The Yankees are lucky. Yes, that’s a very weird thing to say in a year in which they have suffered an absurd amount of injuries and key players have declined or struggled, but they are lucky to have an ace of Gerrit Cole’s caliber.
Ever since he landed on the Yankees before the 2020 season, Cole has done nothing but dominate. He has a 3.14 in 642 innings in pinstripes (77 ERA-), offering a unique combination of production and durability/availability. That latter part is really important, and it’s actually part of what makes Cole great: he never gets injured, and the Yankees have been able to count on elite production almost every time he takes the ball.
Cole has shown that you can rely on him every five days. He also sets a high standard for the rest of the staff and is a very good role model for prospects/young pitchers to follow. Some fans actually take Cole for granted, as hard to believe as it may sound. It’s incredibly difficult to find an ace that shows his combination of health and skill.
Since landing on the Yankees ahead of the 2020 campaign, there are three pitchers in baseball with 100+ games started and 3.20 ERA or better: Sandy Alcántara, Kevin Gausman, and Cole. That’s quite an exclusive club. Let’s take a look at each team’s ERA leader since 2020 and their innings pitched:
MLB Team IP Leaders (2020-23)
|White Sox||Dylan Cease||106||567||3.63||85|
|Red Sox||Nick Pivetta||78||467||4.49||102|
|Blue Jays||José Berríos||73||413.1||4.29||106|
Only Alcántara, Framber Valdez, Zac Gallen, Julio Urías, Shane Bieber, Shohei Ohtani, Shane McClanahan and Cole are in the seventies when it comes to ERA-, with Corbin Burnes checking in at a cool 68. Among these hurlers, only Alcántara has more innings pitched that Cole.
The rest? A combination of 80s, 90s (still good, but not quite elite) and a bunch of 100+ ERA- hurlers. Finding an ace of Cole’s characteristics is incredibly tough as you can see (most teams are still on that quest), but the Yankees are lucky enough to have him and are currently enjoying his prime years.
These talented pitchers can get injured, they can get traded, they will hit free agency, and many other things considered normal occurrences in the league. Retaining them and having them ready to go every fifth day for such a long time should be reason to celebrate for fans, and this is why Yankees supporters should enjoy having such a talented, committed workhorse. The right-hander is actually trending towards his first career Cy Young with a gorgeous 2.79 ERA in 187 innings. He also has 204 strikeouts and a 1.03 WHIP. It would be a much deserved recognition to his phenomenal season.
Many Yankees fans hold Cole’s dreadful performance in the 2021 Wild Card game against him, but outside of that, he has been pretty good in the postseason for the Bombers, too. For example, he was a monster in last year’s Division Series (2.03 ERA in 13.1 IP, 16 strikeouts) and was very solid in the entire 2020 playoffs, too.
Cole is now four seasons in on his nine-year, $324 million contract, and after 2024, he will have the chance to opt out. It’s complicated because he will be 34 when next season ends, but the Yanks need to do everything in their power to retain him. There is a chance he opts into the rest of his contract anyway, but in case he doesn’t, they need to make sure he stays: few pitchers have the combination of fastball utility, secondary pitches, poise, and command he boasts, and that’s a good foundation for a smooth aging process.
It’s hard to think about any free agent signing in recent memory turning out to be as good for the franchise as Cole. During these times in which many players don’t live up to expectations or get hurt often, that needs to be acknowledged and appreciated.