Alex Cobb is a much better pitcher than you thing he is. He’s coming off two great performances in a row, shutting down the Cardinals and the Brewers. He has a 3.54 ERA on the year with a FIP to match. I’m here to tell you he’s better than his ERA and FIP will lead you to believe.
Alex Cobb excels at three aspects of a great pitcher; keep the ball on the ground, create swings and misses, don’t give up hard contact.
- Keeping the ball on the ground – Alex Cobb has a 58% ground ball rate on the year. This has been consistent with his short career. His career rate is 57%. He doesn’t have the innings to officially “qualify” but his ground ball rate would be the 3rd best in the league if he did.
- Creating swings and misses – Cobb has a strikeout rate this year just under a batter per inning. That doesn’t jump out. But if you look a little deeper, you find some numbers that do jump. Per Fangraphs stats, his swinging strike rate this year is 11.8%. This is over a two point jump over last year. In fact his swinging strike rate has been growing since his rookie year when it was 7.7%. His 11.8% would be 9th best on the season, placing him above guys like Yu Darvish, Stephen Strasburg, and David Price.
- Don’t give up hard contact – This is where Cobb shines this year. He line drive rate is a league low 14.9%. That means only 14.9% of his balls a hit into line drives. This is very low. If he maintains this, it would be the lowest line drive rate since 2010.
So, Cobb excels at the three above stats. The only other pitcher who is ranked in the top 10 off all three of those stats……Some guy named Clayton Kershaw.
The one fault in Cobb’s stats: home runs. He has a 12.7% home run to fly ball ratio this year. This is middle of the pack in the MLB, maybe leaning on the high side. This is actually close to the rate he’s had the last 2 years. For a guy with the other skills I outlined above, and in his cavernous home ballpark, this seems a little high. In July, his homer run to fly ball rate is down to 11%.
If the home run rate comes down, even a little, you’re not looking at a solid number two starter; you’re looking at an ace. I’m not trying to tell you Alex Cobb is Clayton Kershaw, but it’s closer than you think.