When I was over at The Phrontiersman, I was fond of responding to public outcry or fan overreaction (positive or negative) by throwing out a link to “Let’s Not Shit Ourselves” by Bright Eyes. Since coming here, I haven’t used that clip, but I’ve been hearing rumblings that make me want to break it back out. So here it is.
Over the past year and change, I’ve been one of the biggest defenders of Cole Hamels even when he’s been down on his luck. I’ve explained BABIP to more drunk Pinies than I can count, and I’ve railed against that lunatic idea that Hamels should have gone the other way in the Roy Halladay trade instead of Kyle Drabek.
But I’ve noticed a groundswell of support for Cole Hamels to get Cy Young consideration–perhaps not for the top spot on the ballot (Roy Halladay’s already sewn that up in most people’s minds), but for lower spots on the new, expanded 5-man ballot. Two of the leading Hamels cheerleaders in the Phillies blogosphere are people I know well: Pat Gallen of this site and Dash Treyhorn of TheFightins.com. I consider both Pat and Dash to be friends, great writers, and knowledgeable baseball analysts, but in this case, they’re quite wrong.
It is worth noting that a commenter named Lewisauce chimed in on Pat’s post with the following: “Who cares. Just win the World Series.” I’m inclined to agree with that sentiment, but today’s an off-day, so I ask for your indulgence.
Is Cole Hamels having a career year? Sure. Is he, in large part, responsible for the Phillies’ success this season? Sure. Has he had one of the three or five best seasons of a National League pitcher? I don’t think so.
The common argument for Hamels as a Cy Young contender is that since May 1, he’s pitched as well as anyone in the game. The following comes from Pat’s post yesterday morning:
-Since May 1, just after a less-than-stellar opening month, Hamels has a 2.51 ERA. If you toss away his one inning start against the Braves in which he gave up three runs before being pulled due to the weather, his ERA drops to 2.36 since May 1.
-After the all-star break, Hamels ERA is 1.89 with a batting average against of .200
-He’s allowed just two earned runs this month, one against the Braves on Monday night and one against Florida the previous week.
Unfortunately for Hamels, voters don’t vote based on “since May 1,” “after the all-star break,” or “this month.” If I were going to award the Cy Young based on a full season minus a month, I’d pick not only Halladay but Adam Wainwright, Mat Latos, and Josh Johnson from Opening Day to September 1 over Hamels’ May 1 to present. For half a season, I can’t see why you’d vote for anyone other than Ubaldo Jimenez pre-All Star break. Yes, Hamels has had a great September, but at the risk of overstating my argument, so did Shane Spencer in 1998, but no one gave him Rookie of the Year or MVP attention. My point is that as much as Cole Hamels himself would like to have those six starts back, you have to be judged on your entire body of work, and taking those six starts out takes out almost 20% of Hamels’ season.
So on to the merits of Hamels’ entire season. How does he stack up against other National League starters? All stats are up-to-date before Wednesday’s games.
Well, Hamels is pretty good on strikeouts. He’s third in the league in that category, only six off the league lead–not too shabby. After that, it gets a little hairy. He’s 11th in the league (and third on his own team) in ERA, behind such luminaries as Brett Myers, R.A. Dickey, and Jaime Garcia. He’s tied for eighth in the league in innings pitched. Seventh in the league in K/BB ratio (at almost exactly half the rate of league leader Halladay). Seventh in the league in xFIP. Hamels is 10th in the league in WHIP (fourth on his own team, behind Oswalt, Halladay, and, improbably, Jamie Moyer). Cole is eighth in the league in WPA among starting pitchers, and 10th in WAR.
Finally, for those of you who hate progress and facts, Hamels is tied for 19th in the NL in wins.
Here’s my point, in short. Hamels has been outstanding this season, particularly of late. For that he deserves all the credit in the world and the sincere and abject apologies of everyone who badmouthed him last season. But if you look at the numbers, you’ll find him consistently in the top 10 in pitching categories, but out of the top 5, and consistently behind the same guys: Latos, Halladay, Johnson, Myers, Wainwright, etc. Has Hamels had a top 10 season in the NL? Certainly. But there are only five spots on the Cy Young ballot. He’ll probably get a few votes, but will he crack the top 3 or contend for the award? Well, like I said, let’s not shit ourselves.