Cole Hamels and Approach – Phillies Nation

Cole Hamels and Approach

(Originally posted Tuesday, Jan. 25 at 4:05 pm.)

Cole Hamels’s bouncing back from a rough 2009 was one of many welcomed surprises in 2010. While a few different things were to blame for Cole’s rough ’09 – be it his slow, injured start to the year or plain old bad luck at times – there seems to have been a noticeable change in his approach and, consequently, a change in his pitches’ locations.

That’s a statement that seems sort of obvious in its elemental nature; Cole had a better season and, at its core, that was because he made better pitches. That’s something we saw throughout the 2010 season, but not something we could tangibly see in detail. Well, until now, anyway.

After the jump, let’s take a look at two of Cole’s pitches and how they differed in 2009 and 2010.

Fastball vs. LHB

A big part of Hamels’s 2010 success was his improved performance against left-handed batters. Back in 2009, lefties hit Cole at a .242/.295/.416 clip, for an about-average .711 OPS. In 2010, that line changed across the board (.196/.305/.340), showing an increased propensity for walks, but more restraint on hits and damaging extra-base hits in nearly identical sets of plate appearances.

One factor for this improvement is Hamels’s supercharged fastball. Fangraphs says Cole averaged nearly two extra MPH on his fastball for the season, a large bump up from ’09. Add to that the refinement on his cutter, and Hamels had two plus (or near-plus; the cutter improved, but isn’t quite as good yet) pitches to use against same-handed batters.

Hamels's FB vs. LHB, 2009

Hamels's FB and CUT vs. LHB, 2010

The most immediately noticeable difference is Cole’s extended plate coverage. Instead of simply relying on painting the outside corner – with the occasional jammer – Cole used his heater and cutter across the breadth of the plate, and trusting his stuff enough to throw out of the zone and have hitters chase.*

* And chase they did. Hitters swung at 29.7 percent of Cole’s out-of-zone pitches, a large increase from 2009’s 26.8 percent figure in that department

Changeup vs. RHB

Cole’s best pitch has always been just that, and rarely in his career has it let him down. While the change to RHB wasn’t exactly ineffective in 2009, Cole nevertheless changed its use when dealing with opposite-handed batters.

In 2009, opposing righties hit .256/.275/.405 against the change, with that line changing to .244/.280/.383 in 2010. Again, we see a pattern similar to that of the fastball, where Cole limited had reduced hits against, but also saw his walk tendency rise a bit in the meantime. The positive to that is that the walk rate never got to a damaging point, and a .280 opposing OBP is quite tidy.

Hamels's CH vs. RHB, 2009

Hamels's CH vs. RHB, 2010

These two alterations in approach – compounded with whatever intangible changes in attitude may or may not have occurred – Cole Hamels was able to return to his true form in 2010.

Thanks as always to BaseballAnalytics for their wonderful analytical tool.

Click to comment


  1. Editboy

    January 25, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Excellent analysis. Love to see more articles like this on the site.

  2. tyROBasaurus

    January 25, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Wow, Cole really took command of his changeup last season! I’m sure the confidence and aggresiveness he had in his fastball/cutter combo really helped out with that. I have a feeling that he’ll have the second most wins in the rotation this year and be in serious Cy Young contention.

  3. betasigmadeltashag

    January 25, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    IMO one of the biggest things Cole did differently and better in ’10 was the coming up with and improving over the year his Cutter and Curve ball. I felt that after the first month his cutter became more consistant and was a huge factor in his ability to make his change more effective. Also with the cutter his curve ball which he did not throw a lot was more effective. To me that and his better mental approach, not getting frustrated was a big key. I really think Cole grew up a lot after his sub par ’09 and became a better pitcher. I expect big things from him this year weather it is from the 3 or 4 spot in the rotation, I really see 18-20 wins from him

  4. tavian

    January 25, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    This is really good stuff. Analysis that makes all of us phanatic phans better at really understanding the game. I truly believe that Cole learned a lot from Halladay, then Oswalt. He will be in a great growth environment with these top pitchers next year, including witnessing their work ethics. Cole is more that a talented “pretty boy, ” which is what I thought of him after the 2009 season. I was disappointed in him then. Now, I think we will see a pitcher with a genuine shot at the Cy Young Award in 2011, barring, of course, injury.

  5. Pat Gallen

    January 28, 2011 at 9:06 am

    Love how he was able to better command his pitches and in the end I think that was a testament to his mental maturation. If the Phillies didn’t go out and get a guy like Halladay, would Hamels have been able to see his mistakes with someone teaching/helping him?

    I’m not saying Halladay was the one who pointed out his flaws, but was his presence enough to allow Cole to evolve naturally?

  6. philliesphanmike

    January 28, 2011 at 10:13 am

    I wanna see him get back to what was really working for him… His control in the minors was what got him his position in the Majors. when he played for the Lakewood Blueclaws in single A ball, although its not the same competition (obviously) but his control and tempo was unparalleled. Just food for thought.

  7. betasigmadeltashag

    January 28, 2011 at 10:43 am

    I am sure having Doc around helped, but I really think he just grew u;p a little, I think even with out Doc Cole would have been a better pitcherf this year

  8. yrsoprano

    February 1, 2011 at 10:17 am

    I really think Cole Hamels can stand on his own and realize what needs to be done to improve his pitching. The team has coaches in place for this reason as well. Cole is no dummy and he is after all an amazing pitcher in his own right. Sometimes it seems like the Philadelphia fandom regards Cole as a journeyman! His pitching dominated the 2008 post season and won this championship starved city a WS victory!! I am sure Halladay and Moyer and Oswalt and the other pitchers all help each other but Cole Hamels doesn’t need another pitcher to point out his flaws. He is young and full of talent and I hope he remains a Phillie. Not sure he will.

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