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Monday Morning mop-up duty (on Sunday): is Gerrit Cole bored?


MILWAUKEE – I don’t get it.


Gerrit Cole is what they look like, as former Cleveland and Texas GM John Hart likes to say. He’s a 6-foot-4, 220-pound righty with a plus fastball, plus slider and plus changeup.


And yet he has posted below-average strikeout (6.5) and walk (4.3) rates to date. He was good but not unreal in High-A and Double-A. This is a trend going back to his college career, his production rarely measuring up to his stuff.



Since he was a Bruin scouts have wondered why Cole’s stuff doesn’t produce more dominant numbers


Yes, he’s just in his second year of pro ball after being drafted No. 1 overall. But pitchers, particularly more polished college pitchers can move fast, and you’d expect to see more strikeouts, fewer walks, and more dominance from Cole.


He’s throwing 95-97 mph. He still has his stuff.


In addition to command issues, I wonder if this might explain his so-so performance to date: is Cole bored?


We’ve seen it before: a player has a great spring, or believe he belongs in the show, only to be sent back down to the minors and deal with frustration and disappointment. Maybe we saw it with Shelby Miller last year. Miller had a 5.00 ERA in Triple-A at this point last year. This year he held a sub 2.00 ERA in the Majors into late May.


Maybe Cole is saving his best for the Major Leagues, which could come in a matter of weeks when the Super Two  threshold is passed.


It’s too early to be concerned. But it’s not too early to be miffed.



9. Pedro Alvarez is still making too little contact, too often, but when he’s made contact recently it’s counted. He has 10 home runs since April 18, the most in the NL.


His HR/flyball rate is well above 20 percent for the second straight year, telling of elite pop. There’s still upside here if you have patience. There’s still a chance Alvarez is something of a late bloomer like Chris Davis. The problem is Scott Boras is his agent and his arbitration years are approaching.


8. Yeah, he gave up a run on a fluky triple Sunday, but Mark Melancon continues to be unreal because of one pitch: the cutter. He’s increased his cutter useage to 62 percent this year, from 41 percent last year and 22 percent the year prior to that. The devastating pitch has turned other pitchers into stars (Rivera, Mariano) and maybe Melancon is the latest to find a new level of performance because of the darting fastball.


7. The Pirates are 29-0 when leading after eight. That’s unreal.


6. Clint Hurdle thought Jason Grilli’s stuff was back to A+ quality Sunday after some rest. He looked good in a 1-2-3 ninth Sunday.


5. Jordy Mercer continues to intrigue. He went 3-for-4 Sunday raising his small-sample batting average to .300. He’s a king-sized middle infielder at 6-3, 210 pounds. He has some pop. But he also bobbled a line drive, the third time in as many games I’ve seen him juggle or bobble a ball. He’s an intriguing guy but I think it’s his defense, not his offense, that will determine his role.


4. Not every Clint Hurdle lineup makes sense, but for the most part he’s been platooning players effectively. Gaby Sanchez and Travis Snider don’t have to be everyday players to be effective additions, they simply need to be effective platoon parts.


3. One guy who is probably not looking forward to the Detroit trip: Francisco Liriano. He’s 12-5 all-time against National League teams and the Tigers have a .858 career OPS against him. Liriano is a guy who really stands to benefit from a move to the NL where batters are less familiar with his three-pitch mix and he gets to face weaker lineups. But for one day he gets the Tigers and Verlander, who has been the same since Kate Upton left his life.


2. Andrew McCutchen has six multi-hit games in his last eight. Even his outs are typically loud. He might be ready to go off.


1.  The Pirates have their best record through 50 games, 31-19, since 1991. It’s largely due to the bullpen and starters that have combined for a 3.22 ERA, second best in the NL. Sustainable ERA? Probably not. It’s going to regress some. What the Pirates need is their .701 team OPS to improve. Then maybe they can have a second 50 games like their first 50.



The Pirates are 26-13 since I came on the beat April 15. By the way, Clemson hadn’t won an ACC title in football since 1991 until I came on the beat. I’m not sayin’ but I’ m sayin’. Magic.



OK this isn’t modest, and it will never happen, but if I’m the Pirates I offer up one of my two right-handed prizes to the Indians for Francisco Lindor. Kid is going to be a two-way, impact SS for 15 years in The Show. That’s what the Pirates, and a lot of team, really need. … More realistically, the Pirates might want to look at a draft’s top SS, J.P. Crawford, cousin of Carl Crawford, in the first.



