Perhaps the lone bright spot in an otherwise difficult 2018 for Cole was the effectiveness and uptick in usage of his slider. Cole’s sharp breaker held hitters to a .188 BAA and allowed him to generate a 35.2 K% with just a 9.3 BB%
Cole transitioned away from his four-seam fastball in 2018 as the pitch became disastrously ineffective. A slight uptick in velocity appears to have come at the cost of some movement, and even with a modest sample size (222 pitches, 25.3% total), hitters posted cartoonish numbers against Cole’s fastball—including a 1.619 OPS, 12.3 wRAA, and .658 wOBA
The curve was both a blessing a curse for Cole in 2018. While he generated an increased swinging-strike rate and a 31.1 K rate, it was not enough to offset the shortcomings of this uninspiring offering. Cole’s primary offspeed pitch still saw a zone contact rate of 69.7% and was crushed to the tune of a 60.7% fly-ball rate.
Cole moved away from his two-seamer as he shifted from the Nationals rotation to the Yankees bullpen, and for good reason. It did a poor job of generating grounders, rarely found the zone, and induced a .429 BAA on 72 thrown last year. Good riddance.
Cole’s changeup appeared just 17 times in 2018, making up less than 10 percent of his overall pitches for the third consecutive season. The dismal offering resulted in a 33.3 walk percentage , missed the zone nearly 71% of the time, and saw hitters feast for a 1.167 OPS when it did make its way near the plate.