Yes, we’re going to talk about Cole Hamels again.
But that makes us no different from the rest of the baseball world because Hamels is one of the few starting pitchers available this month who could potentially change the fortunes of whatever team acquires him. Not only that, he could be some team’s ace for a long time to come, too. And make no mistake, the Phils are serious about dealing him for the right price.
However, the waters were muddied a bit on Sunday after Hamels suffered his second straight rough outing at a brutally hot Citizens Bank Park against the Miami Marlins. Despite receiving a staggering (for him) five runs of support, Hamels couldn’t hold a lead and lasted just three innings, giving up five runs on eight hits with no walks and just one strikeout.
That start comes on the heels of a horrendous start against the San Francisco Giants just before the All-Star Break in which he went 3 1/3 innings and gave up 9 runs on 12 hits with 2 walks and 4 strikeouts.
Going into that outing against the Giants, Hamels’ ERA was a sterling 3.02, with a fielding independent pitching (FIP) of 3.31. After these last two starts, however, his ERA has ballooned to 3.91, and teams are reportedly wondering if there’s something wrong with the Phils’ ace left-hander.
But it’s important to look at more than just a pitcher’s ERA and two bad starts. After all, pretty much every pitcher goes through a rough patch at some point during their season. If it can happen to King Felix, it can happen to Hamels. And besides, it was about 1048 degrees Farenheit in Philadelphia Sunday, which doesn’t make for an easy day for anyone on the hill.
Even though Hamels’ ERA is a bit above his career average right now, he is striking out more batters per nine innings than he has throughout his career, 9.33 per nine. His walk rate is a bit higher than his career mark at 2.73 walks per nine innings — but just a bit. And despite a higher ERA, his FIP of 3.37 and his xFIP of 3.25 (which factors in the areas of pitching a pitcher can control) all indicate he’s been bitten by some bad luck. That’s reflected in the .307 batting average on balls in play this season (BABIP), which is a bit higher than league average. Hamels also has the worst defense in baseball playing behind him, as well as the constant burden of being a walking trade rumor and playing for a squad steaming for 100 losses.
Any “executives” who are “concerned” about Hamels’ last two performances are likely a tad bit giddy about it too, hoping it might lower the Phils’ asking price for him (it won’t).
His stuff still appears to be strong, with an average fastball velocity of 93.63 miles per hour this month (according to Brooks Baseball Pitch f/x data), consistent with where he’s been over the course of his career. As long as Hamels is physically healthy, and it appears he is, teams should be looking at his track record.
Coming into Sunday, Hamels’ career record was 113-90, with a 3.29 ERA and 3.48 FIP. He has struck out 8.59 batters per nine innings over his career and walked just 2.30 per nine. Not only that, he’s been a stud in October, with 13 playoff starts to his credit. In those 13 starts, he is 7-4 with a 3.09 ERA and a 1.053 WHIP. He was the 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP, virtually carrying the Phillies to their second franchise title.
Despite Hamels’ performance seemingly trending down, a closer look at the numbers shows folks panicking about Cole are probably overreacting.
As long as he’s healthy, he’s Cole Hamels. He’s really, really good. And two bad starts aren’t going to change that.