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How Cobb's aggressive style makes him fit right in with Giants

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In a lot of ways, Alex Cobb fits in perfectly with the other veterans the Giants have signed for their rotation since Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris took over. But there's one huge difference.

Cobb had a 3.76 ERA and 2.92 FIP last season, and while he did deal with some injuries, he made 18 starts for the Los Angeles Angels. Unlike Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood, he never pitched out of the bullpen in his final season before joining the Giants, and Cobb is also coming off a much better stat line than any of those three were when they signed. 

"We're very intrigued by his performance this past season," Zaidi said last week. 

It's one the Giants are hoping Cobb can replicate for the next two years or even improve on, and if he does, it'll look familiar to what the Giants have seen from others. While Cobb is coming off a different year than the others were, he does have a lot of similarities. 

Cobb relies heavily on a splitter, which is something that drew the Giants to Gausman and gives him the groundball tendencies the Giants seek given their strong infield defense. Like Wood, he has done work at the Driveline facility in Seattle, which is where the Giants got minor league pitching coordinator Matt Daniels. When he was introduced last week, Cobb said that helped him take a step forward in 2021 and he was planning on continuing that work before 2022 as he sharpens his repertoire and style. 


"I rely heavily on my command. I've developed a thought process of trying to make strikes look like balls and balls look like strikes and really nibble on the corners a little bit here and there and disguise pitches," Cobb said. " I went to Driveline after the 2020 season and got to see the effects of that last year. I picked up a couple of ticks on my fastball (last year) and more life on my pitches. The curveball bit a little bit harder, the two-seam took off a little bit more, and the changeup had a little bit more depth to it than I had the previous three years in Baltimore. That was a very encouraging sign for me and I'm continuing it this year.

"Hopefully we'll be able to see those gains going into next year and build off what I did last year. I like to be aggressive. I like to get the ball on the batter's hands and try to get them to put the ball on the ground and let my defense work and have quick innings. I like the pace of the game. Get the defense off their feet and put the bat in their hands and have them go do some work."

That's one of the key tenets for the Giants coaching staff, with Wood being the best example of what they want. Logan Webb took the leap in the second half in part because he started being more aggressive and pushing the pace, and the Giants credit a better pace with some of Camilo Doval's improvement after he came back from Triple-A. Cobb, like the others, will find that life is a lot easier in San Francisco when you work quickly and get hitters to bounce the ball to Brandon Crawford. 

Among pitchers who threw at least 90 innings last year, Cobb ranked 12th with a groundball rate of 52.3 percent. Webb was second and Wood was 19th. That's nothing new for Cobb, who ranked third (58.8 percent) in the Majors as a rookie in 2012 and has been above 50 percent most of his career. What was new last year was the life on the repertoire that gets all those groundballs and swings outside the zone. 

Cobb's two-seam fastball averaged 92.7 mph, the highest of his career, and it was a touch above 93 mph when he returned from wrist inflammation in the middle of September for three final starts with the Angels. His curveball averaged about 85 mph in September, three mph harder than he was throwing it the previous September. 

Cobb said he has been tinkering with a new curveball grip and is excited to hear what Giants coaches think of it, and he's open to all new ideas. After meeting with the media a few hours before the lockout, Cobb hopped on a Zoom call with the organization's pitching coaches to discuss changes he could make. 

RELATED: How Cobb was 'blown away' by Webb's playoff performance

The Giants have plans, but they also love what they saw in 2021. Zaidi cited that uptick in velocity on the fastball and curve, along with the use of the splitter -- Cobb threw his 37.2 percent of the time, more even than Gausman (35.3) -- as some reasons the Giants were drawn to Cobb. 

"He kind of fits the theme of our free-agent pursuits," Zaidi said. "There are a lot of guys on our team who know Alex Cobb, who played with him in the past, and we really weighed that familiarity heavily. He's had a nice, long career and done a lot of good things as a starting pitcher in the game, but we do think that some of the things that he started doing last year he can build upon and perform even better in the next couple of seasons." 

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