The 29-year-old hard-throwing right-hander set an Astros record by winning his last 16 regular-season decisions and topped the AL with a career-best 2.50 ERA. His career-high 326 strikeouts were the most in the majors and set an Astros franchise record that had stood since 1979, when J.R. Richard fanned 313.
He had only one loss since May 22. That came in Game 1 of the World Series against the Nationals, but he redeemed himself with a stellar outing in Game 5. During the postseason, Cole went 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA in 36 2/3 innings.
After five seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cole was traded to the Astros in January 2018 as part of a five-player deal. In his two seasons with Houston, armed with a revitalized four-seam fastball and improved mechanics where he left fewer pitches out of the strike zone, Cole went 35-10 with a 2.68 ERA, 602 strikeouts and had a 12.1 WAR.
FanGraphs’ pitch valued had Cole’s fastball as the most valuable in the majors last season, and his slider was also in the top 10.
However, despite Cole’s natural talent, Hinch said during the postseason that the pitcher’s “biggest strength is his mind.”
Tim Kurkjian says the Yankees’ acquisition of Gerrit Cole makes them not only the best team in the American League, but the best team in baseball.
Cole, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, went 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA and 196 strikeouts for the Pirates in 2017, and he was dealt to Houston that offseason in exchange for pitchers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, third baseman Colin Moran and outfielder Jason Martin.
He had finished fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting in 2015 and earned the first of his three All-Star selections that season, but he was less effective in his other four seasons in Pittsburgh.
Cole also finished fifth in AL Cy Young voting in 2018. Over his seven MLB seasons, Cole has a 94-52 record with a 3.22 ERA and 1,336 strikeouts in 1,195 innings — his ratio of 10.062 strikeouts per nine innings ranks sixth among active players and eighth all-time.
ESPN’s Keith Law contributed to this report.