Gerrit Cole entered Thursday sitting at 192 innings pitched. That put him both very close to the 200 IP mark and just far enough away to make it unlikely that he would reach it in a single outing: The Yankees’ ace had pitched 8.0 or more innings in a game just once this season. But none of those games had a statistical milestone like this one waiting at the end. It felt clear from the start that Cole would be doing all he could to get those eight innings. And he did.
Facing the Blue Jays—who are in a battle for a wild-card berth—Cole was perfect into the sixth. He kept going until he finished the eighth. His final line was marvelous: 8.0 IP, two hits, one run, no walks, nine strikeouts. It resulted in a 5–3 win for the Yankees. And it felt like the finishing touch on a Cy Young campaign. Cole now leads the American League in ERA (2.75), WHIP (1.02) and ERA+ (157).
And innings pitched. That may not feel like such a key stat anymore—not in an era when pitcher workloads are so carefully managed, when injuries and cautionary rest and shortened outings feel like a standard part of the game, when there are so many other aspects of modern pitching to appreciate. But it’s grown easier to admire workhorses as they’ve become rarer. Cole, in particular, has come to feel like a special example.
This is the sixth time that the 33-year-old has reached the 200 IP mark. If the achievement has lost some of its allure generally, it still matters very much to the handful of pitchers who are chasing it. And no one is making a habit of it quite like Cole.
Just how rare a breed does he seem nowadays? There are 25 active pitchers who have thrown 200 innings in a season more than once. But most are veterans who have not done so in years: Think Ian Kennedy, Wade Miley and Julio Teheran, none of whom have carried that kind of workload since 2015. (The set also features Justin Verlander, who has thrown at least 200 innings an incredible 12 times: That’s been accomplished by only a few dozen men in baseball history.) Precious few pitchers under 35 have achieved the feat at all recently—let alone multiple times. There have been just 10 such pitchers to do it since ’20. It’s not what they’re developed for anymore, and it’s not how the game is structured, either. (It’s certainly not the most statistically optimal way to deploy a pitching staff.) This is neither good nor bad: There’s more to pitching than logging innings. But it’s clear that it’s different.
In other words, there are very few standard bearers left for this model of starting pitching. There’s 28-year-old Sandy Alcantara, of course, who has logged more innings over the past few seasons than anyone. (A UCL sprain this year kept him from crossing the 200-IP threshold for a third consecutive season.) There’s Aaron Nola, who has shouldered a heavy load year in and year out for the Phillies, and younger talents such as Corbin Burnes, Logan Webb and Framber Valdez, who have laid the groundwork to eventually step into a similar role. But there is no one like Cole. He’s made a career of making 200 innings feel not like a feat so much as an annual expectation.
There are sexier numbers in Cole’s stat line. There are certainly more important figures in his case for the Cy Young. But there’s something to his 200 innings pitched, too—something about consistency, about durability, about the simple value of work.