Gerrit Cole and Solo Home Run Situations
Solo Home Run situations started with a look at three pitchers currently on the shelf, but the intent was always to explore pitchers before UCL injuries, and potentially assess any fantasy implications. First up is Gerrit Cole. After a fine debut in 2013, the big right-hander has struggled with consistency this year and was just placed on the disabled list with arm fatigue. So where does he stack up in Solo Home Run situations?
For his career, Gerrit Cole has thrown 67.5% of his innings ahead or behind one run, or tied. To add context, Jose Fernandez’s career rate at 68.5% and Matt Harvey’s career rate at 66.3%. But here’s where it gets interesting- the difference between Cole’s Solo Home Run rates in 2013 and this year:
2013: 117 IP overall, 66.1 +/- 1 run (56.5%)
2014: 76.2 IP overall, 64.2 IP +/- 1 run (84.3%)
For ROTOscouting, the Solo Home Run situation percentage is used to assess pitcher stress from the player’s perspective. Close games are when pitchers exert maximum effort and are pressured to throw a best pitch, every pitch. Clearly, Gerrit Cole has been in more close games in 2014. Neal Huntington, Pittsburgh’s GM, provided some additional insight on Cole’s current campaign:
“He’s pitched a little bit less efficient this year than he did a year ago,” Huntington said. “He’s had more pitches per inning, he’s pitching with a little bit more base runners on a consistent level, which means a little bit more stress.
Huntington’s point of added base runners means added stress is important. But think about the flip side of the Solo Home Run rate; Cole has only logged 7.1 innings pitched this year with a lead of three or more runs (9.6% overall), meaning he’s constantly in high-stress pitching situations. All the innings where one swing of the bat can change the lead might contribute to Cole’s increased walk rate this year, since he doesn’t want to leave pitches over the plate and ends up missing his spots out of the zone. Tying back to what Huntington was referencing, a higher walk rate generally means more pitches per batter and could be contributing to the efficiency changes the Pirates have observed. It also makes me wonder what kind of analysis and metrics Pittsburgh uses internally to track their players.
What Does This Mean For Gerrit Cole?
From the sounds of it, Gerrit Cole won’t miss much time. Along with Mike Newman, I’m heavily invested in Cole from a fantasy perspective, so I’d be disappointed to lose Cole and Fernandez from a number of teams in one year. As a Cole owner, I’m forced to wait on his health despite a number of owners offering 80 cents on the dollar.
For those waffling on making an offer for Cole, keep in mind arm fatigue is a better than a forearm or elbow strain, which is often the preamble to a team’s official TJ announcement. However, since Cole’s shoulder is bugging him and making sense of shoulder injuries is like solving the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle, any interest in acquiring him comes with a great deal of risk.
Does Cole have to be a big strikeout pitcher to be a great pitcher and a fantasy baseball asset? Absolutely not. Last year’s version had a K/9-rate of 7.67 and he racked up 2.3 wins in 117.1 innings. In fact, according to some advanced metrics, Cole was better last year despite the lower K/9-rate. However, if the 2013 version is the one staying healthy, he better profiles as a strong #2. When guys are going down with UCL injuries every week, pitchers like Gerrit Cole have a ton of value as a #2 you can pencil in for 200 innings and 170 punchouts.
11 Jun 2014 / Ben Flajole / 1
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