If I had surveyed 100 people prior to the 2020 season and asked them what statistic new Yankees ace Gerrit Cole would most likely lead the league in, I have a feeling that the answers would be along the lines of "strikeouts," or "wins," or perhaps "Cy Young votes."
Fortunately for Cole, for the Yankees' front office, and for Yankees fans, he's ranked in the top ten in wins (4) and is third in strikeouts (60). Unfortunately, the statistic for which he's currently at the very top of the league is not one he's going to brag about.
After Ji-Man Choi ripped a line drive into the short porch in right field to start the scoring in the first, Kevin Kiermaier delivered in the very next inning.
It was the 12th home run that Cole has surrendered so far in 2020, a number that no other pitched has topped -- though new Blue Jays hurler Ross Stripling is tied for that inglorious mark. In fact, Cole has allowed a home run in each of his eight starts this season.
Strangely enough, Cole has ranked in the top 10 pitchers over the last two seasons in terms of limiting opponent home runs, based on the HR9 statistic. That's not the only stat that has gotten worse since his arrival in New York:
2018-2019 Cole: 2.68 ERA, 2.67 FIP, 1.0 HR9, 13.1 SO9
2020 Cole: 3.91 ERA, 4.83 FIP, 2.3 HR9, 11.7 SO9
Is this reason to panic? No, at least not yet. Is it reason to feel frustrated? Sure. The Yankees are paying him a record-breaking annual amount -- nine-year, $324 million -- in return for the dominant pitching he had displayed over the past two seasons in Houston. Cole, himself, seems frustrated as well, and thinks he may be tipping his pitches.
"...Whenever I'm over the plate, the hitter is very certain of what's coming," Cole said after the game. "And whether that's an approach, or trying to get an edge with a tip, or it's a good swing on a good pitch, maybe some bad luck... I haven't really put my thumb on it, but I'm certainly aware of it and certainly trying to get ahead of it."
However, as Twitter's @Yankeelibrarian points out, we shouldn't worry too much based on past history.
CC Sabathia, for example, began his Yankees career with a 3-3 record and a 3.70 ERA in 2009. By the time the All-Star Break had come and gone, Sabathia finished out the season with an 11-2 record and a 2.74 ERA, and was utterly dominant in the postseason (3-1, 1.98 ERA) en route to a World Series ring.
One fan base that you know will revel in Cole's slow start? How about those Mets, who were ready to pounce even before Cole's league-leading 12th home run surrendered?