Alex “Swan” Cobb is 34 years old and has been in the majors since 2011, when he started for the Tampa Bay Rays, who had drafted him five years earlier. However he missed all of the ’15, ’16 and most of the ’19 season. He did play the full 60-game Irregular Season of ’20. (Details of his career to date continue below).
Swan opened this season with an excellent start for the Giants then endured an adductor strain in New York against the Mets, that made him basically worthless against the Nats. I was worried that we had a 34-year-old, injury-prone guy that we’ve paid $20 million for two years. But he was good in that close loss against the Cardinals in St. Louis and he was very good right in front of my eyes against the Rockies.
What happened yesterday in Colorado to Alex Cobb was a shame, because despite being very good for five innings, the sixth at altitude ballooned his ERA. I found it cool that Gabe Kapler said promptly after the game that it was on him, that he “probably should have” pulled Swan a few batters sooner. I am glad Cobb got the win and that he acknowledged Kap being a player’s coach, and protecting his guys. Giants 10, Rockies 7.
At this point, I trust Alex Cobb about as much as I do Alex Wood – the Alexes are excellent twice through the order and can give you five, but the leash should be shorter starting with the third time through the order. Actually, that phrase “short leash,” doesn’t suffice in our system – the point is, like everything with Kapler/Zaidi-ball, if they can go six, or even seven because of match-up or skill set that day, cool, but we are prepared to use our greater flexibility with the bullpen earlier in starts by the Alexes.
The bigger concern is keeping Swan out there. Cobb has been beset by injuries, yet his strike rate, skill set and will to win remain intact. Here’s a summary of the path our newest starter has taken:
Early in the 2013 season, his best statistically, Alex Cobb was drilled in the head by a comeback line drive and taken off the field on a stretcher with a concussion. He not only returned to play in that same season, he went 8 – 3 over 15 starts and played in two postseason games. He earned a win for the Rays in the American League Wild Card game over the Cleveland Indians, and started game three of the American League Division Series against the Boston Red Sox.
He went a respectable 10 – 9 over 27 starts for Tampa Bay in 2014 with a 2.87 ERA, but when he was supposed to be the Opening Day pitcher for the Rays in 2015, he couldn’t because he had tendinitis. Then it was revealed he had a partial UCL tear, and finally that he would undergo Tommy John surgery – which effectively took him out of all of 2015 and most of the 2016 campaign.
In 2017 Alex Cobb carried his heaviest load, going 12 – 10 over 29 starts with a 3.66 ERA. He had changed his mechanics and appeared back from TJ, with a skill set intact. The Rays parted ways with Cobb as he signed a lucrative four-year deal with the Baltimore Orioles in 2018, but he went just 5 – 15 in 28 starts with a 4.90 ERA. I am wont to blame the Orioles organization, not Cobb. Late in September, he ended the season on the injured list with an aggravated blister.
In March, 2019, still with the Orioles, Cobb again missed what was to be his Opening Day start. A week later, he was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right groin strain to start the season, then on the disabled list for a third time on April 28 with a lumbar strain. He was transferred to the 60-day disabled list in May, and in June, it was revealed Cobb needed to undergo hip surgery, and he was ruled out for the rest of the season. He did return for the Orioles in the Irregular Season (2020) making 10 starts in the 60-game, Covid-shortened tourney, and going 2 – 5, with a 4.30 ERA.
The 2021 season found Alex Cobb with the Los Angeles Angels seeking a new start on the west coast, after he was traded to the Angels for second baseman Jahmai Jones. (The Orioles also agreed to pay over half of the remaining $15 million on Cobb’s salary). Cobb had stints on the injured list for blisters and right wrist inflammation, but he went 8 – 3 over 18 starts, with a 3.76 ERA.
As a San Francisco Giant, Alex Cobb is currently 3 – 1 over six starts with a deceptively high 5.61 ERA. He has 32 strikeouts over 25.2 innings and a 1.519 WHIP.