When the Angels traded for Alex Cobb on February 2, 2021 from the Baltimore Orioles, it brought the 34-year-old and manager Joe Maddon back together for the first time since 2014. With the Angels starting rotation in flux, Cobb provided veteran leadership to a young pitching staff while performing at his best for the first time in a number of years.
Following a no-decision in his Angels debut on April 3 versus the Chicago White Sox (6 IP, 3 ER and 7 K), the Boston, MA native struggled in his remaining three starts during the month of April. In four combined starts, Cobb hit the ground running 1-1 with a 7.16 ERA in just 16.1 innings pitched. He turned the page as the calendar moved to May, however it was in a small sample size due to landing on the Injured-List for two weeks courtesy of a Right middle finger blister. In three May starts, the right-hander put up star-studded numbers going 2-1 with a 0.53 ERA and a walk to strikeout split of 7 BB/20 K across 17 innings. He capped off May with a stellar performance against the division rival Oakland A’s, delivering a three-hit shutout over seven innings, leading to a 4-0 Halos win.
June and July could not have been more polar opposite for Cobb as June was forgettable, while July displayed why he can still be a front three starter in any rotation in Major League Baseball. Even though he went 2-1 in four starts in June with 20 strikeouts (matching May’s total), the ERA skyrocketed to 7.32 with five or more earned runs allowed in three of the four games. Cobb returned to Angel Stadium on July 3 against the Baltimore Orioles, kickstarting a great streak for the remainder of the 2021 season. After stifling the Orioles offense to just one run in 7.2 innings, Cobb yielded just two more earned runs in the month of July over 16.2 innings, including a win against the Seattle Mariners coming out of the All-Star break on July 17. As the momentum was on Cobb’s side to exit the month of July on a high note, he was lifted from his start on July 23 on the road against the Minnesota Twins because of Right wrist inflammation. By making his second appearance on the Injured-List, the book would close on his tremendous July that saw the 34-year-old go 2-0 with a 1.09 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP.
After spending the entire month of August and half of September recovering, Cobb reunited with the mound for three starts before the conclusion of the regular season. The better of those three starts was on September 16, a day game against the White Sox. It was a shorter than usual start for Cobb (5 IP), but it was effective as he shut down a playoff-bound White Sox lineup, allowing just two hits and two walks, while punching out five. This performance secured his eighth and final win of 2021.
Overall, besides Shohei Ohtani, Cobb was a great complimentary piece to the rotation that desperately needed a jolt. His veteran presence that was relied upon to lead and support young arms beginning their journey in the majors (Sandoval, Suarez, Canning, Barria, Detmers, etc.) as well as a “dawg” on the mound deadly focused at the job at hand, taking no prisoners each time on the hill.
18 Games / 8-3 Record / 3.76 ERA / 93.1 Innings Pitched / 98 Strikeouts / 33 Walks / 1.26 WHIP / .240 Opp Avg. / 85 Hits Allowed / 46 Runs Allowed / 5 Home Runs Allowed
As a veteran starting pitcher, Cobb utilized his offspeed pitches more than 95% of the time during the 2021 season. His Sinker (42.1%), Split Finger (36.9%) and Curveball (16.3%) were the three he used the most, with the Split Finger, aka “The Thing”, being the most effective. Opponents hit just .226 with a Slugging Percentage of .308 and 40 strikeouts. As the average velocity stands between 83-92 MPH, Cobb still is a highly rated ground ball pitcher at 51.2% for his career, which comes off his second-highest career ground ball year at 54.1%. This can be credited to his low barrel rating as in a total of 259 batted balls, only 11 were squared up, which kept Cobb in the Top-6 percentile in MLB. The area the right-hander struggled in this season was with runners in scoring position. Situationally, this is a category that does not necessarily favor the pitcher, but opponents took advantage of a vulnerable Cobb by swinging .319 in 18.1 innings. As Cobb enters his 11th season in the league, limiting damage will be key for success, regardless of which pitches are delivered by the righty.
BEST PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
The Angels had their fair share of good times against the Baltimore Orioles in 2021 and Cobb did not want to miss his opportunity at dominating the cellar dwellers of the AL East. In his 12th start of the year on July 3 at Angel Stadium, the right-hander tossed his longest outing since August 18, 2018 when he threw a complete game win versus the Cleveland Indians. In 7.2 innings, Cobb allowed just one earned run and four hits, while walking one and striking out six. This would be his third of four quality starts in 18 appearances and marked five wins in over a seven start stretch.
The Halos offense would support the starter’s effort by giving him a three-run cushion just two innings into the game and totaling four runs on eight hits. The Angels emerged victorious 4-1, helping extend the Angels winning streak to three games.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2022
After a bounce back 2021 campaign, Cobb entered free agency with the hopes of reuniting with the Halos to settle unfinished business in the AL West. However, as much as both sides were vocal about wanting to come to terms on a new deal, the San Francisco Giants came sweeping in prior to the MLB Lockout on November 30 signing Cobb to a 2-Year/$20 Million deal with a club option for the 2024 season. Cobb will join a starting rotation that already includes Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, and Logan Webb in the NL West division that seemingly will be a three-headed race between themselves, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres for the division crown.