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Stats corner: Cole among best debuts for Bucs

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By David Golebiewski
Saturday, June 15, 2013, 9:30 p.m.
 

Gerrit Cole's big league debut on Tuesday made PNC Park the nexus of baseball activity, attracting national media pundits and 30,000-plus fans to scrutinize the former No. 1 overall pick's every move. If anything, though, the hype didn't do Cole justice.

Nobody said he could hit, too.

Cole surrendered two runs in 6 13 innings, topping out at 99 mph on the radar gun and retiring 13 consecutive Giants hitters at one point. The 22-year-old also bested two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum at the dish, collecting two RBI by punching a fastball into right field with the bases loaded.

Few Pirates pitchers have ever enjoyed a better first major league start as measured by Win Probability Added (WPA), which estimates how much a player increases his team's chances of victory on a per-play basis. For example, players get ample credit for driving in runs with the bases loaded or escaping bases-loaded pitching jams because those plays greatly increase their club's chances of winning. The higher the WPA, the more praise a player deserves.

Cole's contributions on the mound and in the batter's box add up to the fifth-highest WPA ever for a Bucs pitcher making his first big league start. Rick Reed takes top honors, blanking a juggernaut Mets lineup over eight innings in 1988.

Impressive Piratesin 1st MLB start

Pitcher Date/Opp. Total WPA

Rick Reed 8/8/88 vs. Mets .478

Lee Tunnell 9/4/82 vs. Dodgers .440

Tim Wakefield 7/3 192 vs. Cards .417

Larry Foss 9/18/61 vs. Cards .364

Gerrit Cole 611/13 vs. Giants .342

Source: Baseball-Reference.com

Cole produced in more pressure-packed situations during his first MLB start than other recent No. 1 overall pitching selections, including Stephen Strasburg (.076), David Price, (-.033) Luke Hochevar (-.059) and Pittsburgh's top pick in 2002, Bryan Bullington (-.35).

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

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