Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb is set to start the Wild Card Game for the Rays. Despite missing two months after being struck in the head with a line drive off the bat of Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer on June 15th, Cobb has quietly put together an excellent season.
In 22 starts and 143.1 innings, Cobb has a 2.76 ERA, the lowest mark on the team. The ERA is no fluke, and Cobb has the underlying numbers to back it up.
Aided by an excellent changeup, Cobb has struck out 23.2% of hitters, best on the team. Unlike fellow strikeout pitcher and teammate Matt Moore, Cobb walks just 7.8% of hitters.
When hitters do make contact off of Cobb, they tend to put the ball on the ground. Cobb’s changeup and curveball result in plenty of groundballs, and his 55.8% groundball rate is 4th in the MLB.
With an athletic Rays defense that employs an array of shifts, grounders turn into outs at a high rate.
His xFIP- (a park adjusted ERA estimator based on strikeouts, walks, and groundballs where 100 is league average and lower is better) is just 76.
This is 9th best among starting pitchers that have thrown 140 or more innings. That’s better than teammate David Price, and on par with aces such as Chris Sale and Max Scherzer.
Cobb has had trouble with the longball, as nearly 15% of flyballs have left the yard with him on the mound.
Only teammate Roberto Hernandez possesses a worse rate.
The good news is that these things tend to come and go, and at spacious Progressive Field, flyballs tend to get swallowed up.
He doesn’t possess the ace pedigree or the postseason experience of David Price, but Alex Cobb has pitched just as well for the Rays this year, and is more than able to handle such a crucial game.