Gerrit Cole, the Pitcher, Had an Impressive Day at the Plate Thursday

Gerrit Cole had two extra-base hits on Thursday. Are pitchers becoming better hitters?

Two extra-base hits in a single game -- especially when one of them is a home run -- is an impressive performance for any hitter. It's even more remarkable when it's a pitcher who accomplishes the feat.

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole was the latest to do just this, hitting a home run in his first at-bat on Thursday against Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The long ball wasn't a cheapie either, as it went 408 feet to center field.

Cole then hit a double in his next plate appearance, which was the only hit of the inning. Oddly enough, the three outs were all recorded via strikeout. Regardless, he became the third pitcher with more than one extra-base hit in the same game this season.

Despite providing himself with some run support, Cole took a no-decision in a game the Pirates eventually won 8-3. He was yanked after throwing 105 pitches in just five innings, but his three RBI's led the team Thursday.

Cole's home run was the eighth that was hit this season by a pitcher. Since even Bartolo Colon has hit a home run this season, I wanted to see if pitchers are becoming better hitters this season.

Let's take a look at how pitchers as a unit have hit so far in 2016 compared to years past.

2016 1597 8 0.141 0.169 0.182 0.351 0.158 -9 0.041
2015 5372 26 0.132 0.160 0.170 0.329 0.147 -16 0.037
2014 5492 15 0.122 0.153 0.152 0.306 0.141 -19 0.031
2013 5487 21 0.132 0.164 0.169 0.333 0.152 -13 0.037
2012 5889 24 0.129 0.162 0.166 0.327 0.149 -15 0.036
2011 5924 28 0.141 0.175 0.182 0.357 0.163 -6 0.042
2010 6002 16 0.141 0.175 0.174 0.348 0.160 -10 0.032

At first glance, there hasn't been a big difference this season compared to the past six seasons. Pitchers aren't quite on the pace from the 2010 and 2011 seasons, but they are performing better across the board compared to the last four seasons (2012-2015).

Their current home run pace is somewhat skewed since Cole hit one just yesterday, but using the average number of plate pitcher plate appearances over the past six seasons as a reference point (5,965 plate appearances), pitchers are currently on pace to hit just under 30 home runs this season (29.88).

Pitchers have not combined to hit 30 or more home runs since the 2006 season, in which they hit 32.

Maybe teams have brought in Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine in as hitting consultants.

Although the year that commercial aired, 1998, pitchers only hit 20 home runs.

The impressive home run total in 2015 was heavily influenced by the National League West division. Last season, 15 of the 26 home runs (58%) hit by pitchers came from players in that division. So far this year, two of the eight home runs have come from the NL West (25%).

Perhaps as the weather heats up balls will start flying out of stadiums even more frequently than they already are for pitchers. Regardless, we could be in store for a season in which pitchers break the 30 home run mark for the first time in 10 years.