Much has been made of the ways in which the juiced ball and hitters valuing power over contact has mutated MLB offenses, but the game’s drastic evolution has effects all over the field. In fact, part of the reason why so many guys go up to the plate only swinging for the fences now is that they increasingly have to face pitchers who can come at them with a demonic combination of velocity and movement, and selling out for a homer seems like the best option in such a circumstance.
Please look at what Gerrit Cole did to the Mariners last night:
There isn’t a single pitch moving in a straight line in that clip, and just one of them was below 91 mph. This is just what baseball is now: big strong goons throwing magic baseballs at other big strong goons, who sometimes hit one over the fence.
The Mariners suck, so they were only able to scratch out two hits against Cole while he was striking out 14 of them through seven innings. Cole has surrendered 28 dingers this season, though, which sounds bad until you realize that he has also struck out 316 batters. That’s the most strikeouts anyone has had in a single season since 2002, when Randy Johnson struck out 334. Last night Cole also became just the third pitcher in MLB history to strike out at least 10 batters in eight consecutive starts, joining Chris Sale and Pedro Martinez in that glitzy club. He’s struck out 14 batters five times this year, and his 13.7 K/9 rate is the best in the league.
Cole is scheduled to make one more start before the end of the season, and the last juicy number for him go after is win number 20. If he gets that, he’ll end up with one of the brawniest single-season pitching lines we’ve seen in some time: 20 wins, 200+ innings, 300+ strikeouts, and a sub-2.50 ERA. Everything is bigger and better these days, but Cole is the biggest and best.