Cole relied more on his changeup as a strikeout pitch this season, throwing it 102 more times in 2019 than last season. An impressive 18.6% SwStr on a changeup that averages 88mph is an elite weapon.
If there is a tiny (and I mean minuscule) weakness for Cole, it is his 82 mph knuckle-curve. Its usage dropped from 19.3% in 2018 to 15.5% this year as the pitch was prone to the longball, even though an 18.2% FB/HR ratio was an improvement, as was a crazy 60% groundball rate. It will be interesting to see how Cole fairs in Yankee Stadium with his curve.
Probably the best pitch in baseball, essentially worth $324m! Leading all baseball with a 1.99 wFB/C and boasting a 16.7% SwStr%, it was the main reason Cole posted a staggering 39.9% K% with 34% K-BB%. Watch and admire.
2019 saw Cole up his vicious slider usage by 3.3% and turn it into an elite pitch. Top 15 in both SwStr% (21.1%) and pVal (14.6). He also managed to increase his groundball rate by nearly 5% in 2018. Expect more of the same for Cole at Yankee Stadium in 2020.
Cole threw his 96 mph four-seamer over 400 times more in 2018, and it became a dominant pitch. He generated a 33% K rate and 14% swinging-strike rate on it while limiting hard contact and overall contact. The increased usage of this fastball helped transform Cole into a true ace in 2018.
This 89 mph slider was another great source of strikeouts for Cole in 2018, as he generated a 38% K rate and 19% swinging-strike rate on it. He also limited hard contact and induced a 45% ground-ball rate. He threw the pitch over 100 times more in 2018 compared to 2017 and created greater lateral movement on it, making it an above-average offering.
Cole used his 83 mph curveball as one of his strikeout pitches in 2018 with success. He amassed a 41% K rate and 12% swinging-strike rate with this downward-breaking offering. Because of the 12-6 action on it, he also induced a 58% ground-ball rate from batters. Cole was prone to the long ball with the curve, allowing a 27% HR/FB rate on the pitch, although this was minimized by a low 14% fly-ball rate.
The major change the Houston coaching staff made with Cole was to have him virtually stop throwing his sinker in 2018. He reduced the number of pitches he threw by over 50% in 2018 vs. 2017. He still generated a 61% ground-ball rate with this 96 mph sinker and did not allow a home run.
Cole reduced the usage of his changeup, throwing it only 146 times in 2018. The pitch was still above-average, as Cole allowed only four hits on it all year. He also allowed weak contact and induced an 18% K rate and 12% swinging-striking rate.