“They’re not robots,” Hurdle said of his bullpen. “I say that to (the media) a lot, but I have to remind myself, too.”


I’m typically not a Quentin Tarantino fan, but I finally got around to watching Django Unchained. Great stuff, if not also incredibly violent.


– TS

(Twitter: @Sawchik_Trib)



  1. Terry M says:

    The Phillies are 18-0 when leading after eight, So are the Mariners. Most teams have very few losses in those situations.

  2. Baywatch says:

    Good point, Terry M!

  3. PopPopTS says:

    Yes, but while I can’t confirm this, the Brewers’ TV announcers said that the Pirates are 99-1 when leading after 8, going back to last year. I don’t think the Phillies or Mariners could make the same statement.

  4. Jim S. says:

    All I ever read is about all these impending “regressions” for the Bucs. Yes, there will be regressions. There will be for every team if you look hard enough. I think there will also be improvements. Cutch is starting to get on a roll, Walker is starting to hit better, and Pedro won’t hit in the .190’s all year. We could see just as many improvements as regressions for the rest of the year, and this team could hang in there and win 90 games.

  5. Thundercrack says:

    I wonder if Cole is going to find at the end of the year that he saved something for the ‘majors’ and never made it to the majors in 2013.

    He may be bored but let’s remind ourselves that it is a term used by TS, not by Cole.
    (but if he is bored, then he – and the organization – have a problem)

  6. TJ says:

    There is a big difference between being 18-0 after 8 and being 29-0 after 8. When the Phillies reach that stat let me know. Otherwise its like comparing someone hitting .300 in 100 ABs compared to someone hitting .300 in 200 ABs.

  7. Trade either Gerrit Cole or Jamison Taillon for Francisco Lindor?!?!

    Too ridiculous for comment!

  8. Clemson Travis,
    Best comment you made above: “Verlander has not been the same since Kate Upton left.”
    Neither would I!! Neither would you!
    I’m not the same just thinking about it.
    [How’s our ‘clock fix’ coming?]

  9. Travis Sawchik says:

    I’m taking Lindor. He might be the No. 1 prospect in baseball in next spring. Safer bet to stay healthy. Pirates have RHP. Pirates need an impact SS.

  10. Travis Sawchik says:

    High standards

  11. Clemson Travis,
    Do you think the Cardinals would make that trade? Do you think the Rays would make that trade?
    Stocking up on pitching is what wins games at the Major League level. The Cardinals have been winning with castoffs at short. They took Ronny Cedeno to Spring Training this year, for goodness sakes! Look at the Rays’ shortstop. Look at the Yankees this year.
    The Cubs have the best young shortstop in the National League Central and look at them. The Brewers have a shortstop who might be better than Castro and they have a worse record than the Cubs.
    I’m not really a fan of Gerrit Cole——because he has not dominated at any level since his sophomore year of college——but if he is close to as great as he is ranked, it would be foolish to give up pitching for a replaceable part.
    If you had been around here very long you would know I am BIG BIG BIG on defense in baseball, especially up the middle; but I would not even consider trading Cole or Taillon.
    Trade your own projected 2014 Rookie of the Year Gregory Polanco if you need to move one of the prospects for Lindor. Throw in Herrerra, who is still at least 5 years away, if you must include a pitching prospect. Too much can happen in 5 years. Too much can happen in 3 years with Polanco, which is why I would part with him.
    By the way, what RHP do Bucs have? Wandy, Liriano, and Locke are lefties, AJ is a free agent who might retire, McPherson is on the shelf with a sore arm, JMac is in the looney bin on the Convenience List, and Gomez has never gone more than 5 innings. You must be looking at a different 40 man roster than I am.
    If I were going to trade Gerrit Cole straight up for a shortstop prospect, I would trade him to Texas for Jurickson Profar before Lindor. I still don’t make that trade.

  12. Terry M says:

    It’s a misleading stat. Most teams have a very high winning percentage in those situations. The Pirates were 68-2 when leading after 8 last year. Their record was 79-87.
    The Cardinals were 82-1. Their record was 88-74.
    The Padres were 65-2. Their record was 75-86.

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