1. Skip Schumaker – 2B
2. Nick Punto – SS
3. Adrian Gonzalez – 1B
4. Yasiel Puig – RF
5. Andre Ethier – CF
6. Tim Federowicz – C
7. Luis Cruz – 3B
8. Alex Castellanos – LF
9. Zack Greinke – P
1. Alex Presley – LF
2. Jordy Mercer – SS
3. Andrew McCutchen – CF
4. Garrett Jones – 1B
5. Neil Walker – 2B
6. Pedro Alvarez – 3B
7. Travis Snider – RF
8. Michael McKenry – C
9. Gerrit Cole – P
As I write this, there is a tarp on the infield at PNC Park. There’s going to be a delay, but they’ll play this game.
Today features a great pitching matchup: Gerrit Cole vs. Zack Greinke.
Greinke actually offers a decent look into how Cole may turn out — not today, but for his rookie season and possibly beyond.
In his major league debut against the Giants, the 22-year-old Cole pitched 6 1/3 innings and allowed seven hits, no walks, a hit batter and two earned runs while striking out just two. He registered a 53 game score and threw 81 pitches — 59 for strikes (73 percent).
Greinke’s debut as a 20-year-old, on May 22, 2004 against Oakland, was actually quite similar. Then with the Royals, Greinke threw five innings, surrendering five hits, one walk and two earned. He, too, struck out just one and posted a game score of 49. In 84 pitches, he tossed 52 for strikes (62 percent).
Also like Cole, Greinke was a high draft pick, going sixth overall out of high school in the 2002 draft. If you adjust for Greinke’s youth — he debuted in a rookie league at 18 — the two highly-touted righties spent a proportionally equal amount of time in the minors and experienced similar success.
Greinke had the better control numbers (1.7 BB/9 in 300 2/3 minor league innings) over Cole (3.3 BB/9 in 200 minor league innings), but was slightly less impressive in the strikeout department — 7.6 K/9 vs. 8.2 K/9.
Cole allowed homers less frequently, and the two pitchers were about even in terms of allowing hits. Their profile of stuff matches up pretty evenly, too: Cole’s average fastball velocity is about 96 mph; Greinke’s career average FB velocity is 93 mph, but that number was 94.4 mph in his rookie season. Both guys throw low-to-mid-80s sliders and a change up that sits at 85 mph. Greinke also has a big, slow curveball in his repertoire.
Obviously, it would be awesome if Cole turned out like Zack Greinke, who has a 31.7 WAR in 10 seasons and 1,536 innings. Anything above that and the Pirates can really say they have a top-five starting pitcher in the majors.
As a rookie, though, I expect Cole to mirror Greinke’s first-year production. Keep in mind that, although the Dodgers’ righty has a career 8.0 K/9 mark, Greinke posted a K/9 rate of just 6.2 in 145 innings as a rookie in 2004. After that figure dipped in his second year, his Ks/9 climbed for the next four years (2006-2009). The peak rate was 10.5 per nine in 2011.
Greinke also mixed in great control numbers — 1.6 BB/9 — as a rookie, which is in line with his career 2.3 BB/9. And despite issues with the long ball (1.6 HR/9) — a problem which has stuck with Greinke throughout his career — the then-20-year-old recorded a 3.97 ERA, 120 ERA+ and 1.17 WHIP.
So while you watch Greinke do battle, realize that his performance today — and the remainder of the season — could be a pretty good indicator of Cole’s age-29 campaign.