It should come as a shock to nobody that Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole, the American League leader in ERA and Innings Pitched, was announced tonight as a finalist for the American League Cy Young Award. Following a 2022 season that was mired in inconsistency on the mound, Cole punched out 222 batters across 209 innings for a 2.63 ERA, the lowest ERA in a season for the 33-year-old right-hander since his dominant 2019 season.
The overwhelming favorite to win the Cy Young, Gerrit Cole is likely to finally add the prestigious award that’s alluded him for so long, adding to his six All-Star appearances and 2,152 strikeouts in the Majors.
The Yankees Get a Positive Note in a Season to Forget
Gerrit Cole put together an incredible season in 2023, going 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA and correcting an issue that’s haunted him since joining the Yankees. While his 3.28 ERA and 32.9% K% from 2020-2022 established him as one of the best pitchers in the sport, Cole allowed a 1.40 HR/9, with only Robbie Ray (78) and Jordan Lyles (76) allowing more homers than Gerrit Cole (71) over that time span, but he had just a 0.86 HR/9 in 2023.
It was the third-lowest mark among qualified starters in the American League, and his lowest mark since 2018 (0.85), solidifying an approach changes that guided him to this dominant season. Instead of trying to power pitches by hitters all the time, Cole knew when to increase his effort on pitches and when to take something off of it, using his experience in the league to fine-tune his sequencing and keep batters from doing damage.
The emergence of his cutter played a large role in this, as Cole made tweaks on a pitch that was inconsistent for him in 2022, but provided a 30.8% Whiff% and 106 Stuff+ in 2023. He began using the pitch a lot more after the All-Star Break, where he went from using the pitch just 3% of the time in the first half to 12.7% of the time in the second half, and batters chased at it 39.3% of the time over that stretch while Cole pitched to a 2.35 ERA and 2.86 FIP.
September secured his Cy Young, as he posted a 1.03 ERA and 1.57 FIP across five starts and finished his incredible season with a nine-inning shutout against the Toronto Blue Jays on the road, where he only needed five strikeouts to keep the Jays’ offense at bay. Fastball command was another huge progression for Cole, as he allowed just 12 HRs and .269 wOBA on the pitch versus 16 HRs and a .308 wOBA on it the previous season.
Cole did a better job of spotting his fastball and saving his higher percentiles of velocity for more important situations, something that his former teammate Justin Verlander has adopted and applied in his latter years to great success. At +29 Run Value, it was the best pitcher in all of baseball this past season, and as Gerrit Cole likely takes home his first Cy Young, it gives the Yankees a small note of positivity on a lost season for the team.
The Yankees will hope to build a better rotation around their ace, as despite his heavy lifting their starters combined to finish 18th in ERA (4.44) and 19th in FIP (4.50), but if they’re able to, it’s hard to find a Game 1 starter you’d rather have right now than Gerrit Cole, who looks to add a World Series ring to his cap in the near future for the Yankees.