Q&A: Gerrit Cole, Future Pirates Ace

Don’t believe Gerrit Cole when he says velocity isn’t important. The 22-year-old right-hander has a fastball that reaches triple digits and his slider is as hard as many heaters. His ability to overpower hitters is what makes him one of the top pitching prospects in the game.

The 6-foot-4 flamethrower is on the fast track to Pittsburgh. Drafted first overall in 2011, out of UCLA, he pitched at three levels last season and struck out more than a batter per inning while logging an impressive 2.80 ERA. His next stop is the Pirates starting rotation, where he projects to be the ace of the staff for years to come.

Cole talked about his game when the Double-A Altoona Curve visited Portland late in the 2012 season.

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David Laurila: How would describe your approach?

Gerrit Cole: I try to get early contact and keep it on the ground. I like to keep the ball down as much as I can. Strikeouts are something that just happen. You don’t go for strikeouts, because your pitch count gets too high. When you do get that opportunity, you have to put them away with whatever is working that day.

That’s the approach I’ve always had to have. I’ve got to keep my pitch count down. If you want to go deep into ballgames, you have to stay under that 100 mark.

DL: What is your repertoire?

GC: Fast, change, curve, slider. I probably throw 60% to 65% fastballs — both a two-seam and a four-seam. There’s not much of a difference in velocity between the two, so I mostly throw the two-seam when I need a ground ball. My four is probably straighter than the two. It’s what I’ll use when I want go out of the zone with a fastball.

DL: How important is velocity to your game?

GC: It’s not important. Everyone can catch up to a fastball once you’ve showed it to them enough times. I pretty much learned that when I was back in school and guys started gearing up for it. You have to keep hitters off-balance and command both sides of the plate. There’s a purpose to each pitch.

DL: What is your best off-speed pitch?

GC: Probably my changeup. I kind of grip it like a circle change, but loosely. It’s a two-seam circle and I try to arm-speed it as best I can.

DL: What’s the biggest difference between your curveball and your slider?

GC: Mostly velocity. My slider is in the upper-80s and my curveball is in the lower-80s. As far as the break, my curveball is a little more vertical. It’s bigger.

DL: What is the key to throwing a good slider?

GC: Not trying to do too much with it. It’s just like with any other pitch; you have to trust it. If you keep your fingers on top, you’ll be all right.

When I’m not throwing well, my pitches are a little flatter. That usually comes from going too fast out of my delivery — for whatever reason — or even going too slow. Basically, not nailing your delivery can cause some flatness.

DL: Do individual hitters influence your pitch selection?

GC: I try not to focus on who’s hitting. I just try to throw my game out there. Obviously, you’re watching the hitters and trying to read foul balls. You let the hitter tell you what he’s trying to do. At the same time, I focus more on myself than I do the guy at the plate. If I’m making my pitches, I’m going to get outs more often than not.




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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA


13 Responses to “Q&A: Gerrit Cole, Future Pirates Ace”

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  1. CabreraDeath says:

    Great stuff, David. I see Cole arriving sometime around the All-Star break and being somewhat successful, especially his first time through line-ups/teams.

    Thanks for this.

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  2. Dan Ugglas Forearm says:

    I think Cole would be a good fit for the Kris Medlen path, which I’m sure is soon to be adopted by most MLB teams. Start him off in the ‘pen for long relief to get him accustomed to what he will face. If a starter goes down or is struggling, he is ready to face MLB hitters and will not have compiled too many innings. As a young guy, and especially as a flamethrower, I think that would work out best for him. Not to mention he could just throw fastball/slider and be dominant in the bullpen for while he’s there.

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  3. rotowizard says:

    Can’t wait for the season to start!! LETS GO BUCS!!!

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  4. Dan Rozenson says:

    Very informative interview, as always.

    What drives me bonkers is how prevalent the idea is that strikeouts aren’t something you should be trying to get and that they drive your pitch counts way up. It’s walks that kill pitch counts. http://www.3-dbaseball.net/2009/03/making-them-count-efficiency-of.html

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    • Johnhavok says:

      I think the philosophy stems from the belief that most strikeouts occur when the batter swings at a ball that end up outside the strike zone, therefore a disciplined hitter may not swing at those pitches outside the strike zone, therefore elevating the pitch count.

      A simple way to do a correlation would be to take the top strikeout starters in the majors and compare their average pitchers per batter faced against other starting pitchers who don’t strike a lot of guys out and see who throws more pitches.

      I bet you’d find that strikeout pitchers throw more pitches on average per batter.

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      • Johnhavok says:

        Though to blanace things out, they may face fewer batters than contact-oriented pitchers.

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      • KCExile says:

        When I played it was always harped on that they should be “On or out in 3 pitches.” Our goal was 11 pitch innings. Anytime we got under 9 pitches in an inning we got an upgrade on our meal money. If you’re averaging 11 pitches per inning you’re on track to go deep into the game. I found this strategy effective in helping to be conscious and aware of pitch counts.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Reminds of a story about a pitcher that kept asking his pitching coach “how many pitches have I thrown?” to the point it was driving the coach crazy.

        So, one day the coach kept track of all the pitches this guy threw on the day … warmups, bullpen, in between innings, in the game, etc. The pitcher kept asking and finally the coach said something like “263 pitches”.

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  5. Kyle Murray says:

    Seems like a really mature ballplayer, I like his attitude. Great interview.

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  6. Kiss my Go Nats says:

    If the platoons at Rf and 1B work well enough, then I think the Bucs have a strong chance to win 83-85 or so games. The rotation lacks a true ace unless Cole can fill that role. Otherwise I like the depth of the rotation and the big improvement defensively at catcher. I feel this team has a better than average chance this season to win more than it loses on paper. At least better odds than I gave them last summer. If Cole comes up and becomes the ACE sooner than expected, then I think the wild card is not out of the question. This all assumes the two platoons work. On paper they seem like strong ideas. But the Pirates do have a knack for under performing analysis, so who knows.

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  7. Swfcdan says:

    Good interview. Should be a future ace hopefully, lesser teams like Pittsburgh deserve to have their own ace for once. But what about Taillon? Drafted earlier and yet noones talking about him only Cole.

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    • Jeremy says:

      Taillon was drafted out of high school, so they’re actually about the same age. He’s got a few more rough edges to polish….should be hearing the same stories about him this time next year.

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