Here are some things you should know about the Pirates' newest starting pitcher:
His four-seam fastball generally sits around 94-95, but he can ramp it up to 98-100 for big occasions. The command isn't quite the same when he throws it that hard, though. He also throws a two-seamer that sits in the low 90s. His slider is an upper-80s swing and miss pitch. When his mid-80s changeup is going well, it has some heavy break in to right-handed hitters that makes it a really hard pitch to hit. He's also got a nice curveball. If he is throwing all of his pitches well, he will be like no Pirate pitcher you've ever seen.
This is not a guarantee, for reasons mostly relating to his control. His fastball command is not always great, and in the past he's had a bit of a tendency to leave flat fastballs up in the zone in big situations (see: last year's Futures Game, his Triple-A playoff start at the end of 2012). When you hear talk about his "fastball plane," it refers to this problem. The Pirates have been working on it, and it seems to me that with the exception of one start, the results this year are pretty good. He also occasionally has command problems with his off-speed stuff, particularly the changeup. When he was struggling with Indy this year, scouts watching him said he had a tendency to get frustrated after bad pitches or bad calls or bad defense, which only seemed to mutiply his control problems. How he responds to his first adversity tonight, whatever that may be, is a big question and something to keep a close eye on.
I'm not going to lie: I'm excited and I'm optimistic and I'm nervous all at once. One of the themes that I've found interesting over the past year and tried to focus on a bit on this blog is how a fanbase that's spent so long looking exclusively to the future trains themselves to live in the present. Gerrit Cole represents a big swing in that train of thought. All eyes on the PNC Park field tonight, Pirate fans. This is what matters.
First pitch is at 7:05.