How Gerrit Cole Became One of Baseball’s Best Pitchers

Gerrit Cole’s dominance can be attributed to a new approach. What is he doing differently?

Gerrit Cole is having an absolute exceptional season thus far for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The right-hander is establishing himself as one of the best pitchers in the game in this year.

He’s greatly refined his game in multiple aspects and is posting career-bests virtually across the board. Simply put, he is absolutely overpowering hitters with a new approach.

A New Approach

In recent years, Cole used to rely heavily on his arsenal of fastballs and minimally mix in his secondary pitches (slider, curveball, and changeup). So far this season he’s relied solely on his four-seam fastball mixed with his slider, curve, and changeup.

The biggest difference is that he’s thrown his slider a lot more this season.

He's increased his slider usage from 13.0% last year to 22.7% this year, and he's accumulating a ton of swings and misses on it.

Swinging Strike %19.6%17.8%22.6%

His slider is absolutely filthy and the numbers definitely support that.

Improved Control

It’s easy to strike out hitters when you throw as hard as Cole does, but it’s hard to hone that velocity and have great control. He looks to have taken a huge step in his development as he’s decreased his walks per nine innings and increased his strikeouts per nine innings.


He currently ranks ninth in strikeout percentage (28.0%) and 11th in strikeout percentage minus walk percentage (22.3%).

So far this season he’s improved his groundball rate from 49.2% to 54.1%. It helps when his average fastball velocity is 95.4 miles per hour and when that heater can top out at 100.3.

He's been displaying his ability to keep the ball consistently down in the zone based off his current pitching heatmap, as well.

Splits and Efficiency

In addition to his ability to locate the ball and get batters to strike out, it’s clear that he doesn’t rely on the pitcher-friendly PNC Park. A look at his home/away splits shows that he’s getting the job done no matter where he’s pitching.


His game log shows that he’s faced a mix of great and average offenses this season, too.

Despite being hit slightly better by lefties, Cole is still doing exceptionally well against hitters from both sides of the plate.


A very interesting thing to note is that he’s doing much better with men on base and in scoring position. He's shown a gradual improvement over the course of his career in the Majors.



It's easy to maintain his composure with the bases empty, but now he's showing he be successful in threatening situations.

His success has been done with a pretty average BABIP of .292 (men on base) and .303 (men in scoring).

Rest of Season Outlook

Cole doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon, and opposing teams are well aware that he’s a force to be reckoned with. He’s currently displaying why he should be in the conversation with other aces such as Felix Hernandez and Clayton Kershaw.

The Cole freight train is coming, and hopefully the MLB is ready.