Gerrit Cole’s Latest Dominance Brings Early Cy Young Buzz Into The Mix

Cy Young races are not clinched in April and the race probably does not begin in earnest until the middle of the summer, after the All-Star break as football training camps get underway.

A dominant start could result in some early buzz and an example occurred in the moments after Gerrit Cole’s fourth start and win, a masterful two-hit shutout of the Twins Sunday afternoon.

It was hard not notice how dominant Cole was. After all is you looked away for some time, you might have missed things considering it only took 127 minutes for Cole to complete things with a warning track flyball by former Houston teammate Carlos Correa and this showing lasted 53 minutes shorter than his last complete game July 10 in Houston.

Through four starts Cole is looking like the pitcher whose 20-5 mark in 2019 earned a close second point finish in the AL Cy Young race when he was 12 points behind former teammate Justin Verlander, earning him the $324 million contract.

Last year Cole was ninth in the voting for the contrasting performances of strikeouts. He led the majors with 257 strikeouts but also was the AL leader in allowing 33 homers, including the night when he served up five in Minnesota, a game that highlighted the contrast since it was sandwiched in between a perfect game into the seventh against Detroit and was two starts before he lost a no-hit bid in Tampa Bay.

Another sign of the contrast was never going more than three starts in a row without serving up a homer and eight of those homers in his nine double-digit strikeout games.

“Maybe a bit of conviction,” Cole said of the difference between allowing frequent homers last year to none so far. “Solid game plan in terms of when we want to go to areas and when we feel strongly about going to those areas.”

This year, Cole is thriving in some of those advanced metrics by allowing a 9.5 percent fly ball rate after that number was 28.6 – a career high in a full season. And then there is the matter of the fastball, a pitch he thrown 163 times and allowed six hits in 36 at-bats against (.167).

No wonder manager Aaron Boone invoked Cooperstown and Cy Young Awards in his postgame comments that left him awed by Cole’s dominance which was so on point certain people were looking up things like last Yankee no-hitter (2021 Corey Kluber at Texas) and last no-hitter against the Twins (Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels 2012).

“He’s going to get one,” Boone said. “Maybe more. He’s going to be in that conversation every year and has been now for a number of years. He’s in a great place right now and we look forward to seeing him going back out there in a few days.”

As for what conversation Cole might reside in now, the one involving who the best pitchers are in baseball qualifies.

It is one thing to dominate, but in an era when a majority of runs are scored on homers it is noteworthy not to allow a homer for four straight starts, something Cole last achieved in a five-start stretch from April 6-30, 2021 and did not even achieve in 2019 when he allowed 24 homers.

“I think it’s fair to throw him in that conversation, absolutely,” Boone said. “And I think he always is, but I do think even going into this year, I think he’s probably been on some level underrated and underappreciated. He’s great. He’s a great pitcher that I believe is going to end up in Cooperstown one day.”

As for those who actually are in Cooperstown or those who dominated in the past, Bob Gibson began his 1968 season with 19 strikeouts, allowed two homers and had a 1.97 ERA through four starts or Dwight Gooden’s 1985 season saw him with a 1.50 ERA and 26 strikeouts through four starts.

As for Cole’s 2019 season, through his first four starts he had a 3.24 ERA, had 36 strikeouts, and lost two of his first three decisions before winning 19 of his final 22.

The pitching staffs in New York boast a combined 540 wins and 8,367 strikeouts between Cole, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. So far in the extremely early race between the most impressive of the trio the unofficial award goes to Cole.