Aaron Cook is a good pitcher.
Good is the only word to describe him. He will never be mistaken for great, but there are things that he does very well.
The thing that he does best is pound the strike zone with his sinking fastball. When he is winning, he throws that pitch close to 80 percent of the time. However, for whatever reason, Cook sometimes tries to be someone that he is not.
On Friday night, with the Rockies desperate for a win due to the fact that two rookies will be making their second Major League starts on Saturday and Sunday respectively, Cook tried to get cute and got beat by the Giants 5-2.
At the beginning of 2009, Cook talked about working on a curveball in the offseason and how he was eager to start throwing it in games. Most Rockies' fans recall what Cook's April looked like in '09. In five starts he lasted barely more than five innings per outing and posted a 7.11 ERA. He gave up seven home runs and posted a horrendous 1.82 WHIP.
After April, the curveball found its way to the trash can, only to be recycled for the beginning of 2010.
Cook, it seems, is desperate to be a dominant pitcher. He wants to be a guy who throws four or five different pitches and can strike a guy out when he needs to.
The problem is, he does not have that kind of makeup.
He is a finesse pitcher who induces ground balls. Much like a batter knows that a knuckleball pitcher is going to throw a knuckleball, the same is true for Cook. Batters should know that they are about to see a sinker.
The problem is that when Cook starts throwing the curve ball, he tends to get behind in the count. When he is behind in the count, he does not have the same leverage that he normally does to hit the corners of the plate. That means that when he gets behind 2-0, he has no choice but to groove a fastball.
Any hitter in the Major Leagues is able to barrel up an 87 MPH fastball down the heart of the plate.
If the redhead does not groove a fastball, he ends up walking the hitter, something he did all too frequently on Friday night. In six innings, Cook walked five batters, three of which came around to score.
In the crucial fifth inning, in which the Giants put up three runs, Cook walked the leadoff batter on four pitches. What was the first pitch he threw in the inning? A curveball that missed the zone, forcing Cook to work from behind in the count.
For Cook, the answer is simple. Ditch the curve ball.
The righty, who holds the Rockies' record for most total wins and most wins at Coors Field, needs to realize what got him those two spots in the record books. It had nothing to do with being a dominant, overpowering pitcher. What it did have to do with was him being a finesse pitcher who broke hitters' bats as they tried to hit a sinking fastball that moved across the plate for six innings.
Aaron Cook needs to be Aaron Cook. The Rockies already have a dominating, overpowering pitcher in Ubaldo Jimenez. He needs to quit trying to be something that he is not and simply pitch his game. That will allow him to pound the lower half of the strike zone and let his defense do their thing behind him.
Until Cook realizes that his curveball needs to go back into the trash can, he will continue to struggle, and therefore the Rockies will lose games that they need to be winning.
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