This post was written by PN contributor Jeff Nelson. Welcome Jeff to the Phillies Nation squad.
Headcase. Immature. Soft. Unprepared. He wouldn’t pitch on three-days rest if asked. He’s not a big game pitcher. He sounds like a whiny 7-year old – these were some of the descriptions I heard and read from many Phillies fans following Cole Hamels’ disappointing 2009 season. Heck, some people even wanted him traded after what he said during the ’09 World Series. To the naked eye, Cole just wasn’t right two years ago.
Fast forward a year later and Hamels all the sudden ‘found his game.’ He ‘flicked a switch’ or ‘put his game face on.’ He was more prepared heading in to 2010 or he was cured from the Verducci effect. I’m obviously being a bit facetious with those descriptions. So if determination and perfection weren’t the reasons behind Hamels’ resurgence as an elite pitcher, then what was?
In general, most of Hamels’ ’08 and ’09 rate stats were eerily similar. His K/9, BB/9, HR/9, GB%, FB%, and LD% all barely varied. His BABIP and strand rates on the other hand differed greatly. Cole’s BABIP ballooned from .270 in 2008 to .325 in 2009, by far the highest of his young career. Indeed, Cole was extremely unlucky in 2009 and he didn’t pitch nearly as bad as his 4.32 ERA suggested. Last year, his BABIP regressed right around his career norm, which is slightly lower than league average.
Cole’s strand rate also jumped in the right direction from 72.1% in ’09 to a more than healthy 82.7% in ’10. Part of this is a result from an increase in both his GB% (40.4% to 45.4%) and punchouts (7.81/9IP to 9.10/9IP). The other part stems from the decrease in his BABIP.
While I think it’s safe to say he probably won’t leave runners on base at this clip this year, I still think he can be well above average next year if his rate stats don’t plummet harshly.
Hamels’ 2010 SIERA of 3.19 (good for 10th among starters) did not fluctuate much from his sparkling 3.06ERA. In other words, he really is that good and he is very likely to put up a similar ERA next year. I’m happy to point out that two other Phillies starters also finished ahead of Hamels in SIERA, so he’s in very good company (Halladay with a league leading 2.93 SIERA and Cliff Lee with a 3.03 SIERA).
As impressive as Hamel’s 2010 campaign was, a closer look shows he was absolutely dominant in the second half. Cole made 15 appearances after the all-star break, posting a miniscule 2.23 ERA, a K/BB ratio approaching 5/1, a 9.7 K/9 and a .603 OPS.
The only blemish on Hamels’ 2010 resume was his win/loss record and that’s something you cannot fault him for. Rather, the paltry 3.66 runs/game he received serves as a much better culprit. He deserves much better than his record indicates, but I guess that’s why they play the games.
Jeff’s Grade: 9.3
PAT GALLEN’S GRADE: 9.2 – Hamels was sensational and there is still room for improvement. He struggled a bit through the first month but turned it around to have an incredible season. So exciting to watch this “kid” mature into a top-flight, number-one pitcher.