Yankees: Gerrit Cole’s pitch-tipping worries feel like deja vu from 2019
By Adam Weinrib
The Yankees haven’t seen the best of Gerrit Cole yet, but he’s actually having an identical start as last year.
As a lifelong Yankees fan who’s now failed to hold serve three consecutive times, the pressure is undoubtedly on Gerrit Cole right now.
In any other year, we’d be viewing Cole’s “struggles” differently. A notorious creature of habit, Cole hasn’t allowed over five earned runs in any single start. That came in a game against the Braves last week after the team sat through nearly a week of cancellations.
So, no, Cole hasn’t been particularly ace-like, but he hasn’t been bust-y, either. It’s fair to be frustrated at the fact that he hasn’t lived up to our universe-bending expectations yet, but it’s also necessary to look at the context — namely that this all happened last year, pretty much in sequence.
Cole’s first eight starts of 2019 in Houston featured some very similar three- and four-run efforts, punctuated by a downright awful outing in Texas, unlike anything we’ve seen in pinstripes.
Eight starts to eight starts. 60 K this season vs. 74 last time around. A scary percentage of hard-hit baseballs by the Rays on Monday, bringing up a few questions we didn’t want to be asking. But, all around, a very similar opening to the past two campaigns by Cole, with this slow-ish start coming under much more duress.
Cole’s such a pitching savant that sometimes he can’t fathom why his stuff isn’t jumping or surprising hitters the way it should. In fact, after that start against Texas last year, a baffled Cole, stunned by his worst-ever performance, floated the “pitch-tipping” buoy to explain away his flatness.
After Monday’s game, a similarly emotional Cole floated an identical theory, asserting that there would always be some degree of tipping in every start, and that perhaps he’d tripped over the borderline.
Whatever the case, there can be no doubt the Rays were making particularly rocking contact against his high-velocity fastball, and things could’ve been worse if New York’s ace hadn’t thwarted a few rallies along the way. We’re not making excuses; Cole hasn’t done what he was called on to do thus far.
But the fact of the matter is, however this season concludes, all of this happened last year in more extreme fashion before Cole ripped off an unholy sequence of victories en route to a 20-5 mark.
We’ve never seen a shortened season mixed with pandemic preparation, and hopefully we’ll never see it again. But, no matter how bad the vibes are right now, Cole has presented this exact sequence of events before, with the same excuses baked in.
Hopefully, the ending is the same this time around, too.