Changeup could prove to be key for Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole
MILWAUKEE — In the fourth inning Tuesday night at Miller Park, Milwaukee Brewers left-handed hitter Logan Schafer seemed surprised.
Schafer took a half-hearted swing at a Gerrit Cole pitch and whiffed for a strikeout. Schafer's swing suggested he was caught off guard by the pitch and was unable to stop his swing, once committed. He had reason to appear perplexed.
The 88 mph pitch had excellent movement fading away from Schafer and toward the right-handed batter's box.
Schafer likely was surprised because the vast majority of Cole's off-speed pitches — his curveball and slider — break in to left-handed hitters and away from righties.
Cole has thrown his changeup on just 3 percent of pitch offerings this season, down from 7.8 percent last season, according to Fangraphs.com.
It is the changeup that could give Cole another weapon against left-handed hitters, and that could allow his upper-90s fastball to play up even more and add to his strikeout total.
It is the changeup Triple-A Indianapolis pitching coach Tom Filer thought could develop into Cole's best pitch.
It is the changeup that could allow Cole to become a legit No. 1 — if the hard-throwing Cole learns to trust the pitch.
Cole was asked after Tuesday's game if he had the best changeup of his young career against the Brewers.
“Absolutely. I got good results out of them,” Cole said. “I thought I threw a couple good ones the last game (against the San Francisco Giants). ... It's been coming along. Sometimes the way things play out, when something's working for you, you don't really go away from it. Sometimes, I haven't had the opportunity to take that risk.
“(Tuesday) it showed up early, and we stayed with it. I threw strikes to right-handers with it. Got some swings and misses with it.”
Cole was advertised as a four-pitch pitcher coming out of UCLA, but he had little use for the changeup against minor league hitters and might have lost some feel for the pitch as he relied heavily upon his fastball and slider early last season, and his fastball and curveball in September.
“The changeup is a feel (pitch), and I guess you could maybe lump conviction in with feel,” Cole said. “It's one of those pitches where when you are throwing it in a bullpen, you really get no read on it. Unless you are Johan (Santana) or (Francisco Rodriguez) and the changeup is a pitch you can throw it any count, for most of us, it is a pitch you throw off of the fastball. So you kind of have to get the swings and the reads and be presented with the situations to get the feel going.”
A common question for Cole early last season was one regarding his lacking strikeout totals despite a 100 mph fastball. Cole's strikeout rate — 7.69 per nine innings — is again about league average despite elite velocity. It's important to remember fastballs don't generate swings and misses like quality off-speed pitches, and it is the changeup has become a strikeout weapon for pitchers with similar velocity, such as Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer.
“I think he continues to grow,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “He's shown a lot of progress.”
Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates notebook: Cole to make rehab start at Indianapolis on Monday
- Rockies’ 7-run 7th-inning dooms Pirates in 8-1 loss
- Mile-high edge? Hurdle knows Coors Field
- Saturday’s scouting report: Pirates at Rockies
- Pirates prospect Bell gets a taste of big league lifestyle
- Pirates notebook: Huntington staying patient as trade deadline approaches
- Rossi: Liriano no ace, but he’s Bucs’ key
- Friday’s scouting report: Pirates at Rockies
- Pirates notebook: Phillies’ Burnett not demanding trade