Gerrit Cole has always been a very good pitcher. He was the No. 1 overall pick out of UCLA by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2011 draft. He put together a 3.50 ERA and 3.27 FIP in five seasons over 728 1/3 innings with the Pirates, and was named an NL All-Star in his 2014 season.

But the 6’4″, 225-pounder always left you wanting more with the Pirates, especially when he’d show flashes of greatness with a fastball that can touch 100 MPH and wipeout offspeed pitches. He was the ideal change-of-scenery candidate, especially at just 27 years old.

So when the defending champion Houston Astros acquired Cole over the offseason, it was easy to see a breakout coming. But it’s doubtful that anybody saw him looking this good so soon.

Cole entered play on Friday as arguably the best starting pitcher in MLB so far this season (if not Houston teammate Justin Verlander: 1.13 ERA, 2.37 FIP, 1.8 fWAR), and took things to another level at hitter-friendly Chase Field against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The right-hander threw a complete game shutout (the first of his career), allowed just one hit, and struck out a career-high 16 hitters in Houston’s 8-0 win.

Maybe the most incredible factoid from the game: Cole’s final pitch (No. 114) was his fastest pitch of the season at 99.3 MPH:

That’s a pretty damn good way to start off May after what he did in April.

Cole now leads MLB pitchers in fWAR (2.5) and FIP (1.90). He’s second in strikeouts per nine innings at 13.18 — behind only James Paxton, owner of a 16-strikeout performance the night before — while walking just 1.73 batters per nine.

With Cole, Verlander, and Charlie Morton (1.72 ERA), the Astros currently have three starting pitchers with sub-2 ERAs. They also have the 2015 AL Cy Young winner in Dallas Keuchel, and a nasty 24-year-old arm in Lance McCullers Jr.

It seems hard to believe, but the Astros appear to have a better starting rotation right now than the team that won 101 games and the World Series in 2017.

About Matt Clapp

Matt is an editor at The Comeback. He attended Colorado State University, wishes he was Saved by the Bell's Zack Morris, and idolizes Larry David. And loves pizza and dogs because obviously.

He can be followed on Twitter at @Matt2Clapp (also @TheBlogfines for Cubs/MLB tweets and @DaBearNecess for Bears/NFL tweets), and can be reached by email at mclapp@thecomeback.com.