. With Rodon still out, Cole has needed to shoulder the workload and he's done his usual solid job of that thus far this season overall.

He's struggled recently against the likes of the Orioles, Padres and Rays and though his pitch-counts have mirrored his early season totals, he's walking more hitters and very clearly pitching around the better hitters he's faced of late. I think as the weather warms up, Cole will find his usual groove and wind up locking in a little better than maybe he has recently.


Patrick Gunn - No, the Yankees shouldn’t be concerned by one bad month of Gerrit Cole. He always was going to give up home runs at some point, hopefully he spaces them out. The only causes for concern is his walk rate is a little high for him (8.6 BB%, vs. 6.4% for his career) and his strikeout rate is less elite and more very good (26.2 K%, vs. 30.0% for his career). That’s not egregious, though, and his fastball velocity and spin rates are good. Cole isn’t going to be perfect, and the Yankees still won most of his starts.


Tim Kabel - I do not believe the Yankees should be concerned about Gerrit Cole. He is still the best pitcher on the team, and although he has struggled a bit, I would not be overly concerned. It’s a long season and all players hit valleys along with their peaks.


Ethan Semendinger - As much as I would've liked to see Gerrit Cole keep up his 1.11 ERA that he had through the month of April, I knew that was a pipe dream. Especially with the shift in rules to bring about more offense this year (pitch clock, base sizes, number of pick-offs, infield shift, etc.) it should be more expected that pitchers statistics will be worse this year than last. That being said, Cole's pitching to a 5.18 ERA was not a good sign in May. However, it can be attributed largely to the 8 home runs he allowed in May as opposed to the 0 he gave up in April. Provided he can get that back under control (which he should be able to do)- he now has a 1.0 HR/9, which is perfectly matched with his career average- his numbers will be better and he'll continue to lead the pitching staff. Ultimately, I'm not going to get worried after one bad month given his track record.


Andy Singer - Some of what we're seeing with Gerrit Cole is regression to the mean. As good as Cole is, there was very little chance that he'd be quite as dominant as he was in April the whole season. However, that doesn't mean that there's no reason to be concerned about Cole, as some of the issues we saw last season have reared their ugly heads.

In the last 2 weeks, Cole has struggled to keep the ball in the ballpark despite good results otherwise. Cole had the same issue last season, and much of it was due to hitters smacking mistake fastballs. Cole struggled with fastball command throughout the 2022 season, catching the meat of the plate instead of the upper 2 inches of the strike zone that Cole likes to live in. We have seen the same issue pop up in his last 2 weeks worth of starts - for anyone interested, dig through the heat maps Statcast generated of his fastball locations in each of his individual starts; while it's clear that some of his fastballs are catching the top of the zone, too many are missing in the middle-third of the plate.

Last season, I opined that some of this command inconsistency came from Cole overthrowing the fastball, as he occasionally over-extended trying to reach back for extra. I haven't dug into the video yet, but I do find it interesting that Cole's average fastball velocity has gone up in the outings in which he struggled. Anecdotally, I think I'm on to something there. While the issues with command come from mechanics, overthrowing the fastball is more of a mental game. On a scale of 1-10, I'm a "4" in terms of being worried about Cole. I hope he can get back into the headspace he was in to begin the season so that he can get his mechanics on the fastball back.

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