The New York Yankees needed to get back on track, and a big 14-strikeout performance in the second game of a doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins by Gerrit Cole helped to do that. Over 6.2 innings pitched, he only allowed one run — a home run to former Astros teammate Carlos Correa — and walked two batters.
Giving up a home run and then bouncing back has not been something that is uncommon for Cole this season. But there did appear to be a tangible difference in terms of his windup. With Houston, the big right-hander was more methodical. He took an extra step in his windup, which he has cut out since then, but the extension he gets can lead to both good and bad results.
One of the things that Cole is particularly known for with his fastball is the amount of ride he gets on it. He’s in the 92nd percentile of fastball spin according to Baseball Savant, and that will be evident in the strikeout clips below. Pair that with 94th-percentile fastball velocity, and there is not much that even the best hitters can do to handle that offering when it’s on.
Cole’s knuckle curve is also one that was excellent during his 14-K night, and just like his fastball, when it spins, it can do a world of damage. In the second game of the doubleheader, Cole recorded the seven highest spin rates with his knuckle curve, with the highest registering at 3003 rpm and 54 inches of vertical break per Statcast. His most electric fastball sat at 99 mph with 2571 rpm on a Nick Gordon swinging strike.
Those numbers are extremely impressive, but what kind of mechanics does it require?
Below is the home run that Cole surrendered to the Mariners’ Carlos Santana on a four-seam fastball:
And here is a strikeout on Nick Gordon of the Twins:
And just for the fun of it, here’s another strikeout when Cole was on the Astros playing against the Yankees:
When going through these different instances, I’ve kept a close eye on both how Cole hurls the ball and follows through. With the image against the Mariners, you can see the longer extension with a different arm angle. In the last two, there’s a shorter extension with almost identical arm angles.
Rewatching the clips, there is a clear difference in the kind of rhythm Cole managed to get himself into. The last two pitching motions are more methodical, but they allow the ace to gather himself and follow through to the plate instead of rushing, which we have seen before this season. His leg kick against the Mariners is visually quicker on the way up.
Cole has been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball over the course of the 2022 season, despite what many detractors have to say. Little things like a slower leg kick can lead to plenty of success. Obviously, it’s not a foolproof strategy, as pitching is one of the most detail-oriented positions in all of sports. One pitch goes bad, and everything else before can go out the window. But even just the smallest adjustment, like slowing down a leg kick, can make all the difference. Hopefully, this leads to continued success as the postseason approaches.