Cole Reaches Pitching Apex

November 20th, 2023 by Kevin

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Gerrit Cole has been one of the best pitchers in baseball ever since making his big league debut in 2013.  The first overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft has been anchoring rotations for the better part of a decade.  Yet the Cy Young award had eluded him, both in MLB and the DTBL.  Until this year.  Cole put up his usual exceptional numbers.  But this time he was actually rewarded for it.  The Jackalope and Yankees righty finally earned the American League Cy Young award in a unanimous decision.  In the DTBL, the competition was a little stiffer, but he came out on top there as well.  For the first time in his career, Gerrit Cole is the DTBL Cy Young award winner.

While Cole is known mostly as a power pitcher who can sometimes be victimized by home runs, inflating his ERA along the way, it was actually the ERA and WHIP numbers this year that ultimately set him apart from the field.  He was the only qualified pitcher to post a sub 1.0 WHIP (0.98) and his 2.63 ERA trailed only Blake Snell, who threw nearly 30 fewer innings.  While still an elite total, his 222 strikeouts only ranked fifth in the league.  Cole was one of just four pitchers to throw over 200 innings this season, further cementing his workhorse status.  He led all DTBL hurlers with 11.8 Pitching PAR.  Part of what pushed this Cole season to a higher level was his ability to keep the ball in the park more often.  After surrendering a league leading 33 home runs in 2022, he lowered that figure to a very respectable 20 in 2023, the first time his HR/9 was under 1.0 since 2018.  Perhaps the 32 year old Cole is gracefully transitioning to more of a finesse pitcher than he was earlier in his career.

Originally selected by the Mavericks with the ninth pick of the 2014 DTBL Draft, Cole spent one season with the Mavericks before being traded to the Jackalope in exchange for Aroldis Chapman prior to 2015.  He has been the Jackalope ace ever since.  Cole has topped 200 strikeouts six times and this was the fifth season in which he won at least 15 games for the Jackalope.  Assuming they keep him around, sometime early next season he should pass Felix Hernandez as the Jackalope career leader in strikeouts.  Including his season with the Mavericks, he passed the 2,000 career strikeout milestone in September.  While this was his first Cy Young winning campaign, it would be hard to make an argument for it being the finest season of his career.  That would have to be 2019 when he struck out 326 batters, the highest single season total for any DTBL pitcher not named Randy Johnson.  He also won 20 games with a 2.50 ERA and 0.90 WHIP that year.  Unfortunately for him, Justin Verlander also had an incredible season in ’19, bumping Cole to second in the Cy Young vote.  This is the sixth straight year that Cole has received Cy Young votes, and seventh time overall.  He is a six time DTBL All-Star, making the team every year since 2018, excluding the 2020 season when there was no game.  Cole is the first Jackalope Cy Young winner since Jake Arrieta in 2015.

Unlike the AL Cy Young vote, Cole did not win this one unanimously.  He was placed first or second on all 10 ballots though, making him the only player who can make that claim.  He received seven first place tallies and three seconds to secure 91 of the possible 100 total points.  Two other pitchers were within shouting distance of Cole.  Darkhorses rookie Spencer Strider, fresh off his second place finish in the Rookie of the Year vote, now has another runner-up finish.  Strider lapped the field with 281 strikeouts and also led all pitchers with 20 wins.  He had an impressive 1.09 WHIP as well.  What probably cost him this award was his good but not great 3.86 ERA, more than a run higher than Cole’s.  Strider received a pair of first place votes and three seconds.  His 66 total points were enough to put him in second place.  Just behind him is the NL Cy Young winner, Choppers lefty Blake Snell.  Snell finally regained the magic that earned him Rookie of the Year and a second place Cy Young finish in his DTBL rookie season with the Cougars in 2018.  This year, he led all qualified pitchers with a 2.25 ERA and was third in strikeouts with 234.  Snell received the final first place vote and four seconds for a total of 57 points.  Cole, Strider and Snell were the only pitchers to receive top two votes and to appear on every ballot, comfortably placing them ahead of the rest of the pack.  The fourth place finisher is the champion Demigods ace Zac Gallen.  Perhaps a bit under the radar prior to the Diamondbacks pennant winning run this fall, Gallen has been dominant for two straight seasons now.  This season, he set career highs with 222 strikeouts and 17 wins, finishing only behind Strider in the latter category.  Gallen received a pair of third place votes and 23 total points.  Rounding out the top five is Darkhorses reliever Felix Bautista.  In his DTBL debut season, he saved 33 games while striking out 110 in just 61 innings.  His 1.48 ERA was lowest among all pitchers who threw at least 60 innings this year.  Bautista appeared on seven ballots, accumulating 13 points.  So that’s an impressive fifth place finish for both Rookie of the Year and Cy Young for the dominant reliever, despite missing the final month of the season.

Click here to view the full voting results.

Two down, one to go.  Probably not a lot of suspense surrounding the Most Valuable Player award, but you will just have to wait a couple days for the official announcement.  Look for that on Wednesday.

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