The Pittsburgh Pirates had a disappointing 2016 season. As the off-season begins, it is time to grade out the club. Today we look at a disappointing year for a man who has served as the Pirates ace in the past.
The 2015 season was a career year for Pittsburgh Pirates starter Gerrit Cole. The Pirates ace compiled a 19-8 record with a 2.60 ERA in 32 starts, was named to the National League All-Star team and finished fourth in National League Cy Young voting.
There were high expectations for the former first overall draft pick coming into 2016, but he didn’t exactly meet them. Here is a complete look at Cole’s rough season.
First Half Success
From the looks of how Cole started the 2016 season, another big year was expected. He had a stellar month of April as he went 2-2 with a 2.78 ERA in four starts. In that span, he also compiled 19 strikeouts and only six walks while only allowing one home run.
Cole followed that up with an even more impressive month of May. He was 3-2 in the month while sporting a 2.68 ERA in six starts.
One of those six May starts included an eight inning masterpiece against the Chicago Cubs on May 15 in which Cole allowed no runs on three hits while striking out seven.
The month of June was bound to be a big month for Cole based on what he did in the opening two. However, that wasn’t the case as he only pitched 8.2 innings in the month, ending a stellar first half for the former All-Star.
Injury Plagued 2016
On June 10, Cole left his outing against the St Louis Cardinals after only two innings of work. Four days later, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right triceps muscle strain.
Cole missed a month of action and struggled in his return, but that wasn’t the only time he was put on the shelf. On Aug. 29, Cole was placed back on the DL, this time for inflammation in his right elbow.
As the playoff hopes for the Bucs continued to dwindle in the month of September, Cole was shut down for the remainder of the season.
All in all, Cole missed more than two months of the season and pitched a career-low 116 innings in 21 games. There were plenty of questions surrounding what was wrong with the Pirates hurler who didn’t exactly pitch up to his potential in 2016. No matter what the issues were, his pair of injuries didn’t help the cause.
Second Half Struggles
After Cole returned from his triceps injury, he had a mixture of success and struggles in his first three starts back. He allowed five earned runs in his first start, but only allowed two earned runs in his next two starts. In that three game span, Cole also pitched his first career complete game.
Things trended downward from that point on. In five August starts, Cole posted a 1-3 record along with a dreadful 6.08 ERA and 1.88 WHIP. In that span, Cole had two starts in which he gave up 12 hits and allowed 20 runs in 26.2 innings.
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Cole made just one start in September before his season ended, allowing five earned runs in two innings of work against the Philadelphia Phillies on Sept. 12.
It was a smaller sample size when it comes to starts, but Cole struggled a lot more in the second half of the season. He posted a 5-4 record with a 2.77 ERA in 12 starts in the first half, but only went 2-6 with a 5.48 ERA in nine starts following the all-star break.
To say that Cole’s overall numbers didn’t look good would be an understatement. Cole undoubtedly had his worst year statistically of his career regardless of the how many starts he made.
The former Cy Young candidate won a career low seven games while also compiling a career-high 10 losses. Cole also had a career low K/9 of 7.60 and a career high BB/9 of 2.79. Not to mention he also compiled a 3.88 ERA, 1.44 WHIP and hitters hit .282 against him on the season.
I know it’s probably not fair to highlight most of these statistics based on the fact that Cole was unhealthy for a good portion of the year. However, the fact of the matter is that Cole struggled when he was on the mound and those struggles added up.
Conclusion and Final Grade
The 2016 youth movement provided change amongst the Pirates starting rotation. It allowed fans and the organization to see what guys like Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow bring to the table and brought excitement for the future. While that was a positive change, Cole’s struggles and injury issues were an unpleasant and unexpected surprise.
Cole has an opportunity to get healthy this offseason and rebound in 2017, but until then, it’s time to give him a grade for 2016. Due to the fact that he was relatively solid in the first half, I didn’t give Cole a D. Instead, I gave the Pirates starter a C- due to his declined production when actually on the mound.
The Pirates will most definitely need Cole to return to form if they want to contend next season. If he does that, their rotation has a chance to make some noise and may give the Pirates an opportunity to contend in the talented National League Central.
What Grade would you give Cole?
You’ve seen what we have to say. Now, we want your voice to be heard. Be sure to vote on Cole’s 2016 grade in our latest twitter poll.
Our grade comes out at noon, but what grade would you give GERRIT COLE for his 2016 season?
— Pirates Breakdown (@pbcbreakdown) November 1, 2016
For a complete listing of past entries in our 2016 Gradeouts series, CLICK HERE.