Is Gerrit Cole Underrated? It Sure Seems Like It

Photo: Yankees Media Relations

On Wednesday, MLB Network tweeted out its top 10 starting pitchers heading into the 2023 season.


The list goes as follows:

  1. Corbin Burnes
  2. Justin Verlander
  3. Carlos Rodon
  4. Max Scherzer
  5. Sandy Alcantara
  6. Shohei Ohtani
  7. MAx Fried
  8. Zack Wheeler
  9. Jacob deGrom
  10. Julio Urias

Missing from this list, of course, is Gerrit Cole. Part of me thinks that MLB Network wanted some engagement, and what better way to do that than to get some Yankee fans up in arms. With Rodon at 3, maybe they didn’t want to have two Yankees in there for parity. Who knows.

But a top 10 list without Gerrit Cole is an eyebrow raiser, there must be a method to this madness. Let’s take a look at where Gerrit Cole ranked in major pitching categories last season, and where he is projected heading into 2023.

Looking Back to Gerrit Cole Last Season

Here are Cole’s rankings amongst starting pitchers in 2022:

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  • K% — 3rd (32.4%)
  • BAA (Batting Average Against) — 12th (.208)
  • WHIP — 13th (1.02)
  • ERA — 30th (3.50)
  • FIP — 21st (3.47)
  • xFIP — 5th (2.77)
  • SIERA — 2nd (2.77)
  • HR/9 — 41st (1.48)
  • Wins — 13th (13)

If you were to take out some of the predictive stats here (SIERA, xFIP) you’d actually see a somewhat compelling argument for Gerrit Cole being outside the top 10. After all, he was 30th in ERA, 41st in HR/9 and 13th in Wins.

Looking Ahead to Gerrit Cole’s 2023

But to only look at the results here is doing Cole a disservice. He was 5th in xFIP and 2nd in SIERA, two predictive stats that work as replacements for ERA. That must mean that heading into 2023, he projects to be elite right? Let’s take a look.

FanGraphs’ Steamer Projections for Gerrit Cole in 2023:

  • ERA — 8th (3.20)
  • FIP — 7th (3.05)
  • WAR — 4th (4.4)
  • K% — 5th (31.1 %)
  • K – BB% — 3rd (25%)

That looks like a pretty compelling argument for Cole being a top 10 starting pitcher. The truth is, Cole’s standard has been set astronomically high. A 3.50 ERA in 2022, though unreasonable, is viewed as a setback. In reality, his results were not indicative of how he pitched. He was elite, and some variance knocked him down to a 3.50 ERA.

There’s not much to suggest that Gerrit Cole wasn’t a top 10 starter last season, and won’t be come season’s end in 2023. I have no idea how aware Cole might be of his snubbing, or the general sentiment around how ‘elite’ he is, but if he pitches like he has something to prove in 2023 it could be a special season.

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