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

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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.

 

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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.

 

STARTING NINE

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.

 

STAT THAT MIGHT ONLY INTEREST ME

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.

 

MODEST PROPOSAL OF THE WEEK

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.

 

HE SAID IT 

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


NON-BASEBALL RECOMMENDATION 

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)

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